Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Slam Assignment

The long and short of it all make my skin crawl, ‘cause every Golden Gate bars the Homely. The home team scores another point for the totally pretentious architecture choking up the sky to provide for the guys in French-cuffed tails and paisley ties the fun and get to milk the dollar dry with a sparkle in his eye tooth telling tales of kings and bishops getting hick-ups thinking of “nip/tuck” , it’s got ‘em rotten vicarious pain from pickin’ cotton note to self the “somedays” pays the bills when they happens to be lucky.

Pass the dutchie to the left cuz it’s right, but you might die. See. we’re blowin’ smoke up the rear and in the faces of fear. Mommy, babysitter smells funny. no baby don’t buy the bull-shit steaming on the teli cuz the babysitter smells funny- it’s not the oney it’s the money mommy smells on daddy’s lapel when he gets home from the corporate scale, beat to hell from beatin’ the hell out of stocks and mortgages. divorces rage like lies in the dated book of rights ignored and revised tested and tried just to fail and misguide but there’s few and there’s pride then there’s heavily supplied but who’s packin’? Don’t look at me for protection. Recollection: I left it with my change in direction.

-By Corey Meuchel (March, 2009)

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The Berklee Audition & Interview Process for Drum Set In Serious Detail

Prior to my February 13, 2010 Berklee Audition & Interview process, I searched the web high and low for info, perspective, and tips for a first time Berklee candidate. In this post I'm gladly giving you, the student and/or parent, the sneaks- as if you were there with me! The perspective, the info, and some tips- soak it in.

My audition took place on Saturday, February 13th. I auditioned on Drum Set to a track I produced using Propellerhead's Reason (minus the drum sequence, obviously).

Let's start at the beginning. I landed in Boston late Thursday night, took the T to the Buckminster Hotel (awesome old-school hotel, cheap, and had some serious jazz history happen in the basement), and basically hung out till going to bed. The next day (Friday), I had coffee at Berklee's 939 Cafe before my noon Berklee campus tour. Great coffee. TIP- If you audition for Berklee or even consider Berklee, schedule a campus tour! It will blow your mind. So...the tour blew my mind. There were about 20 of us on this tour, which was fine but some of the students and parents on the tour were asking the kinds of questions that led me to believe that they had not done ANY research on this school. On the plus side, I met some really nice Berklee students and faculty who only enhanced the experience. I even made a drummer friend from Italy, cool guy. TIP- If you're serious about Berklee, RESEARCH it. Know it. Embrace it.

After the hour-and-a-half tour, I realized I'd forgotten my dress pants for the audition/interview in North Dakota. Thus, I went on a rampant search for some sweet, moderately priced pants- which I snagged at Zara. That pretty much ate up my entire day, along with walking the city, having a drink, buying some sticks and a pair of brushes, eating, scoping out Berklee get it. When I returned to my room around 8pm, I spent the next few hours shedding on my pad, sight-reading, sipping Scotch, and when midnight came my nerves finally hit me hard. I had been nervous about the audition but this was crazy. I didn't fall asleep till 3am or so.

The day of the audition. The audition is at 2:15p. I woke up at about 9am, ate breakfast, more practice pad, a little pitch-match singing, and left at noon for Berklee. It's only a 15 minute walk from Buckminster to Berklee area, but I wanted to catch some live bands at the Uchida.

THE AUDITION AND INTERVIEW PROCESS- I walked into the Uchida building, there was a table to the left where I checked in and they said I could either go hang out somewhere and come back(since I had an hour and fifteen till audition time) or I could go hang in the David Friend Recital Hall (which is basically where you check in). The David Friend Recital Hall is where you sit with your raw nerves, trying to calm yourself with tantric breathing, or try to inconspicuously scope out your fellow auditioners before Berklee student "teammates" come on stage to announce that it's so-and-so's time. Luckily, Berklee sends in bands to play, calm your nerves, and get you pumped. A 12-piece Gospel group called E2VG (Ears 2 the Voice of God) walked on-stage and hit it hard with some soaring harmonies and showstopping grooves. After they finished playing, they had a Q&A session and asked where everybody was from. I said North Dakota and there were some laughs, I wasn't offended because really...where is North Dakota, there's music there?(no, not really) One of the vocalists, who is a Berklee student had great advice for drummers: Have some aural skills, be able to identify some triads, maybe some sevenths(Major, Minor, Diminished, Augmented) and nail your prepared piece. They walk off-stage and a "teammate" walked on and called my name. That's when, nerves or no nerves, it's time to lay it down.

