Q: How did you discover Berklee College of Music?
A: The summer following my senior year of high school, I began taking private piano instruction again, after nearly two years with no teachers. I knew that I wanted to major in something related to music, but I really had idea how I would go about doing that, or what schools would be the best. At my very first private lesson, I played a piece for my teacher. She told me right then and there that I should look in to Berklee. My first reaction to this was the obvious question, “You mean the one in California?” After that, I decided to go for it. I did not apply to any other colleges. It was Berklee or nothing, and by the grace of God, I got accepted.
Q: What was the audition like?
A: I prepared for months for the event. I learned two pieces, one an original, and practiced lots of ear training and jazz improvisation. I had never improvised jazz in my life before Berklee. Finally, I went to the audition in Memphis, Tennessee. Me and my dad walked in and were greeted by two Berklee students, whom, hilariously, I have not seen since. I waited, shaking and nervous beyond belief, until my audition time came. About fifteen minutes before the audition, one of the students brought me to a private practice room to warm up and go over the sight reading material which they gave me earlier. The audition itself was quite short, or at least it felt that way. It took place in a spacious room with a piano, drum set, and some microphones. Two men, one from the Film Scoring department, sat at a small table with a bunch of papers and their MacBook Pros. They were very friendly. I told them that I was interested in film scoring, and the guy from the film scoring department said, “Film scoring is easy. Happy. Sad. Ok, you’re done.” After we greeted, I went up to the piano, took a deep breath, laid my hands on the keys, and then…. Everything else is a blur. I remember some ear training and rhythm exercises, but that is about it.
Q: How did the interview go?
A: I personally feel like the interview went better than the audition. This is actually quite relevant. Berklee puts equal emphasis on the interview, the audition, your high school transcript, and your professionalism and musicality. I was insanely nervous and awkward during the interview, but I feel like I answered the questions effectively and honestly, clearly demonstrating who I am as a musician and as a person.
Q: Do you have any tips for the audition?
A: First of all, relax. Everything concerning Berklee’s audition process is very chill and laid back. Just try your best. The biggest piece of advice that I can give you is this: Be yourself. Do not try to rely on technical prowess or flashy solos. Berklee wants to see who you are and what you can bring to both Berklee and the music industry as a whole. They are desperately looking for real musicians. Not stars, not prodigies, but passionate, hard working musicians. If that description fits you, then go for it.
Q: Is it too jazzy?
A: I actually dared to ask this during the interview. It is difficult to ignore the large jazz influence here at Berklee. After all, Berklee was originally a jazz school. However, despite what the Internet may tell you, Berklee has developed a lot over the years. Now, there is tons of musical and cultural diversity. Honestly, the first semester is almost completely jazz-oriented, but this quickly dissipates in future semesters. There is nothing to worry about. And besides, it is good to experience various musical styles from around the world. It helps you grow.
Q: How high is the workload?
A: The first semester? Tough, but manageable if you keep on top of things and stay organized. Future semesters? High. The workload is very high. But do not let that scare you away! If you truly love music, and music is all you want to do for the rest of you entire life, then you will love every minute of it. It is physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausting, but it is worth it.
Q: Do you like Boston?
A: I do not like it as much as the country life I am used to, but I have grown quite attached to Boston. It is such a great city. One of the best. There is a lot to do in the area around Berklee, so you will never have a dull moment. For those looking for a place with peace and quiet, good luck. You will not find it, at least not on the same level as out in the country. It is a great experience though, and there is a lot of history here.
Q: I like classical/bluegrass/metal, will Berklee accept me?
A: Metal? It is all over the place. Bluegrass? They are some of the most respected musicians on the campus. Classical? Now I am a classical musician, and I have to admit, it is little difficult to work with some of the students and professors at times. However, in general, there are plenty of classical musicians, too. It just takes more initiative for us classical guys. Whatever you do, do not give up, and try to attend one of the clubs devoted to piano, film scoring, video game scoring, and composing. Clubs are a great way to meet people with similar interests as you.
Q: How can I prepare myself for Berklee?
A: If possible, you should attend an inexpensive community college and take as many courses as possible. By transferring those credits over to Berklee, you can free up credits for more electives. You should also familiarize yourself with lots of harmony, ear training, jazz improvisation, arranging, and music technology. And of course, practice your instrument like crazy. The better you are, the more classes you can test out of and you will have more interesting choices available for your ensemble. If you are planning on taking the CW&P or MP&E Majors, you should review some math so you can test out of the math classes and get straight in to acoustics. Most importantly, do not feel like you have to be a prodigy. Be confident in what YOU can bring to Berklee.
Q: Do you ever get any free time?
A: What is this “free time” that you speak of? I do not understand the concept. Alright, jokes aside, yes. I do get free time occasionally, usually Friday evenings and a litte on Sunday. Every other day is pretty much packed. The most important thing is to keep yourself calm. Do not stress out so much. The stress will just tire you out. If you do that, you will live…. Hopefully….
Q: Do you feel as if Berklee is adequately preparing you to be a part of the music industry?
A: The education is definitely strong, and there are plenty of opportunities for you to collaborate with students and make contacts. Admittedly, it is more difficult for the classical crowd to break through, but it still seems possible. You just have to stay confident, work hard, be sociable, be open minded, and express yourself in a pure way.
Q: You did not answer my question!?
A: If you have a question, feel free to click on the “Ask” button at the top of the page and shoot me a message. I will be more than happy to answer any questions you may have, or just chat. If I deem your question worthy enough, I will add it to this page.