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Music Scholarship

Music as a Passion and a College Path

The following was written by our Office Manager and voice and piano teacher, Lina, who was the recipient of a $13,000 music scholarship.

As a senior in high school, you always hear the dreaded question: “what are you going to do with your life?” When I was there over four years ago, I didn’t have a clue. I had always loved music, but I never saw that as anything more than a hobby. After all, people didn’t make money being musicians, right?

As I prepared to choose my university, I looked into possible scholarship opportunities. When my mom told me my college had a music scholarship, I was hesitant to believe her. A scholarship… for MUSIC? I thought. Why in the world would they have that? Is music a sport now? Despite my hesitation, I decided to give it a shot.

Arriving on campus to audition for the music scholarship, I felt a mixture of excitement, nerves, and disbelief. I prepared the required three songs, including an aria, a classical piece, and a contemporary song. The faculty warned me I would be doing a bit of sight reading during the audition, something I wasn’t too excited for. I walked into the brightly lit classroom and met a panel of four professors, who would later become my beloved mentors. I sang each song almost on autopilot, and fumbled my way through the sight reading portion of the audition. Afterwards, the faculty asked about my experience as a singer, and my goals for college and beyond.

I left the audition room completely dazed. I didn’t anticipate much would come out of that audition, so I congratulated myself for getting through it and resigned myself to focus my efforts on other possible paths in college. After all, you don’t hear very much about opportunities within the music field beyond the rare rise of a rock star or pop sensation.

A few weeks later, I received a call from the music department; they congratulated me, the recipient of a $13,000 music scholarship. I could barely contain my joy and, if I’m honest, my shock. Only months before, I had had no idea there was such a thing as “music scholarship.” Now I was the recipient of that scholarship! I never imagined that I would receive anything in return for my arts, but this experience changed my perspective.

As part of my scholarship, I studied music theory and learned the theory behind the music that had always been a part of my life. I became a member of a choir which granted me endless opportunities to travel to beautiful countries like Austria and Hungary. I got the chance to perform on countless stages, and even win money in a professional singing competition! The professors that had previously been panel members at my audition were now confidants, with whom I would share my college experiences and learn more about myself.

I always imagined music as a time-consuming hobby, not an actual career choice. I am forever grateful that I allowed myself the opportunity to grow as a musician, and as an individual, by pursuing something that seemed impossible.

There is a cultural narrative within the US that tells young artists their passions are not viable in the long-term. Many artists give up their passions because they’re not “practical” and they fear they’ll never make a living. For all you soon-to-be college students out there, pursue your passions! You never know what opportunities life will present you with, and you don’t want to miss out on them.

Teacher Feature: Lina M.

Teacher Feature: Lina M.

Our newest voice and piano teacher, Lina, has performed all over the world, including the Hollywood Bowl, Carnegie Hall, and a wide variety of other venues in both America and throughout Europe. She won first and second place in two separate NATS competitions, one for contemporary music and the other for musical theatre. She won the contemporary music category conquering the infamously difficult “Chandelier” and “Stone Cold,” and for that has our undying respect! We’re so excited to have her as part of our team.

MM: What instruments do you play, how did you get started with each one, and how long have you played them?

LM: I am a vocalist and play the piano. I started singing in church choir when I was four years old, and I’ve been singing ever since! I started teaching myself to play the piano during college and have fallen in love with the instrument.

MM: Who has inspired you musically?

LM: As an artist, my main motivation is to speak to my own experiences and connect with others who resonate with the sentiments expressed in my music. For this reason, I find my biggest inspiration is artists who aren’t afraid to be vulnerable in their music. Twenty One Pilots and Sia are two artists whose vulnerability inspires me. They both fearlessly address their struggles with mental illness and use their music as a platform to reach others struggling through similar experiences. As a creator, I hope to find the same strength in vulnerability with my own music.

MM: What are your favorite musical genres, and why?

LM: Some of my ultimate favorite genres are soul, gospel R&B, alternative, hip hop, atmospheric rock, modern orchestral, musical theatre and dance music. I love each of these genres for unique reasons, but they all share a deep emotional expression in the music. I also love music that lends itself towards dancing, as I’m a choreographer.

MM: What are your current musical projects?

LM: I’m currently writing and producing my own music. I’m working on expanding my musical knowledge by learning to play more instruments (guitar, drums, and more) and reinforcing my musical theory background.

MM: How do you practice, and how do you balance music with some of your other life goals? How do you help your students practice?

LM: When I practice, I set aside a specific amount of time each day and plan to work through a few specific tasks. For example, if I’m going to be performing a piece for a recital, I’ll plan to work through the diction of the piece for an hour one day, review the trouble spots the next day, and so on. In order to make sure my time is well-balanced, I write out my short term and long term musical goals and decide the most efficient way to work towards those while also granting time for my other time commitments.

I advise my students to treat music practice like they would studying. You shouldn’t throw out your voice practicing all in one day, but instead plan to practice consistently for shorter time periods. I also encourage students to make practice fun by incorporating it into your daily routine in unique ways–that way when it comes time to practice you’re excited for it.

MM: It looks like you’ve performed in quite a few places! Do you have any favorites (country, venue, etc.)?

LM: I’ve performed numerous wonderful places, but one of my favorites was in Vienna, Austria. My choir and I performed in a small church called St. Peterskirche. The beauty of the architecture and artwork inside of the church was unparalleled by anything I’ve ever experienced, and the acoustics and atmosphere made the performance feel ethereal.

MM: I heard you won first in the post-collegiate contemporary music category and second in the collegiate musical theatre category for the NATS competition—congratulations! Tell us about the experience! What did you sing? What was the process like? How did you prepare?

LM: I competed in the Bay Area NATS competition in the contemporary music and musical theatre categories. The experience was wonderful. After consulting with my vocal teacher, Donna Olson, I competed in the Spring and Fall competitions of 2016. I was required to select three diverse pieces to perform, fitting within the parameters of the competition’s official guidelines. After selecting my repertoire, I worked tirelessly to perfect the musicianship and performance of my pieces. Each category was performed in front of a different judge panel of 3-4 NATS members, who scored your performance based on technique, style, stage presence, and preparedness.

For the musical theatre and contemporary music categories I performed a selection including “Breathe” from In the Heights, “Stone Cold” by Demi Lovato and “Chandelier” by Sia, and “Once Upon a Time” from Brooklyn.

My first NATS I placed 1st in the Collegiate Contemporary Music Category, and at my second NATS I was lucky enough to place 1st in the Post-Collegiate Contemporary Music Category! It was an amazing experience seeing all my hard work paid off.