My Berklee Audition Experience | Berklee College of Music
When I decided I wanted to go to Berklee, the first thing I did was search up blog posts about people’s experiences with the application and audition process. I found about two articles, neither of which went into the level of detail that I was looking for. I had found my dream school, and I wanted some life hacks. Sadly, that google search really let me down, and I figured things out on my own. Thus, here I am sharing with you my experience applying, auditioning, and being accepted to Berklee!
If you're lazy like me and don't feel like reading this, check out my video version:
Alright, so let's jump in!
I first learned about Berklee when my Choral director mentioned that she thought it might be a good fit for me. I began researching the school and asked my parents to take me for a tour. It was over the November break of my Junior year when I found myself sobbing in the middle of Boston because the idea of not attending Berklee made me so extremely emotional. (I was also tired from the long drive and busy morning, but ya know...)
After Beklee, I toured Rutgers’s Mason Gross School of the Arts, Drexel, and UArts, none of which made me cry. I had my sights set on Berklee. So, I asked my parents if I could attend the Songwriting Summer Workshop to get a feel for the atmosphere of the school. The first day of the workshop, I cried on the phone with my grandmother. I think I might have been crying because I thought I wasn’t good enough. In my head, Berklee was just a dream that would remain a dream forever.
**I you are feeling the way I felt, keep reading. I was able to find so many ways to set myself apart as an applicant, and you can too!**
1. Show interest.
It is extremely important to show schools that you are interested in them. Seeing interest from an applicant means… well… it means they are interested, and that you are more likely to attend than those students who are just applying for the heck of it. This doesn’t have to be attending a summer workshop (although, I wish I had attended their Five-Week summer program rather than just the one week songwriting workshop), but this can also include phone calls, emails, and tours to show that you are researching the school. I think the fact that I showed interest in the school definitely helped.
2. Show commitment to your craft!
I did something else that really set me apart from the rest of the applicants. I showed my commitment not just to the school, but to music. Halfway through my junior year of high school, I was so utterly done with academics that I decided I needed to change my schedule for senior year. I asked my guidance counselor what classes I still needed to graduate, and he said all I needed were English and PE. So, I decided that I would ditch high school and find a college that offered music classes to high school students. I was overjoyed to find the perfect program for me at Rider University, where I could apply and enroll as a non-degree seeking student. Using my charm and passion, I was able to arrange to be placed in some classes that were offered only to Popular Music majors, and after a junior year filled with stress, tears, and feeling out of place, my senior year was a huge sigh of relief. I arranged my high school schedule to be a half day and was able to get out at 11:15 and get to my college classes on time. Doing this really showed Berklee that I was committed to music, and that I was mature, excited for college, and that I was already educated in music.
Obviously, not everyone can just up and quit high school the way I did, but if you are a junior who already knows they want to major in music, fill your high school schedule with Choir, Band, Music Theory, Music Tech, or whatever courses your school offers. If you aren’t ready to let go of your academic courses, join clubs and find classes to take outside of school. Many towns have music centers that give lessons. Show you are ambitious by picking up a new instrument or getting voice lessons. You can even take Berklee online classes. I would recommend Music Theory, because you are going to have to take it anyway…
3. Ace your application
After my experience at the Berklee Summer Workshop, I spent the rest of my summer dedicated to working on my portfolio. As a singer-songwriter and self-producer, I began writing like crazy so that I would have plenty of options to submit. I worked with my choir director/mentor, who helped critique some of my favorite songs, and I ended up selecting four produced tracks to submit via the supplemental materials portal on the Berklee application. I think this was a magic number, because if you give the admissions officers too much material, they will get lost in it, but if you are too sparse about it, they will see you as a one-hit-wonder kind of musician who has not developed as an artist yet.
I also highly recommend submitting lead sheets for each song that you submit. Lead sheets include lyrics, a copyright at the top of your sheet that says your PRO (you should definitely register with one), and the harmony, or chords, above the lyrics. To many musicians this may seem obvious, but it is extremely important to show admissions that you can notate your music.
I also submitted my college essay in the supplemental materials section. Although Berklee does not require an essay, I think it is important to show them who you are. My essay was about how my experience with Tourette Syndrome helped me realize my passion for music. However, you can write about anything, it doesn’t have to do with music. In fact, I think having it not be about music would show a unique side of you!
I submitted that, along with my high school and college transcripts, on October 31st (I was applying early action), and received an email that my audition was scheduled in Boston on November 8th at 9:30am. A month later I was at Berklee. But we can’t jump ahead that far.
4. Pick an audition song that shows off your strengths!
I had my audition song picked out in August, and my audition was in December. I think it is so important to have your audition song picked out ahead of time so that by the time your audition comes it is second nature. Only you can know what song to pick. Just make sure you love it.
I accompanied myself on guitar, and played my song for literally everyone, including my High School choir. (my director forced me to…) I also practiced sight singing and ear training before my audition (there are examples on the berklee.edu audition page!
5. So, what happens at the audition anyway?
Since I applied early action, my audition had to be in Boston. After sending in my application, I received an email from Berklee telling me my audition date and time. I was scheduled for December 8th at 9:30 in the morning.
I arrived at the audition around 8:45 in the morning. They had me sign in with my name and phone number and then led me to a room where there was a table full of pamphlets and informational booklets and refreshments. There were some chairs facing a big projection on a screen which had a list of names. Each name had a chair number with it. I waited until my name appeared on the screen and went to sit in the chair I was assigned. Eventually, someone came out, got me from my chair, and led me upstairs to the warm-up room.
In the warm up room I had time to look at the first sight-singing, do a few riffs from my song, and tune my guitar. Then a new guy came and got me from the warm-up room and brought me into the audition room.
There were two guys in the room. Was was standing and smiling, and was was sitting at a computer with a completely blank expression on his face. The smiley one said hi and immediately asked what I would be singing. I began my song, finished it, and got a nice smile from the standing guy. Then, he asked me if I wanted to do some improv. I was nervous for the improvisation part, but I kept my cool and sang some smiley, enthusiastic riffs over the complicated Jazz progression. Next, we did sight-reading. I was surprised when the auditioner began playing an accompaniment under my solfege. It surprised me, but I aced the first sight-singing with no problems. He seemed impressed that I sang on solfege and skipped ahead like four examples and asked me to sing that one. I did not ace that one…
And that was it. Then, I was guided to the next floor up, where I waited for my interviewer to come out and get me. For me, the interview was the highlight of the day. I like to talk and feel extremely passionate about music, so when the interviewer asked me why I wanted to go to Berklee and why I felt I would fit in there, I knew the answer right away. She also asked me my musical inspiration and my leadership experience.
My tips forthe interview is simply to be yourself and smile. There are also interview example questions of the Berklee website that you can review before your audition day.
Then, I took the train home from Boston, expecting to hear from the admissions office at 12:01 on January 31st (the admission deadline for early action). I was taken by surprise when I received an email from Berklee 9 days later congratulating me on my acceptance!
So, that is my experience. If you’ve made it this far, congratulations! I wish you so much luck with your application and audition. It was an amazing experience for me and I couldn’t ask for a better outcome! More updates regarding my experience at Berklee will be coming soon, but until then, good luck!