August 22, 2011

So You Want To Study Music, Part 2: A Guest Blog by Prawit Siriwat

Wit Siriwat

The Audition: A First-Hand Account

I walk into the room with my guitar slung around my shoulder. In my hand I have a folder filled with music for the student musicians that would be playing with me in just a few moments. I’m a little nervous. The body of my guitar hits the door on the way in and I think to myself sarcastically, “Oh, that’s a good sign.” I shake everyone’s hand and introduce myself.

Two men are in the room with pads of paper and pens. One man lifts his head up with a smile and says, “Welcome. Just plug into that Polytone. What are you going to play for us?” The other man still has his head buried in the paper. I tell them, as confidently as I can, “’Solar’, ‘Blue Trane’, and ‘Blue in Green’.” Both of the men smile and motion for me to continue.

I pull out my folder of music and ask if anyone needs a chart for the tunes. The bass player says he needs music for “Blue in Green” and one of the men cracks a joke about students not knowing tunes.

We start my audition off with “Solar” by Miles Davis. I count off, “One, two, a-one, two, three, four,” and start playing the head. The beginning is surprising, as I have never played with musicians of this caliber before and I can tell before the drummer even hits his pickup. The feeling of surprise throws me off a bit. I play the solo and start to get lost. Even though I’m blazing through scales and arpeggios, my ground is shaken. My heartbeat is noticeably speeding up and I try to play less notes and slow down. I tune my ear into the piano player. There it is, the chords are there. Now back to one. After two more choruses of solo, one of the men says, “Play the head again after this chorus.” I don’t quite understand and miss the cue. On the next chorus I go back to the head and think to myself, “Man, that wasn’t too hot.” The two men deciding my admission just smile and say, “Nice job.”

The next tune is “Blue In Green” and I’m instructed to let the bass player take a solo. As I play through the tune, I am being directed on how to interact with the group. Reacting to instructions while playing is interesting and surprisingly difficult, but I am able to follow. Toward the end I’m slightly lost within the 10-bar tune, but I ultimately recover. I think to myself, “I’m really doing a ‘nice job’ aren’t I?”

“Blue Trane” is the final tune – a blues with an exciting and simple melody. I count off and actually miss my own entrance! On the third phrase, I completely forget the notes. I feel like I’ve lost the groove again, but then I recover. The solo I play on this piece is exciting and I’m finally grooving with these musicians that I had never met before. New ideas are being created on the spot and I know that I may have done some good in this audition. When I reach the end of the piece, I signal for the head by patting the top of my head. When I hit the final note, I give a sigh of relief and think, “Well, that could have gone better, but I did alright.” I shake everyone’s hand and thank them.

Dealing with Acceptance and Rejection: The Choices, Part 2

Wit Smile

The more schools you apply to, the more chances you get to wait for that magical letter to arrive in the mail! But what do you do after you read it? Dealing with rejection is difficult, but sometimes dealing with acceptance can be just as much of a strain.

Lets start with rejection. Rejection letters are often in small envelopes (the first clue). They are short and not personal at all. The first reaction is a little bit of sadness. I received two rejection letters, one from Berklee and one from Miami. I was devastated for a little while, especially considering Berklee was my dream school. It takes some time to get over, but you have to remember that these schools are very competitive and only have room for so many students.

When you receive a rejection letter, please don’t forget that you are talented and you have skills. Rejection letters are not the equivalent of failing at your craft, so don’t take it that way. Just read it, accept it, and move on. Keep on being creative and don’t let rejection drag you down.

[Jim’s note: Wit is right. As someone who has auditioned and been on the audition panel many times, I can assure you that rejecting someone is not always based on skill level alone. The audition panel may think you have good skills, but might be more suited to a different music program. Maybe they feel that you have good potential, but just aren’t quite ready to handle their particular curriculum. Or maybe they didn’t like the shoes you were wearing…]

Acceptance is actually a much stranger feeling. The acceptance letter usually arrives in a large envelope, and at first, you’re hit with a rush of excitement and accomplishment. There might be a little hint of disbelief based on how your audition went (see The Audition: A Firsthand Account). But when all the excitement and initial thrill is gone, then you see the reality: you are going to college for music. And you have to pay for it.

Sometimes there’s a bit of relief because the acceptance includes a certain amount for scholarship. Sometimes, though, you are worried because the school is expensive. Everyone’s financial situation is different, but don’t let that deter you from the most important part: you were accepted!

I received acceptance letters from Towson University, here in Maryland, and the New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music, in New York City. Now I was faced with the choice of which school I should attend. There were so many factors in this round of choices that I was feeling overwhelmed, but I approached it the same way I approached choosing a school to audition for: What are my goals? The New School prides itself on teaching with a mentor/apprentice philosophy. Though there were certainly economic factors to consider (Towson’s tuition was more affordable), I chose the New School because it offered an opportunity that Towson just did not have for me personally. (I stress that this is only my personal opinion).

The End of One Road and the Start of Another

It is a few weeks before I head off to college and I am more than excited – and maybe a little nervous. I’ve been preparing all summer and I cannot wait to discover new ways to express music. This article was written straight from my experiences over the last two years and I hope it was helpful to you. The musical journey is exciting; I hope it takes you somewhere special.

If you have any questions, feel free to ask them on my Facebook page (www.facebook.com/prawitmusic). You can also e-mail me at prawit.siriwat@gmail.com.

All the best,

Wit

Big thanks to Wit Siriwat for writing such an informative and entertaining article! He’s a quality dude with a generous spirit and a relentless drive to be the best musician he can be. “Cats” like Wit – to use a decidedly jazz hipster term – inspire me to be my best and to spread the gospel of great music far and wide. I’m proud to call him my friend and fellow guitarist, and I wish him the very best in his new adventures at The New School! – jb

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Jim Bowley is a professional guitarist, teacher and blogger. A native of Baltimore, he has over 30 years of playing experience and an advanced degree in Music Education from Towson University. Jim lives in Bel Air, MD where he maintains a thriving private lesson studio and performs with his band, Remains of Radio.

© 2012 Jim Bowley All rights reserved.
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