Event description

Instrumental Workshop: hands-on training for musicians

Are you a musician, 15+, with a desire to advance your skills on your instrument or voice? Join us for an exciting (and intense!) week of work on your instrument — string, brass, woodwind, piano, or voice. Training available for beginners to advanced players.

Emphasizing practical application in technical and interpretative ideas, we look forward to providing you with:

  • Lessons on your instrument or voice
  • Structured practice time
  • Ensemble music coaching
  • Orchestral performance opportunities (by audition only*)
  • Elective classes in music ministry & business, improvisation, pedagogy, and more!

* In your audition video, please record (video) yourself playing the following:

    • (1) major and (1) minor scale of your choice
      Pianists: 3 octaves
      Wind players: 1-2 octaves
      String players: 2-3 octaves
    • Excerpts from (2) classical or sacred selections of your choice. Each selection can be up to 3 min long (if you’ve chosen a longer piece like a sonata or a concerto, feel free to choose excerpts).
      One that is faster and more technical
      One that is more lyrical and expressive

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Jacob Bernhardt

  • Jacob is an award-winning pianist, a skilled conductor, and a former student of the renowned Emilio del Rosario at the Music Institute of Chicago.

Christine Smith

  • With almost 30 years of teaching experience, Christine Smith is a proficient vocal coach with a passion for bringing sacred music to life.

Daniel Ziesemer

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

Jennifer Bielefeldt

  • A piano instructor with 15 years of professional experience, Jennifer brings a caring approach to every lesson.

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.

Anna Ferraro

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

Laura Johnson

  • Bringing a holistic approach to her violin playing, Laura combines the best of technical training with vibrant expression – producing poised and joyful students.

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.

Hannah Hulin

  • A teacher with a heart for connecting with her students on a personal level, Hannah has been teaching music lessons for over 16 years.

Joanna Malm

  • With a passion for music education and a warm heart for her students and their families, Joanna Malm has been an inspirational teacher since she began her private music studio in 2003.


$750 (regular) 

$625 Early Bird Registration before June 15

Registration closes June 30, 2021.

Tuition includes:

  • Daily lessons with your personal coach
  • Daily rehearsals with your ensemble coach
  • 15+ structured practice hours on-site
  • All core classroom materials (please note that some instructors may recommend the purchase of supplementary materials)
  • One week of lodging and meals

Multiple siblings from the same family interested in attending? A $75 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, practice rooms, and multiple auditoriums provide the perfect setting for this course.

Who can enroll in the course?

The course is designed for music students ages 15 and upward. 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 Instrumental Workshop 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. 

Is there much personal time to practice on my instrument?

Yes! Since the goal of this course is to build your technical and interpretative skills on your instrument as much as we can in one week, expect lots of practicing every day!  Also expect some friendly competition as students log their times on their own charts… there just might be a prize for the best practice log at the end of the course!

How will I be getting coaching?

Each day, you will work in a small group setting (2-4 students) for 1-1 ½ hours, with a coach. Together, you will work on things that help you as a musician improve on your instrument. Your partner students will take notes for you, and you will take notes from them. If you are placed in an ensemble, you may sometimes work in a larger group, and the focus will be on how you can improve as an ensemble for a performance. 

Can I play in an orchestra at the IW?

Possibly, yes! After every instructor has enjoyed their first lesson with their students, the instructors will meet together and make a selection of repertoire that the majority of the group will be able to play. If you’re ready for the ensemble, you’re in! If the instructors feel that you need more practice this year, you have the option to continue working in small groups until your skill level is ready for the larger group. 

What will vocalists do at the workshop? 

Just like the other instrumentalists, vocalists will work with personal and group coaches, refining their technique and working to learn music that they too, can share in a presentation for the students and faculty. 

How does the course conclude?

As a finale to our six-day musical intensive, we’ll join forces as a class to present a final concert to our fellow students, instructors, and guests. While this will not be as formal of a concert as Sound Foundations, family and friends are welcome to attend, so that they can join you in celebrating this week of learning and practice. 

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 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

Food and lodging: 

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, due to the intense class schedule, students need to communicate these visits with their team leaders or the course coordinators. Families are welcome to come, and stay on campus if they’d like, however, how much visiting time is actually available is subject to the class schedule. 

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, 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, 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


Please arrive at the International ALERT Academy (One Academy Blvd, Big Sandy, TX, 75755) by 3:30pm on Saturday, July 10th. Dinner is provided in the dining room from 4:30-5:00pm, and registration and orientation will take place in the dining room from 5:30-7:00pm. If your are not staying for Sound Foundations, please plan to leave by 12:00pm on Saturday, July 17th. 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 10th. 

For flights into Tyler Pounds Regional Airport (TYR), or East Texas Regional Airport in Longview (GGG), arrive before 3:00pm on Saturday, July 10th. 


Flight Departures

For DFW or DAL, plan to depart after 12:30pm on Saturday, July 17th.

For TYR or GGG, plan to depart any time after 8:00am on Saturday, July 17th.

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, 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 the IW?

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

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