Velay Certificate Program
About the Certificate Program

The Certificate Program challenges each student to read, write, and hear the language of music with a high level of literacy. This tuition-free program for high school students includes intensive study in theory and musicianship, keyboard, and chamber music in addition to regular lessons and orchestra membership. Students successfully completing the two-year course receive certificates of their accomplishment at graduation recognized by leading music schools. Participation in the program is encouraged for students planning a musical career as well as those who want a deeper understanding of music to enhance their adult life. Classes are held on Thursday late afternoons - evenings and begin in September.

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Application process

  1. Application forms are available at the office, or for download here.
  2. Write a 200 word essay expressing your interest in the program and what you foresee, at this time, as the importance of music in your life.
  3. Submit application, essay, and $60 annual registration fee no later than Fall registration.

Certificate Program and Music Theory Faculty

Christine Burke
Literature and Materials of Music Instructor

Christine Burke is a composer and clarinetist currently residing in Iowa City, IA. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in clarinet performance from Duquesne University, where she studied clarinet with Jack Howell and composition with David Stock. She has received awards and recognition for her compositions from the Pittsburgh Festival of New Music, the Pittsburgh Festival Orchestra, and Núcleo Música Nova’s International Symposium of New Music, among others. As a clarinetist, she has performed with University of Iowa ensembles, the Cedar Rapids Municipal Band, at the Orpheum Theatre’s Fall Performance Series, and with the Pittsburgh-area ensemble Alia Musica. Christine is currently pursuing Master’s degrees in composition and clarinet performance at the University of Iowa, where she works as a research assistant in the Arts Share department. She has studied composition with Lawrence Fritts, Nomi Epstein and Josh Levine, and clarinet with Dr. Maurita Murphy Marx and Jorge Montilla Moreno.

Debra Helene Hernstrom
Class Piano Instructor
Deb received her Bachelor of Music from Millikin University in Decatur, Illinois, and her Master of Arts in Musicology from the University of Iowa. Being blind since birth, she is always accompanied by her wonderful dog, Wade. Although Deb is blind, she offers a unique set of skills to her students. She has a highly attuned and keenly enhanced sense of hearing, which enables her to know exactly which note is being played and precisely which finger is playing it, without ever seeing the keyboard. She has the ability to transpose on the spot, identify and play back advanced harmonic progressions, and has an amazing memory for music - in fact she always performs from memory, including when she plays organ at St. Wenceslaus Church. Deb incorporates her passion for music, education and music history into her teaching of theory, certificate program piano class and Suzuki piano. She joined the Preucil School of Music faculty in 1982 and is currently co-chair of the piano department. Deb has been a keyboardist for St. Wenceslaus Catholic Church in Iowa City since 2000.


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Eligibility and Cost:

All students in grades 9 through 11 who have completed the Intermediate Level on their primary instrument may apply for admission. The two-year courses begin in each odd-numbered year, with a maximum enrollment of twenty four students. Beginning the program at freshman or sophomore year is recommended.

Tuition is covered by the Certificate Program Fund, a gift from Alexandra Velay of Philadelphia. Students pay a registration fee of $60 each year of the program and purchase their own materials.

Students who wish to register for single courses within the Certificate Program are assessed the regular tuition costs.

Required Courses for the Two Year Program:
    1) Private Instrumental Lessons *
    2) Preucil School String Orchestra or Piano Master Class *
    3) Literature and Materials of Music (26 weeks per year)
    4) Class Piano for non-pianists (26 weeks per year)
    5) Chamber Music (14 week second semester)
    6) A solo or partner recital, performed before March of Senior year.
    * tuition not included in grant

The Velay Certificate Chamber Program is a component of the two year Certificate Program. High school students receive fourteen weekly coachings (duos, trios, quartets, quintets) from January through mid-April, which culminate in a chamber recital.Funding is made possible by a generous donation from Alexandra Velay and the AMCP Foundation.

Necessary Student Commitment:
Since students are recipients of a substantial scholarship, good intent to finish the two-year program to the best of their ability is expected.

  1. Regular attendance - More than 4 absences in any class (each year) result in being dropped from the program. Two times tardy equal one absence. Assignments must be completed for missed classes. (If Certificate Program Coordinator is notified as least two weeks before a conflicting high school music event, our classes will be rescheduled.)
  2. Preparation - Homework of up to 2 hours and daily practice for Piano Class is expected to be carefully completed each week. Students may remain in the program with minimum grades of 75%, but an 88% average is required to receive the Certificate.
  3. Instrumental Practice - Students should challenge themselves to practice 10 hours per week, and not less than 8 hours. This amount of practice should make it possible to fill the repertoire requirements for the Certificate. Students who wish to graduate with performance honors should practice 2-3 hours daily.

A progress report will be mailed each December and May.

Presentation of Certificates:
Certificates will be presented at the Senior Graduation Recital according to the following levels of accomplishment:

  1. Certificate of Participation in Musical Studies.
    1. completion of courses with minimum grades of 88%
    2. performance on a partner recital or submission of 500 word essay on an assigned subject
  2. Certificate of Excellence in Musicianship.
    1. see 1a above
    2. completion of Advanced Level instrumental requirements by March 1 of Senior Year
    3. performance on partner recital
  3. Certificate of Excellence with Performance Honors
    1. see 1a above
    2. completion of pre-professional instrumental requirements before Senior year. Playing must show refinement of tone, intonation, technique and communicate sensitivity and expression
    3. performance of a solo recital before graduation

How to Apply for the Certificate Program:

  1. Application forms are available at the office.
  2. Write a 200 word essay expressing your interest in the program and what you foresee, at this time, as the importance of music in your life.
  3. Submit application, essay, and $60 annual registration fee no later than Fall registration.