Four Reasons I Hate Applying for Scholarships, and One Reason I Keep Doing It

1.They take a long time to fill out.

For most of the scholarships I have applied to, I have had to fill in the exact same things over and over for each one, with no way to lessen the tedium. There are very few scholarship applications where you can simply upload a resume and be done; usually I have to fill in text boxes within the application with the same information I put on the last application. But as far as I can tell there is no way to consolidate all this key-board tapping and save time. And by the time I have finished filling out three pages of my personal information again, I realize that I still have to write a 500-word essay from a thought-provoking, vague, and somehow familiar prompt.

2. I have only ever gotten the scholarships I didn’t apply for.

Every single scholarship I have ever filled out an application for- big or small- I have not gotten. The only ones I have gotten are the ones that I was considered for automatically with acceptance to specific colleges. People always encourage students to apply even when they think they have little chance of winning the scholarship, saying that surely somewhere along the way you will get a scholarship. Sadly, this has not proved true for the scholarships I have applied for.

3. They create false and unneeded stress.

For the last five months, there has been hardly a day when I have not had a scholarship application weighing on my mind. Several times, the very day after I submit an application and think I don’t have worry about scholarship deadlines for a while, I am alerted of yet another imminent deadline. This creates the illusion of always being not quite done with the things I need to do, adding stress and distraction to every day.

4. I am too normal.

Too often have I seen a scholarship that looks promising, only to discover that it is for hispanics, students from single-parents homes, students affiliated with a specific organization, or, my favorite, Catholics with the last name Zolp. Being a white male who comes from a stable, two-parent upper-middle class family and having no weird affiliations, interests or attributes which might get me a scholarship, looking at all the scholarship ‘opportunities’ can be rather off-putting. Sure, there are still plenty of scholarships I can apply for, but nearly half of all interesting scholarships I have found I have been ineligible for due to one thing or another.

The Reason I keep applying: I need money for school.

There’s always the chance that I’ll be able to get just a little bit more. I have been told that some colleges, if not all, will redistribute scholarships that were allotted to students who decided not to attend that college and award them to other students. This is the reason it’s never too late to keep asking about and applying for scholarships.

Improv and Lip Sync Battles

Every college should have an improv club. Most college students enjoy comedy, absurdity, and watching their friends embarrass themselves, and this is what improv is all about. An improv club would be able to put on Improv Battles where two teams of actors compete with each other by way of performing improvised skits or clever ‘improv games’. It’s like a wrestling match, but funnier and with more audience participation. Improv Battles are enjoyable for the audience and exhilarating for the participating actors.

Although not technically improv, another thing which an improv club would be able to do along with Improv Battles is Lip Sync Battles. Lip Sync Battles are fantastic because you can feel like a superstar while having zero talent, and it’s impossible to mess up. Just choose a pop song you (and ideally everyone else) know all the words to, find a microphone (fake or broken microphones are acceptable, you won’t actually be using it for anything other than the look of the thing), get on a stage lip sync your heart out (a back-up air band is a plus as well). Watching a well-executed lip sync can actually be more entertaining than a real live performance.

I am not sure where I am going to college yet, but if there is not an improv club there, I am going to freaking make one. The art of improvisation is a deplorably neglected area of theater and needs to be brought into the light so that everyone can enjoy it.

What is Musical Dictation?

Most people, even most musicians who have not had formal musical education at the college or university level, do not know what musical dictation is. But for those who do know what it is and have to do it, it is often the bane of their musical existence. Musical dictation is the skill of hearing something and being able to write it down just as played. Dictation can be separated into three categories: harmonic dictation, melodic dictation, and rhythmic dictation.

Harmonic dictation is the ability to hear a chord and know which degree of the scale it is built on and which inversion, if any, it is voiced in. Harmonic dictation is often easier for musicians who play instruments that play chords, such as pianos.

Melodic dictation is the ability to hear a single melodic line and write it down just as heard. Melodic dictation is usually easier than harmonic dictation.

Rhythmic dictation is the ability to hear and write down rhythms instead of notes. Depending on the musician, this might be much harder or much easier than harmonic or melodic dictation.

There are several reasons why dictation is such a hard part of musicianship. One is that most musicians do nothing to develop their critical listening ear before entering a class where they are required to do dictation. Another reason is that even people with good ears can get confused with dictation, and having no way to concretely know if they are right in their dictation-taking, not be very confident in their dictation skills. But like most things in music, dictation skills are difficult and sometimes monotonous to develop, but in the end are essential and worthwhile assets to one’s musical skills.