After butchering my name over the mic, I heckled her a bit- lifting some spirits for a moment before we introduced ourselves stage right. She led me out of DF Recital Hall to the elevator where she took me to the warm-up room (which was a piano studio classroom). She handed me the sight-reading material which was a Berklee drum set chart(tic marks with just the hits, to be performed in whichever style they tell you), an easy snare piece (in 3/4), 2 moderate snare pieces in 6/8, and 1 very challenging snare piece. I read through all of them once and chose 2 to really rehearse (one in 6/8, and the more challenging piece). I had them down really well in the 15 minutes they give you to 'warm-up'. When my 'warm-up' time was up, she came to lead me to the audition room (on third floor). There, she introduced me to one of the professors who was very nice and the other was less responsive. It felt like a good cop/bad cop vibe but they were both quite nice. I kept saying "sir" after answering yes/no questions and they gave me a hard time about it (saying "sir" was making them feel too old), we also had some laughs about me being from North Dakota. They asked what I had prepared. I handed Good Cop my Itouch and explained I had produced my audition using Propellerhead"s Reason (an original, called "Friends and Romans"). He played a short sample and bad cop complimented the middle-Eastern sound of the melody. (I was going to use headphones but they nonchalantly said "it's really cool when a person doesn't even need the headphones and can just hear it) BOOM- I nixed the headphones, tossed them in my bag, took my vest off, and he pushed play. I nailed it. After my prepared piece, he asked if I could read and had me play the Berklee chart in a rock style. I was a bit shocked by it (my style leans heavy on the jazz, funk, hip-hop, Latin side). I made the hits but didn't milk the rock style out of it. Then he had me read the easier snare piece (neither of the two I rehearsed). Nailed it. Good Cop asked me to mimic on snare and bass drum what he tapped on his knee and floor. I've done better. He asked what styles I'm really into and I told him. Good cop then sat behind a piano and said, "play a samba, 2,3,4." Nailed it. "Play a bossa nova, 2,3,4." Boom. "How's your 12/8 Latin?" It's alright. No count-off, I missed it, he snapped his fingers twice, BaBoom. Bad Cop then said, "Have him play, uh... Yeah, have him solo on a shuffle." Good Cop had me play 12 bars of shuffle with him then take a 12 bar solo, and come back in together. Nailed it. Good Cop asked me if I could identify triads. Yes. Major, then a minor, then diminished, then an augmented. Then asked how I am with sevenths. "Eh, a bit rough", I said. Major, Minor, Half-Diminished, then he played one I missed. I felt ridiculous when he told me what it was. Minor 7 flat 5! Finally, he played some notes and had me sing them back. He complimented my voice and played two more sequences. Nailed 'em all. They said their parting compliments and I left the Audition room feeling pretty fine. I should mention that Bad Cop was seated behind his laptop the whole time. I assume he was taking notes.

In the hallway I looked for my "teammate", who was nowhere to be seen, but another guy told me to go up to sixth floor for the interview. I took the elevator up, where my "teammate" and I reaquainted and she led me to the admissions office (which is also where you'd meet for a campus tour). A student advisor came out for me and we introduce ourselves. He led me into his office and noticed I was sitting at the very front of my chair, back straight, eyes wide as shit. He explained, "Dude, this is the relaxed portion of this whole thing. You can sit back and breathe a bit." He also complimented the detail of my "old-shool" microphone tattoo on my forearm. He then proceeded to ask me a lot of specific, Berklee-oriented questions. I gave him a compilation of my work on a CD, he popped it in his old-school, admissions-issued Macbook. It froze up so he gave my CD back. He continued the questioning- Why would Berklee want you? (I had a dream about being asked this, so I made a list at 4am that morning- that seemed to impress him), What experience do you have with Music Technology? What has motivated you to seek a career in music? For the most part, the questions were from the application's short-answer section. I had the last couple of minutes to ask questions, so I did. I asked if the Music Synth major is as competitive as the MP&E major. Apparently, Music Synth and Film Scoring are the least competitive majors at Berklee. Meaning, there are fewer people enrolled in those programs.

That was it. He thanked me for my time and I for his then headed to the elevator. Waiting there were the same two people I rode the elevator with to the interview. I asked if they felt like they were rambling throughout their interview. The answer was yes. The whole time.


The Berklee Audition & Interview process was intense and AWESOME! I'd recommend it to everyone who wishes to make music their life and profession. Every one of the student teammates, professors, and advisers was extremely supportive, kind, and kept us feeling confident the entire time. Also, there were cookies, coffee, and juice in the DF Recital Hall. Delicious perks.


1. If you're serious about Berklee, RESEARCH it. Know it. Embrace it.
2. If you're serious about Berklee, schedule a campus tour.
3. Know your prepared piece. (it's more impressive to produce an original even moreso to simply play well)
4. Know some theory and sing it.
5. Look sharp! (your music career IS your image)
6. When in the warm-up room, practice ONLY the sight-reading. You should already be warmed up!
7. Wear that smile wide. