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Redwood Bark

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Musician awarded with top scholarship despite admissions mistake

Monday, Aug. 17, was a memorable day for senior Michael Schwartz. In the late afternoon, the saxophonist received an email from Berklee College of Music congratulating him on becoming the 11th musician from a pool of 500 to earn a full-time scholarship starting in the fall of 2016––an award that was only supposed to be granted to 10.

Schwartz attended the Berklee Five-Week Summer Performance Program in Boston, Mass. from mid-July until mid-August where, as a rising senior, he was given the opportunity to audition for a scholarship to attend the college as a student.

Of the approximate 500 musicians who auditioned for a scholarship, 100 were given awards for varying amounts. The highest scholarship––full-tuition for four years––would be received by 10 people.

“I thought my audition went pretty well,” Schwartz said, reflecting on the process.

When the list of winners was announced at the Berklee summer program, Schwartz was not among the 100 scholarship winners. The reveal surprised Schwartz, who had felt confident about his audition.

“It turned out that the admissions office had lost my audition record and they thought that I hadn’t even shown up for the audition,” Schwartz said. “I had to contact the admissions office and ask them to relocate my record.”

The admissions office eventually found his audition record and reevaluated him for scholarship consideration, Schwartz said.

“It’s a really strange situation. The Berklee admissions office reported that this sort of thing has never happened before where they have actually lost someone’s record in the process of judging and evaluating scholarship auditions,” Schwartz said.

Schwartz rehearses saxophone during Jazz Band practice on Sept. 2.
Schwartz rehearses saxophone during Jazz Band practice on Sept. 2.

A few days after arriving home from the program, Schwartz received an email from the Berklee admissions office.

“It said ‘Congratulations you are the 11th person to have been chosen for a full-time scholarship this year at Berklee College of Music,’” Schwartz said.

All of the scholarship announcements had been made at the time, and the full-time award caught Schwartz off-guard.

“I was a bit surprised that I didn’t get anything, but I was absolutely stupefied to hear that I had gotten a full scholarship,” Schwartz said.

There were more obstacles between Schwartz and the scholarship than just a lost audition record. Getting in the audition room was an ambitious journey in its own right.

Before Schwartz could attend the program he had to audition for an elite jazz workshop of 12 musicians––of which four spots were saxophones––within the five-week program. By earning a spot in the elite workshop, Schwartz received a scholarship that covered the cost of the five-week program.

“[Getting into the program] was really an honor because of [the number of] people who auditioned,” Schwartz said.

The summer program drew about 1,000 musicians from more than 70 different countries. Schwartz was able to experience bonding by communicating through an array of musical notes that defied language barriers and put aside the fact that many of the attendees did not share interests beyond music.

“Once you start playing the music you’re immediately able to relate to each other through playing with each other, through knowing the same songs, through having similar amounts of skill,” Schwartz said.

Not only did the students who hailed in large numbers from countries like Japan, Israel, and China have a positive impact on Schwartz, but the program as a whole did, too.

“The atmosphere there was great, the classes were great, the teachers were very knowledgeable and supportive,” Schwartz said.

Schwartz is still undecided on where he would like to attend college despite his enjoyment of the summer program.

“At this point, I am not exactly sure if I want to attend or not,” Schwartz said. “I am still looking at other music universities, at other music colleges, and other universities in general for a more academic route.”

Schwartz is currently considering USC and University of Miami, which both offer music and academic programs that interest Schwartz.

“I am both very interested and passionate in music as well as a more scientific, academic side,” Schwartz said.

While Schwartz continues his search for a college with the best fit, his outlook so far is positive.

“No matter what happens, I am extremely honored to have been awarded with such a high scholarship,” Schwartz said.

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Isabelle Marmur, Author