Power Up! Smart Solutions for Solo Contest

Smart Solutions for Solo Contest

Alicia DeSoto & Chris Meredith are currently band directors at Lewisville High School in Lewisville ISD, TX. 

We have been using MakeMusic Cloud (formerly SmartMusic) for a number of years now and one of our favorite applications is the impact of providing students with accompaniment tracks for their solos that can be adjusted for the performance speed of each individual performer. 

One of our annual student goals is a successful solo performance for our district solo festival each spring. The ability to practice with an accompaniment track on a daily basis is a game changer for students as they prepare. This unique opportunity allows students to develop awareness of how the solo and accompaniment parts fit and function with each other.

Leading a Title I band program, like at Lewisville HS, can present a number of financial obstacles as we attempt to provide our students with the very best musical experiences possible. MakeMusic Cloud allows every student in our program to have access to music at their level with the ability to practice and perform as a complete work with full piano accompaniment. 

Further Details:

  • All band students play a solo at our district Solo Contest
  • 40% of our current students participate in private lessons
    • Private lesson teachers assist in the selection of solos for their students. Ensemble directors work with remaining 60% of students to choose a solo from MakeMusic Cloud
    • The majority of students in private lessons will perform with a live accompanist for contest
    • The majority of students working exclusively with an ensemble director will perform with the MakeMusic Cloud accompaniment for contest

Selecting Solos:

  • As we work together with individual students to make a solo selection we are:
    • Prioritizing each student’s preference to style (dance-like vs. song-like)—we are looking for instant buy-in 
    • Finding the ability of each solo to continue to push the performer to develop the next layer of musicianship skills
    • Guide students to solos that we know past students have enjoyed and grown through performance
  • Students in the top two bands choose their solo from Concert and Contest Collection, edited by H. Voxman.
  • Students in the third band choose their solo from the Spooky Solos collection, published by MakeMusic, Inc. (available for string students as well).
    • Fan favorites from this collection include:
      • “I’m So Happy I’m a Ghost (A Tragic Tango)” by Fred Flowerday
      • “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” by Paul Dukas, arr. Mark F. Adler
      • “In the Hall of the Mountain King” by Edvard Grieg, arr. Mark F. Adler
      • “Jacque’s Unfortunate Boat Ride” by Gustav Mahler, arr. F.M. Bunbury

How We Practice with MakeMusic Cloud:

  • Students are able to access MakeMusic Cloud on their Chromebooks, laptops, tablets, or iPads.
  • Students initially practice with the MakeMusic Cloud accompaniment, embedded metronome, and solo track. As we approach the performance, students gradually turn down the metronome and solo voice volume until they are ready to perform with the accompaniment only.
  • In January and February, any ensemble staff member who is not directing the class is pulling students for a weekly 10-minute lesson on the solo during class time. These lessons are aimed to provide students with insight on how to practice more effectively by using the solo as the vehicle. In a setting with only one director, students can sign up for solo help time slots before/after school, during lunch, during tutoring time, etc.

Performance Opportunities

  • Students perform at the solo contest with a school laptop connected to a speaker for their accompaniment 
  • Assisted Living Homes
  • Studio Recital
  • Outstanding students can be selected to perform their solo at the spring concert

The end goal is giving all students the ability to perform a complete solo work and feel great about the process no matter what their financial situation. Taking the time to continually work on individual skills and performance pays dividends to the ensemble as a whole.

MakeMusic Cloud allows us to provide 100% of our students with a fantastic solo performance opportunity! 

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Alicia DeSoto serves as Associate Director of Bands at Lewisville High School in Lewisville, Texas. Mrs. DeSoto earned her undergraduate degree from the University of North Texas, and her Master of Music in Music Education degree from Southern Methodist University. She is an active guest clinician, lecturer, and adjudicator and has professional affiliations with the Texas Bandmasters Association, Texas Music Educators Association, and Texas Music Adjudicators Association. She currently serves as the TMEA Region 2 Vice President. Current projects include the Musical Mastery Beginner Band series with Asa Burk, Kathy Johnson, Chris Meredith, and Dominic Talanca. As the chief editor for Musical Mastery, Mrs. DeSoto has enjoyed the opportunity to compile an instrument-specific beginner curriculum to share with thousands of students throughout the country.


cmeredithChris Meredith is currently the Director of Bands at Lewisville High School in Lewisville, Texas. Prior to his position at Lewisville, Mr. Meredith served as Director of Bands at Shadow Ridge Middle School in Flower Mound, Texas for thirteen years. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Music Education from the University of North Texas and a Graduate Degree in Music Education from Southern Methodist University. Meredith is an active adjudicator, author, guest clinician, and lecturer, and is honored to have professional affiliations with Texas Bandmasters Association, Texas Music Educators Association, Texas Music Adjudicators Association, and Phi Beta Mu. Current projects include the Musical Mastery educational band series with Asa Burk, Alicia DeSoto, Kathy Johnson, and Dominic Talanca. 

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