Event description

Sound Foundations: equipping musicians for excellence

“. . . with my song will I praise Him.” Psalm 28:7

So, you’re a musician! You desire to serve God, and you’re working on building your skill set. Sound Foundations exists for musicians like you!

A three-week course for musicians aged 15 and older, Sound Foundations provides training in a broad variety of topics to take your music and your music ministry to the next level for the glory of God.

Sound Foundations provides opportunities for:

  • One-on-one coaching—on piano, ensemble performance, conducting, and more. Receive customized tips to take your performance skills to the next level
  • Choral/instrumental training—join your classmates in energizing vocal and instrumental workouts through rich repertoire in a creative and engaging environment
  • Music theory and composition classes—from learning music notation to actually writing your own simple songs, these classes will bring music to life for you!
  • Hymn history—mine the rich depths of the great hymns of the faith and learn how you can use them to point others to Christ
  • Presentations on practical topics—including: children’s choir and ministry, copyright navigation, music pedagogy, hymn improvisation, basic orchestrations, conducting, building a Biblical worldview of music, navigating notation software, how to develop and operate your own music business, and more!

What our past students are saying:

“After looking back on over a decade of experience as a church musician, professional pianist, instructor, and recording artist, I’m grateful to say that this course gave me the foundation for my musical journey. The dynamic instructors met me at my musical level, giving me indispensable tools to use professionally and in music ministry. In addition, they mentored us students as individuals, and pointed us to Christ as the Giver of gifts. I wholeheartedly recommend Sound Foundations 2019 for all young musicians with a heart to serve Christ with their gifts!” —Anna, Sound Foundations Class of 2008



Aaron Baker

  • A skilled vocalist, arranger, and church leader, Aaron Baker has a heart to lay a foundation of Godly musical skills for the next generation.

Brian Fox

  • A passionate conductor with decades of experience, Brian brings energy and excellence to every ensemble experience.

Carol Blair

  • An outstanding hymnologist with a passion for singing the hymns that she studies, Carol Blair’s teaching brings the hymns of the faith to life.

Daniel Ziesemer

  • A brilliant classical violinist, Daniel Ziesemer brings 29 years of experience as a soloist, arranger, and publisher to this course.

Anna Ferraro

  • Anna Ferraro is an award-winning pianist on a mission to glorify God and edify others through excellent and uplifting music.

Susannah Hulin

  • A pianist, violinist, and violist with a passion for teaching, Susannah is also the composer of countless original songs.

Kathryn Staddon

  • With years of experience in doing music ministry with her family, Kathryn loves seeing other families equipped to minister through Christ-honoring music.

Amy Bogner

  • A pianist, teacher, and arranger who’s as passionate about music as she is about being a Texan native, Amy brings a balance of fun and excellence to all of her music-making endeavors.

Valerie Bogner

  • An experienced teacher with a mothering heart towards whom she teaches, Valerie brings creativity, love, and joyful songs into her groups of young musicians.

David Waller

  • The Director of ATI and the Sound Foundations course, David is on a mission to equip young people with skills to serve God with all their hearts.


Register for the 2019 Sound Foundations (July 15–August 3, 2019):

Tentative Schedule

A complete schedule for this event is being finalized. View a Sample Schedule


$1200 Regular
$950 Early Bird Registration before June 1st

Tuition includes:

  • Three weeks of lodging and meals
  • Private lessons with instructors and participation in masterclasses
  • All course materials, including a complete course binder with session notes for classes, a personal hymnal, and additional books and related resources

Multiple siblings from the same family interested in attending? A $100 discount per additional student from the same family is currently being offered. Don’t delay, register today!


Where does the course take place?
We are located in Big Sandy, Texas, which is about two hours east of Dallas.

What is the cost?
$950 if you register by June 1st. After that, the full course rate is $1,200. Please see our Pricing page for more details.

What if we have multiple students registering from the same family?
For this, you are eligible to receive $100 off on every additional sibling! For example: Student #1 at the early bird rate- $950. Students #2, #3, etc. at the early bird rate- $850 each. For details and to receive a coupon code, contact us at [email protected] or call (903) 636-2000.

Who can enroll in the course?
The course is designed for music students ages 15–21. Younger students may attend with older siblings or accompanied by a parent, and older students are welcome to attend, as well.

What is the recommended skill level for students?

    • 2+ years of study on your instrument
    • Ability to comfortably read a hymn in four parts, and play/sight read the hymn melody or parts comfortably on your instrument.
    • Basic knowledge of music theory (the ability to play scales on your instrument in major and minor keys up to three sharps/flats would be helpful, but not required).

Is Sound Foundations run by a particular church or denomination? 
Family Conferences is a non-denominational evangelical Christian ministry, governed by a board of directors and is not run by any particular church or denomination.

I don’t like sitting in classrooms. Can this course still be a good fit for me?
Since the purpose of the course is geared towards equipping students with tools for ministry, there are a lot of classroom hours. However, many of them are hands-on or involve assignment completion time within the class time. Check out our schedule for a full breakdown.

