Scholarships often bring to mind thoughts of athletics, internships, and academic merit. However, music is a significant means of attracting prestigious schools and scholarships.
Many of Churchill’s top musicians go on to pursue music in college, with about five percent of seniors in the music program applying as music majors every year.
“We have a very dedicated base of musicians here who, besides practicing every day, play in many different ensembles, take private lessons and are ready to dedicate their life to their craft,” said Top Band and Orchestra director Kristofer Sanz.
There are a variety of reasons as to why these seniors decide to major in music.
“I’m doing music because I am hoping for a scholarship of some kind, also because it can help me get into schools that were originally out of reach for me to get into,” senior Emily Thomas said. “But I am mostly doing music because I love it and want to continue to play.”
Thomas, the first chair baritone in the CHS Top Band and a six-year member of the Maryland State band is in the process of applying to the University of Maryland, University of Michigan and Michigan State University with a focus on her musical talents.
In addition to completing the normal applications, Thomas also completes a “music application,” in which she fills out a musical resume, performs two to four audition pieces, and provides a recommendation from a music teacher and two or three essays about why she is interested in pursuing music.
“If a band or orchestra director wants you, they can definitely help you be admitted, but not guarantee it,” Thomas said. “After they hear auditions, they make a list of all the students they want and send it down to the main admissions office. Usually, it is no problem and all of these people get in.”
However, for Samantha Locraft, who is applying to Carnegie Mellon, Northwestern and Boston Conservatory as a clarinet player, the directors have no say in who gets into the school.
“In this case, it would probably be a professor of your instrument that wants you, but you still have to be accepted by the university to get in,” Locraft said.
Many students including Locraft and Thomas sent their audition tapes to Sanz and music teacher Ariel Allal for advice.
“I try to personally instill in them the values, practice habits and musicianship that they need to be a pro,” Allal said.
With a masters in Bassoon Performance from the University of Michigan, Allal is familiar with the process that his seniors are going through right now.
“I look for audio quality,” Allal said. “If you are situated in a room with good acoustics and a good microphone, the listeners can tell the student cares. If they are recording with their phone in their carpeted basement, they clearly do not care.”
Allal originally went to Penn State on a scholarship, but transferred to UMD after two months because he didn’t get along with his teacher.
“I advise every student to work with the teacher they will be studying with to make sure they get along,” Allal said. “In choosing a school, it’s not about the athletics or academic reputation, it’s about having a good teacher.”