Event description

Sound Foundations: equipping musicians for excellence

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

Advanced Sound Foundations (ASF) focuses on training in music theory and ensemble experience, thus providing students with a strong platform for composing, arranging, and performing music for the glory of God.

While participating in choir, orchestra, and other group activities with Sound Foundations, ASF students enter a new classroom — where they learn how music is made — and how to make it themselves!

Course overview:

  • Basic Music Theory review — In the first 1-2 days of class, let’s revisit scales, key signatures, intervals, and triads. Then, let’s take it all up a level!
  • More Music Theory — Let’s learn how to write four-part harmonies, work with cadences, use 7th chords, harmonize melodies, modulate, explore interchangeable harmonies, and more!
  • Songwriting — Did you love creating your own music at Sound Foundations? You will love it here too, and best of all, you get to do it with new ideas and tools!
  • Biblical music discernment — from the Old to the New Testament, let’s put our personal preferences aside and see what the Bible has to say about music!
  • Masterclasses — enjoy gleaning insights from musical professionals to take your instrumental command to the next level!
[For students’ reference, the main text for this course is based on the college textbook, “Principles of Harmony” by Dr. Dean Kincaid, American Conservatory of Music]

Students must pass the Music Theory Placement Exam to be eligible for Advanced Sound Foundations. Click here to download the exam.

*COVID-19 Update: To date, we are proceeding with plans to host the course in Big Sandy, TX. If a student needs to cancel their registration due to factors or restrictions related to COVID-19, we will provide a full refund on their registration, if the cancellation is confirmed by Friday, July 3rd. Click here for current travel recommendations for the state of Texas.

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Susannah Hulin

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

Brian Fox

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

Anna Ferraro

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

Daniel Ziesemer

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

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.

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.

Tentative Schedule

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


$1200 (Regular)

$950 Early Bird Registration before June 15.

Tuition includes:

  • Three weeks of lodging and meals
  • 120+ classroom hours and study hall time (total of course content is roughly equivalent to one-semester of college studies) 
  • All classroom materials, including a complete course binder with session notes for classes, a personal hymnal, and additional books and related resources (additional materials and class memorabilia will be available for purchase)

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! 

For more details and options for course auditing, visit our full Pricing page. 

*COVID-19 Update: To date, we are proceeding with plans to host the course in Big Sandy, TX. If a student needs to cancel their registration due to factors or restrictions related to COVID-19, we will provide a full refund on their registration, if the cancellation is confirmed by Friday, July 3rd. Click here for current travel recommendations for the state of Texas.


*COVID-19 Update: To date, we are proceeding with plans to host the course in Big Sandy, TX. If a student needs to cancel their registration due to factors or restrictions related to COVID-19, we will provide a full refund on their registration, if the cancellation is confirmed by Friday, July 3rd. Click here for current travel recommendations for the state of Texas.

Where does the course take place?

The course takes place on the campus of the International ALERT Academy in Big Sandy, Texas, which is about two hours east of Dallas. The spacious campus with dormitories, classrooms, and multiple auditoriums provides the perfect setting to host Sound Foundations. 

What is the cost?

The full course rate is $1,200. However, if you register by June 1st, you can receive $250 off - getting the course for just $950! Please see our Pricing page for more details.

Is there a multi-sibling discount? 

Yes! If more than one sibling from a family registers for the same class, family’s can receive $100 off every registration after the first. 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?

While 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 play/sight read a 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 two sharps/flats is 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. Is this course 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. For details, check out our sample schedule

Is there much personal time to practice on my instrument?

Yes, but not much! Personal practice can take place during study halls, in the mornings and evenings, and on weekends. In order to maximize the benefits of this course, most students put most personal music aside for the duration of the course. 

Will there be opportunities for 1:1 training or coaching?

While ASF does not provide private lessons for students (for that, come to our Instrumental Workshop!), if students participate in masterclasses or they are selected for ensembles, they will receive some valuable coaching. In masterclasses, students will receive coaching on their instrument and the music they bring. In ensembles, students will receive coaching on their instrument and the music they are using in the ensemble. 

Can I play in an orchestra at ASF?

Yes! The size and structure of the orchestra is determined based on the instrumentation and skill levels that register for the course. At a minimum, the orchestra plays the arrangements created by students in their classes and assignments. If more advanced players are available, the conductor may select sections or ensembles to do special presentations. In addition, during the final week of the course (coinciding with the Big Sandy Family Conference), ASF students can join in with the Family Conference orchestra. 

Why is choral training such a big part of the schedule?

The voice is the perfect instrument, created by God, and if we can use it with excellence, it will bring excellence to the rest of our music. Every day, ASF students enjoy two hours of choral training - and while most students don’t come as vocalists, many conclude at the end of the course  that their favorite class was choir. In addition, the lessons learned in tackling fun and challenging music under skilled conductors cross over into every other area of music. 

Can parents/adults observe the course?

Yes! Parents/adults are welcome to sit in on some classes as observers (not participants). For this, they need to specify if they are just observing a single class, or choosing to officially audit parts of the course. For a breakdown of options for auditing, see our Pricing page.

How does the course conclude?

As a grand finale to our three weeks together, we’re excited for the SF (and ASF) students to present a formal final concert for their family and friends, as well as 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 ASF dress code, 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

Can family members stay on campus before or after the course?

Yes! For details on room and meal reservations, please see our Pricing page.

Can family members visit during the course?

While we welcome family visits for meals or a weekend stay, due to the intense class schedule, students need to communicate these visits with their team leaders or the course coordinators. In addition, please realize that apart from Sunday afternoons, each day (including Saturday’s) will have scheduled events. Please do not plan to have your students leave campus during the duration of the course for family visits, as students may miss significant course content.

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. Please plan for your student to bring any specific items that are needed to fulfill your student’s needs.

What about meals on weekends?

The weekend meal schedule is as follows: 

  • Saturday, Brunch @ 10:30am, and Dinner @ 4:30pm
  • Sunday, Bag lunch (Pick up at Sat. Dinner) Dinner @ 4:30pm

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

What do meals cost for visiting family members?

For details on meals and reservations, please see our pricing page.

Travel Details


Please arrive at the International ALERT Academy (One Academy Blvd, Big Sandy, TX, 75755) by 3:30 pm on Saturday, July 11th. Dinner is provided in the dining room from 4:30 — 5:00 pm. After that, the fun begins with an ice cream party and Orientation in the dining room at 6:30 pm. If you are not staying for the Instrumental Workshop, please plan to leave by 12:00pm on Saturday, August 1st. If you are interested in organizing a carpool from your area, let us know so we can connect you with other students.


Flight Arrivals

For flights into Dallas Fort Worth (DFW) or Dallas Love Field (DAL), plan to arrive before 2:30pm on Saturday, July 11th. 

For flights into Tyler Pounds Regional Airport (TYR), or East Texas Regional Airport in Longview (GGG), plan to arrive before 3:30pm on Saturday, July 11th. 

Flight Departures

For DFW or DAL, plan to depart after 12:30pm on Saturday, August 1st.

For TYR or GGG, plan to depart after 8:00am on Saturday, August 1st. 

For travel 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, walking areas, and more. Scheduled volleyball games on the weekend are a highlight for many students! 

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 100 students.

Can I receive mail during Advanced 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.