Harp Ensemble

Last weekend while I was visiting the Butler School of Music at the University of Texas at Austin, I attended a performance of the harp ensemble. The ensemble was made up of four harpists, three students and one professor. As there was no printed program, the professor gave a verbal introduction to the three pieces that they were going to play. All three pieces were written by Rolando Alfredo Ortiz, who immigrated from Paraguay to California about thirty years ago. The professor described the performance as a “trip to South America”.

The first piece was dedicated to the composer’s daughter. The opening measures of this first song destroyed my presupposition of what “harp music” sounds like. I have usually associated harps only with the twinkly, magic sound effect they are often used for, and expected something angelic or shiny-sounding. This song, as well as the rest of the performance, was much less twinkly than I initially expected.

The second song was a Uruguay dance form-it was whimsical, conjuring up images of rainforests and South American natives. At times the harps almost sounded like guitars, and at other times they emitted sounds that reminded me of an electric keyboard. I was surprised by the versatility and range of different sounds of the harp.

The last song was a Colombian dance form, and in addition to playing the strings, the ensemble added percussion to the piece by one of the harpists knocking on the wood of her harp. Of all the pieces, this one sounded the most distinctly like a Latin American dance.

This harp ensemble performance effectively destroyed all my assumptions of what a harp should sound like.

What is a College Music Audition Like?

I’m guessing anyone who hasn’t been through a college music audition process doesn’t know what it’s like. Neither did I, until about two days ago. Now that I know, I want to share what it is like for anyone who might be wondering.

I auditioned as a vocalist, which from what I have heard from my brother (who auditioned some years ago as a pianist) is a little different than auditioning as a instrumentalist. In his audition they had him sing a major scale and some other things to test his voice and his ear; I did not have to do this since my primary audition was a singing audition anyway. My audition was in two parts: the theory/aural assessment, and the vocal audition. I took the theory/aural exam first.

Four parts of the test were over theory. They covered rhythm, note names, intervals, triads and seventh chords spellings, and writing out major and minor scales. All of it was information that any first-semester theory student should be familiar with, but there were several aspects that made it difficult. On the note naming, nearly all of the notes which I was asked to name were way below or way above the staff, sometimes on the tenor or alto clef. On the interval testing, instead of asking for an interval above a ‘C’ or some other common note, it would ask for something like a ‘minor second above an A double sharp’, adding the double sharp, or in some cases double flats, just to make it difficult. It did a similar thing with the scales, asking for weird scales like E# melodic minor. On top of all of this was the time limit, probably the part of the test which made it the most difficult. The time was very limited, sometimes giving you only an average of a few seconds for each question.

There was only one section to the aural part of the test. It was fifteen minutes long, which was plenty of time to complete it. It tested ability to correctly hear the difference between major and minor scales, the difference between major and minor melodies, chord progressions, rhythms, and intervals. For anyone who has had any ear training or plays piano, it would most likely not be too difficult.

The second part of my audition was the vocal audition. It was much like any singing audition: you go in, you sing, you may be asked a few questions, and then you leave. The only difference between this and most auditions I have done is that I also had to do a short section of sight reading. In most cases, all of the faculty for whatever instrument you are auditioning on will be there, so depending on your instrument, there might be half a dozen professors there or only one. In my case all the professors were very warm and welcoming, and the atmosphere was very relaxed, yet professional. This will of course vary from school to school, with some schools having a much more intense, daunting atmosphere.

So there you have it, my college audition experience. I am sure there is a great variance from school to school and instrument to instrument, but nevertheless, I hope someone finds this helpful if they are wondering what a college music audition is like.

It’s Time You Knew

It’s time you knew-at some unspecified time in the past, I fell in love. I fell in love with learning. I didn’t mean to, and I don’t know how I did it. Maybe it was this past summer, maybe it was last spring, or maybe last fall. All of my life before I fell in love with learning, my approach to anything I didn’t know or that was difficult was that if I didn’t have to know it, I didn’t want to know it. School subjects, especially the difficult ones like science and math, were obstacles to overcome, with an end goal of conquering them so that didn’t have to deal with them anymore.

Now, for some reason that I don’t know, especially what is advanced and difficult, interests me immensely. A curiosity I never asked for has taken ahold of me. Science, math, music, literature, theology, ideals- I want to know, and it excites me to think that I will be able to spend at least the next four years of my life devoting myself primarily to the art of learning and understanding and learning how to understand more. I know not what instilled this desire in me- but whatever it was, I am thankful for it.

Theory

This semester I am taking a Music Theory class. As December approaches the semester is winding down, but it’s not quite over yet. I’m acutely aware of this because of the amount of homework I have to do over Thanksgiving break. Up until this point, my Music Theory Homework has been fairly easy for the most part, some times time-consuming, but usually more tedious than difficult.

It’s amazing how quickly things can get harder.