Jazz to College
Seven years ago my oldest son, Julian, applied to college to study jazz. Like any parent I wanted to assist him. I thought it would be a straightforward process, but what I found instead shocked me.
The application process wasn’t a single linear process. There were no clear instructions or an easily defined set of tasks. It hit me like random onslaught of due dates, requirements, essays, transcripts, and sometimes multiple applications for one institution. Further considerations included recommendations from private music teachers, high school teachers, resumes describing student and professional experiences, scholarship and financial aid forms. All of these challenges were already stirring up my anxiety before we even thought about the prescreening and audition recordings or live auditions.
Every single one of these requirements often had different deadlines, sometimes up to five different due dates for one college. Considering the number of colleges we were applying to, we realized we had quite an array of dates to keep track of and deadlines to meet.
When we moved on to the prescreening and audition videos, a new set of questions arose. How many tunes did we need to record? What were the different requirements from each school? Which tunes to record? how many choruses? do we shoot video or record audio only? do we record at home or in a professional studio?
I was shocked and frustrated. Surely there must be someone to help me. But as we started our fact-finding and information gathering, I quickly realized that most of the information available online and from high school counselors wasn’t relevant to a music student. The advice centered around things like “portfolio diversity,” grade point average, and test scores. None of the advice focused at all on the single most important factor in acceptance to music school – the audition. And advice on that process was very scarce.
If anyone should have felt comfortable and confident about this process, it should have been me. As a professional jazz saxophonist in New York City for many years, I already had working relationships with faculty members at almost every major music school and conservatory on the East Coast, and as a clinician and guest artist I had presented hundreds of masterclasses at universities throughout the United States. I had produced successful audition recordings for several of my students who were already attending major conservatories.
But none of that experience prepared me for what my own child would face or how to manage the dizzying number of dates, deadlines and considerations.
After going through this gauntlet the first time, I started giving seminars for our students at Jazz House Kids on navigating this process. I started to actively guide students and parents, helping them as best as I could to manage the multiple tasks that would confront them. I started providing individual assessments and guidance in addition to the group seminars.
In the past ten years I have helped over thirty students through the process to successful placements in major conservatories. We now have students enrolled at New England Conservatory, Berklee School of Music, Montclair State University, The Juilliard School, Oberlin Conservatory, Manhattan School of Music, The New School, William Paterson University, Rutgers University, SUNY Purchase, Eastman School of Music, Northwestern University, New Jersey City University, Temple, and Miami University.
Nothing can make this easy, but no one else has the diversity of experience that I do to guide you through this exciting, sometimes treacherous and very rewarding journey.
Mike Lee Bio