Is there time for personal practice on my instrument?
Yes! Personal practice can take place during study halls, elective classes, around mealtimes, and in the mornings and evenings. Additional practice time is available on the weekends as well. 

Will there be opportunities for 1:1 training or coaching?
Students will receive private lessons 1-2 times weekly, based upon interest and instructor availability. In addition, the masterclass experiences are highly beneficial!

Is there an orchestra or ensembles that play together during the course?
Yes! This is usually a highlight for many students! The size and structure of the ensembles and orchestra is determined based on the instrumentation and skill levels that register for the course. During the Family Conference, Sound Foundations students will join forces with the conference orchestra and enjoy joint sessions.

Can parents/adults audit the course?
Yes! Parents/adults are welcome to sit in on any of the lecture/classes as observers (not participants). For this, they will be given the course schedule, and syllabus. For a breakdown of options for auditing, see our Pricing page.

How does the course conclude?
We’re excited for the Sound Foundations students to present a formal final concert for their family and friends, as well presenting ensemble music throughout the week of the Big Sandy Family Conference. For details on the final concert, click here.

What’s the dress code?
We encourage you to lead the way in the classroom by wearing clothing that is traditional, classic, and professional, inviting your peers to take you and your skills seriously. As we focus on equipping students for excellence, our choice of clothing can drive us towards, or distract us from that goal.

      • Classroom- Business/Professional - classically styled skirts/dresses for girls, slacks/collared shirts for guys
      • Performances- Dress/Formal (Solid black - long dresses for girls, suits for guys, black shoes)
      • Recreation- Casual (keep it modest-fitting: nothing stretchy, clingy, or revealing)

For more details on the Sound Foundations dress code, please check out the Orientation Manual.

What should I bring and how can I prepare?
In addition to your instrument, some study items, and clothing that adheres to the course guidelines, we’ve compiled a full packing list for you. Please check it out in our orientation manual.

Food and lodging:

Can family members stay on campus before, during, or after the course?
Yes! We’d love to have your family join you! For details on reservations, please see our Pricing page.

What is the setup for meals during the week?
All meals, including a continental breakfast, and full lunch and dinner are served in the campus dining hall. Our dining hall features a full cafeteria line, so there are always plenty of options. Please let us know about any dietary restrictions on your application, or within one month of the course start date, so we can plan appropriately.

What about meals on weekends?
The weekend meal schedule is as follows:

  • Saturday, Brunch @ 10:30am, and Dinner @ 4:30pm
  • Sunday, Dinner @ 4:30pm

Prior to the weekends, snacks and drinks will be available for purchase in the campus bookstore, or you can bring your own.

What do meals cost for visiting family members?
For details on meals and reservations, please see our pricing page.

Travel Details

For Those Driving

Please arrive at the the International ALERT Academy (One Academy Blvd, Big Sandy, TX, 75755) by 4:30pm on Sunday, July 14th. Dinner is provided in the dining room from 4:30-5:00pm, and registration will take place in the dining room at 5:30-7:00pm. Please plan to leave by 12:00pm on Saturday, August 3rd. If you are interested in organizing a carpool from your area, let us know so we can connect you with other students.


**Please email your flight information to [email protected] by July 1st.

Flight Arrivals

      • Class staff will meet you at your baggage claim when you arrive.
      • For flights into Dallas Fort Worth (DFW) or Dallas Love Field (DAL), the shuttle cost is $35/student. Plan to arrive before 5:00pm on Saturday, July 13th, or before 4:30pm on Sunday, July 14th.
      • For flights into Tyler Pounds Regional Airport (TYR), or East Texas Regional Airport in Longview (GGG), arrive any time before 6:30pm on Saturday or Sunday, with no shuttle fee.

Flight Departures

      • Staff can deliver you back to your ticketing counter for your departing flight.
      • For DFW or DAL, plan to depart after 12:30pm on Saturday, August 3rd, or after 12:30pm on Sunday, August 4th (shuttle cost is $35/student)
      • For TYR or GGG (no shuttle fee), plan to depart any time after 8:00am on Saturday, August 3rd, or 8:00am on Sunday, August 4th.

For questions, call the ATI office at (903) 636-2000.


What can I do during my free time?
The Family Conference venue has many areas for recreation, including a track, disc golf course, basketball and volleyball courts, a lakefront with canoes (used under supervision, with lifejackets, and at scheduled times), walking areas, and more.

Is this course accredited?
While the majority of the material in this course is equivalent to college 100–400
level courses, and students receive a certificate  of completion, there is no accreditation granted for this specific course. In the past, many individual students have used experience from this class to compile portfolios which are recognized by their school, or used the skills they garnered here to test their way out of college courses.

What is the class size?
Class size is limited to 75 students.

Can I receive mail during Sound Foundations?
Yes! Letters and packages can be sent to (Students’ name), C/O Sound Foundations, One Academy Blvd, Big Sandy, TX, 75755


If you have additional questions, please contact us at [email protected] or call (903) 636-2000.