All That Jazz

by Sharon
(New York City)

College Admissions Essay

With the steam of humid August still clinging to my shoulders, I walk into the Jazz Standard. The hostess leads me to a table for two, directly in front of the stage. As I sit and take in the view of couples sipping champagne and suit-clad men chatting over ribs, I imagine the people around me thinking, What is this teenage girl doing here? Why is she sitting alone? A waiter plops a glass of water on my table. “Can I start you off with a drink?”

“I’ll just have a coffee,” I say. “And your pie of the day.”

Suddenly, the Dr. Lonnie Smith Nonet, a nine piece band, spills onto the stage. The lead saxophonist parks his instrument mere inches from my face. After Dr. Lonnie’s raspy-voiced opening remarks, the band swells into explosive action.

In my Moleskine notebook, that August 6th will be remembered by Dr. Lonnie’s “tangy, funk-inspired organ” and Jonathan Kreisberg’s “poignantly brewing guitar chords.” But a far more poignant chord was struck that night. Alone at a table for two, between bites of cheesecake and sips of too-strong coffee, I stumbled into the alluring clutches of New York jazz.

It wasn’t love at first sight. That summer before my senior year, the instructor of my after-school music criticism workshop graciously offered me a contributing writer position in his newspaper, The New York City Jazz Record. As the only prior experience I had with jazz was through the odd Miles Davis tape in my mother’s dusty cassette collection, I was intent on becoming a thorough jazz whiz to prepare for the job. Every night of the week, I sat in the sweaty confines of the Lower East Side’s hole-in-the-wall jazz venues, furiously taking precise notes. To blend with the crowd of college students and middle-aged jazz connoisseurs, I lightly moved my feet and tapped my hands against my knees, in search of that rhythm that made everyone around me sway. My wee morning hours were spent struggling to write catchy opening lines and sharp critiques of the countless guitar riffs, trombone solos, and brassy alto saxophones. And though I churned out witty, astute review after another, I was yet to find my true jazz groove. After two weeks of seeing three concerts per night and jolting awake to a late afternoon, inner-head hum of shrill trumpet variations, I decided to end my concert escapades.

At the suggestion of my music criticism instructor a few weeks later, I reluctantly slogged out to the Jazz Standard to see Dr. Lonnie’s band. Between Vincent Herring’s slurs of tenor sax and Dr. Lonnie’s “wah-wah” organ flares, my knees started to bob, my head swayed, and I finally felt it. It was that can’t-describe-it, don’t-wanna-describe-it something that filled my shoes, soul, and every last strand of hair with cathartic bliss. Perched at my laptop that night, I spilled sentence after sentence onto the screen—and I haven’t stopped since.

Whenever my mother sees me typing on my laptop to the sound of Miles Davis’s “Someday My Prince Will Come” or Dizzy Gillespie’s “Con Alma”, she asks about my “serious” career plans, outside of journalism. “In this economy, go for biology. Writing can wait,” she says. I exclaim, “But all I think about in genetics class is the opening line for my next review!”

We eventually agree to disagree, but a hint of doubt crosses my mind. Is it truly enough to be passionate about music journalism? Is passion ever enough to take the place of making money? As Dizzy’s wild trumpet buzzes through my ears, I think about the upcoming Festival of New Trumpet Music at the Jazz Standard, about Mary Halvorson’s fizzling guitar solo at the Douglass Street Music Collective, about that giddy feeling I get after hours spent crafting a review…and my heart fills with sheer joy. Writing about music makes me happy. That’s more than enough.

Written by Sharon Mizrahi

Comment from your friendly team at College Financial Aid Advice

Thank you Sharon for your sharing your excellent college admission essay in our scholarship essay contest.

In the Key of 'C'

Shayla, New York

College Admission Essay - In The Key of ‘C’ - Love: controlling, sacrificial, dangerous, necessary, denied and accepted. How could such a small word be so powerful? Love, monosyllabic in tone, yet explained, expressed, and explored with so many words and actions. Love, an emotion so explosive and raw, it overflows into every fiber of, potentially dominating the physical being. Love such as this, is synonymous to the feelings I have for my one true love: music.

It began many years ago when my mom recognized I was more special than the average first grader. Always the quiet and shy type, I never wanted to be in the spotlight. Although I wasn’t interested, she decided piano lessons would be a great outlet to help me improve my social skills. Back then the concept of “music” meant nothing more to me than an arrangement of notes on a staff. I remember my first lesson; Mrs. Robinson, my music teacher, asked if I had ever played before. I shook my head no, too afraid to even speak. She struck the first chord, I followed, then the second and third. She exposed me to a grand new world, and my love affair with music began. In only two weeks I memorized the entire beginners’ book of songs. It was almost like a game for me, running through the book, perfectly executing every song with ease. Three months later in my first recital, I performed Minuet in G Major. Music gave my mind a voice, and my soul a personality that magically exploded through my fingertips with every note played. Through music I developed a sense of pride in my talents and abilities that I still carry with me today.

In music I hear:

Symphonies explode,
abruptly followed by the flow
of everlasting surrender to that milk and honey melody.
Notes in the clefs of the treble and bass kind
all march with the same drum line
to unwind
the hidden beauty of a song.
Sing a song with vibrato.
Play a song in staccato;
it seems to get me every time.

Every word in a song seems to tell me more about myself, leaves me breathless, and envelopes me. Music sustains me. It makes my emotions tangible, and amplifies my senses. It has transformed me into a confident young woman, more aware and accepting of my culture, spirituality, and all the things that make me unique. I can now internalize foreign thoughts and opinions, and learn to create my own from them. And I owe it all to music.

Music sparks an emotional connection to all my life’s ups and downs. It inspires my doubts and makes me happy to be alive. It transcends me to a world of peace, my ultimate escape. In my world, music conquers all. It’s a force that can never be given one specific and all inclusive definition. My love of music: eminently powerful, life changing, passionate, unyielding, wanted, welcomed. Music.

Comment from your friendly team at College Financial Aid Advice

Thank you Shayla for sharing your college admission essay about your passion for music. Best of luck to you in college.

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