I am often approached by parents who want their children to apply for scholarships relating to music. These are sometimes for junior divisions of the London conservatories, or for entrance to fee-paying schools. This usually arrives perhaps six-months to one-year before applications need to be made.
Unfortunately, at this point, the applicant is often not a viable candidate because music for them was not taken seriously until this point. Brace yourselves; an unpalatable truth is that they needed to have been preparing for many years previous.
Many fall into the trap of thinking that music has no real value; as an activity, our subject is relegated to the least important of extra-curricular activities. This usually lasts until the years before the entrance to secondary education, or application to GCSE or A-level music, or before the entrance to university (WHAT!? Grades are worth UCAS points!? Yes they are!), by which point it is too late. In the first lessons with newcomers, I ask them a very serious question:
“Is this a passion, or is this a profession?”
The response from the student or parent is always:
“It’s too early to know! That’s a very BIG question to ask an [under ten] year old!”
The thing is, you always know.
Almost all professionals working in music, particularly classical music, started when they were children. Many were not forced and developed their own love and passion, simply sticking with it; many do not know anything different, driven by a deep love and passion which followed them into their adulthood. For most, the allure of money or fame was never a consideration. Instead, the indescribable feeling of creating and sharing music with another human being takes precedence.
I started lessons aged four, and not long after starting lessons I knew that I wanted to do this as my job. When I was asked “What do you want to do when you’re older?” by adults and other curious souls, I can remember saying to them “I don’t care as long as it involves music”. I recently received an email written by a person in my year group at school who said they were “... so pleased to see that I was still making music”. I wake up every day in a state of euphoria; it was Confucius that said:
“Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.”
I know that most, if not all of my colleagues agree with this sentiment, otherwise, they would not be in this profession. There are many other jobs that pay more with many more perks of the trade. However, almost none of them have such a tremendous feedback.
So you will understand that the person sitting before you on an audition panel, interview or review board is not arbitrarily picking candidates based on who plays faster, or has the highest grade, or who plays the most instruments, but in fact looking for someone who has discipline, drive, passion and more importantly a personality.
A scholarship is an investment from a school or institution into a person to help aid them in their future career. It is a representation of faith in an individual by the institution to fund or heavily subsidize their education. For some families in deprived areas, it is a golden ticket to a life they would not usually have access to.
For others who are perhaps already destined for a professional career in music and have a pick of institutions, it is a training ground in which the institution will likely become integral in nurturing the individual, impacting their later career. Whatever the situation, it is an investment in the person's professional career.
When the school chooses a candidate, it is because they show intrinsic value, ambition, motivation and, more importantly, passion for a subject of study. This will likely propel them far beyond their time at the school.
Most importantly, they need to show actual skill in any auditioned discipline. An institution would be likely to reject an application for scholarship if a shallow attempt is made by simply playing lots of instruments or gaining a graded certificate in an instrumental study.
Please do not be fooled into thinking this is anything to do with chance or being talent spotted. Though it is an investment, the scholarship is a means to attract students who would make the school look good; they are not altruistic, but a business privately owned; the students who attend a school are a reflection of the school, its values and a showcase to their worth collectively.
This video is an interview by Melanie Spanswick with Vanessa Latarche head of Keyboard at the Royal College of Music. If you have time to watch the video, it will really give you an insight into a person in her position and what they look for in applicants. This is in reference to application to degree study, but in any case, it applies to all such circumstances.
The part of the interview that is directly relevant is here:
If your application for a scholarship is a shallow attempt to avoid fees, the institution will know from the moment they conduct an interview, and you need not apply. If however you are truly passionate about music and have something unique to offer, they will also see this and will want to hear what you have to say.
Dylan completed his music training with honours at Colchester Institute, where he studied piano with Australian pianist Lesley Young, and composition with British composer Dr Mark Bellis. While studying, in 2009, Dylan won Colchester Institute’s Canon Jack Award for Solo Piano adjudicated by Andrew Ball. A composer, promoter, and advocate of contemporary classical music, Dylan joined the membership of Colchester New Music in 2014.
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