Certificate Advancement Program


A Short History


The Certificate Advancement Program (ASTACAP) was developed and introduced by highly experienced pedagogues of the ASTA Maryland/DC chapter in 1998 under the leadership of Lya Stern, who was the state chapter president at that time. The program was designed to support studio teachers’ quest for commitment to long term instrumental study and higher standards of performance on the part of their students.


Although similar programs have been used with great success in Canada, Great Britain and Australia, the ASTACAP was the first one designed for the American string teacher and student. Hallmark characteristics of the American program are a graded list for each instrument, flexibility in the choice of repertoire presented for exams, and the utilization of string specialists as examiners.


Lya Stern organized and has subsequently run the ASTACAP exams in Maryland/DC annually since 1998 as well as becoming its leading advocate on the national level.  In 2001 the ASTACAP was introduced to New Jersey by Leslie Webster, ASTA/NJ president, and in Virginia by Lynne Denig, VASTA president-elect.


Becoming known as the ASTACAP Committee, they formed the working body and guiding force which eventually propelled the ASTACAP to the national level with its adoption by the ASTA National Executive Board. This committee made annual ASTACAP presentations at national ASTA conferences and guided the introduction of the program in several additional states: Florida and Hawaii in 2003, and Oregon, Washington and Wisconsin in 2005.  To date thousands of students have taken the ASTACAP exams, and their teachers are enjoying their students’ growing progress.


The ASTACAP received the enthusiastic support of ASTA presidents Robert Jesselson, David Littrell and Bob Gillespie.  Anticipating the long-reaching benefits that the program would bring teachers and students of stringed instruments, the ASTA National Executive Board voted to adopt the ASTACAP as an ASTA-sponsored program in 2004.


This ASTA CAP Handbook hereby offered to the membership is the result of hundreds of hours of work by members of the ASTACAP Committee, reviewing the levels, expanding the Curriculum Guide, streamlining the rules, devising simple and easy ways for starting the program and providing all instructions and necessary forms for doing so. 




ASTACAP owes a great debt of gratitude to members of the original committees who developed the program:

Violin Exam Requirements and Curriculum Committee:

Margaret Wright, chair;  Judy Shapiro, Elsa Brandt, Lisa Cole Sadowski,  Ronald Mutchnick and Lya Stern

Viola Committee:

 Margaret Wright, Judy Silverman, Mark Pfannschmidt.

Cello Committee:

Levels F-4: Cecylia Barczik, chair; Denise Nathanson Setny and Bai Chi Chen. 

Levels 5-10: Jeffrey Solow, chair; Michael Carrera, Anthony Eliott, James Kreger and Toby Saks

Bass Committee:

Dennis Whittaker, chair;  John Kennedy, Sandor Ostlund and David Young.

Exam Organization Committee:

Eleanor C. Woods, chair; Pat Braunlich, Judy Silverman, Catherine Stewart and Lya Stern, 

We also extend our gratitude to additional contributors: Marnie Kaller, cello repertoire list editing ;  Margaret Motter Ward, editing;  Lorraine Combs, editing and music printing;

Vaughan Pederson, music printing. 

Special recognition goes to ASTA Publications Chair, Barbara Eads, and Mimi Butler for their help in organizing and editing this Handbook.