Berklee College of Music is one of the most prestigious music schools in the world, ranking 5th over a hundred of music schools in America. From the award-winning artist, Charlie Puth to one of Broadway’s most talented arranger and musical director, Alex Lacamoire, it remains to produce notable alumni who are very much involved in the music industry. Though Berklee attracts thousands and thousands of students each year, roughly only 28% get admitted. If you’re looking at attending an art school abroad, this article should be helpful for you! Here’s an interview with an incoming freshman of Berklee College of Music, Diego Cortez, and what his expectations are going into the famed college and how his admissions preparations went.
When did you start getting into music?
Music has always been a part of my life. My parents told me stories of how I would sing before I even learned how to speak. I started taking formal music lessons when I was six years old. My parents got me a little red guitar and I still have it to this day. Outside of guitar, I play piano, bass, drums, ukulele, and a little bit of saxophone. I mainly sing when I’m not holding an instrument, and it’s my main instrument of choice.
Why did you decide to pursue music? Why Berklee?
For a long time, I considered pursuing a career in psychology but never really felt like my heart was in it. During this period, I felt lost in my career choice. I didn’t know what I wanted to do. All I knew was that I loved music and wanted to keep playing it, and that’s when it hit me. I researched different careers in music and decided to pursue it as a career. If I had a passion, I was gonna turn it into a purpose and make it practical. When I decided I wanted to go to a music school, I started doing research and found out about this school called Berklee College of Music. In 2016, I took a trip to Boston and did a campus tour around Berklee and I immediately fell in love with everything I saw. I immediately knew that I wanted to go to Berklee and pursue my music career there.
Which courses are you choosing from?
Currently, I’m picking between music therapy and professional music. Music therapy is essentially the marriage of psychology and music. It discusses how music affects the brain, moods, and how it can help people feel better or cope with issues they may be facing. Professional music, on the other hand, is a more free course. Think of it as the Build-a-Bear of courses. You mix and match classes to form your own course outline and learn to pursue a profession in music.
How was the application process like? How did the requirements differ from other schools?
The application process was unlike any other I went through. For one, they don’t require much. The only requirements they ask for are your high school transcripts. However, just because they don’t require it doesn’t mean it won’t come in handy. After your application is finished, you are assigned an audition and interview date. From here, it’s all rehearsal and preparation. Pick a piece you’re extremely comfortable with that showcases your musical ability for your audition, and also brush up on your music theory as there are ear training exams, sight reading, and improvisation as part of the audition. The interview portion is typically one on one, asking questions such as “How did you discover Berklee?”, “What do you think you can offer to the school?”, and other questions.
How did you think you made your application stand out?
Here’s where the non-required materials come in. I personally beefed up my supplemental materials. I filled an online portfolio consisting of music I’d been creating over the four years in high school including live performances, as well as recommendation letters, links to my social media pages, and everything I could get my hands on that would show proof that I was a musician.
What were the challenges that you faced during the application process?
The main challenge I faced in my application process was the audition. It took me months of preparation because I was so nervous about it. I rehearsed non-stop, reviewed my music theory almost every day, and read up on Berklee history. I also worked tirelessly to compile each of my works to assemble my online portfolio and make it look great.
Do you have any advice to prospective Berklee students?
To any prospective Berklee students, I recommend you begin assembling your portfolio with works as far back as your first year in high school. Beefing up your supplemental material really helps in making your application look appealing. Also, read up on the history of Berklee, be knowledgeable on the school you intend to apply to. It wouldn’t hurt to read up on your course either. As for your audition and interview, relax and pick a piece you are comfortable with that showcases you at your best. Study up on your basic music theory and improvisation and before you know it, you may receive the illustrious “Congratulations!”.
What are you looking forward to as you enter Berklee?
One thing I am looking forward to is meeting new people who share the same interests as me in music. Growing up as the only musician in the family, I rarely found people who shared the same musical interests as myself. At Berklee, I’ll be able to meet people who share the same music taste as me, and people who are different and new. Another thing I’m looking forward to is finally focusing on my music career in line with my education. In my school, there was no dedicated arts and design course, so pursuing music was a challenge. The only music subject was once a week, limiting my time to learn. I’m looking forward to seeing it become my main focus rather than a specialized class.
What do you plan to do with the education you will be receiving from Berklee? Any future plans?
I plan on practicing my craft for a few years abroad, honing my profession and expanding my knowledge however and wherever possible. After a good amount of years working, I plan to return to the Philippines eventually and give back to my country by using what I’ve acquired and apply what I’ve learned here. If I were to pursue music therapy, I plan to come back and help establish music therapy as a more prominent form of therapy here in the Philippines.