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 excellent training in a broad variety of topics to take your music and your music ministry to the next level for the glory of God.

Course Highlights Include:
  • Choral/instrumental training — join your classmates in energizing vocal and instrumental workouts through rich repertoire in a creative and engaging environment! Musical selections may include portions of Handel’s Messiah, Mendelssohn’s’ Elijah, and more!
  • 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!
  • 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!
  • Additional classes and workshops on many practical topics include: children’s music ministry, copyright navigation, music pedagogy, hymn arranging and improvisation, basic orchestrations, conducting, 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 for all young musicians!” —Anna, Sound Foundations Class of 2008

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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.

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.

Susannah Hulin

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

Laura Baker

  • A theory “professor” extraordinaire, Laura’s logical brain and contagious smile turn the music theory classroom into a place of clarity, ingenuity, and fun.

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.

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.

Daniel Ziesemer

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

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.

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.

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.


$1450 (Regular)

$1200 Early Bird Registration before June 1

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. 


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. 

Is there a multi-sibling discount? 

Yes! If more than one sibling from a family registers for the same class, families can receive $100 off every registration after the first. To request a coupon code for registration, email [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 SF 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 SF?

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), SF 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, SF 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 SF 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 17th. 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. Please plan to leave by 12:00 pm on Saturday, August 7th. 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 17th. 

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 17th. 

Flight Departures

For DFW or DAL, plan to depart after 12:30pm on Saturday, August 7th.

For TYR or GGG, plan to depart after 8:00am on Saturday, August 7th. 

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 Sound Foundations?

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

For questions, email [email protected] or call (903) 636-2000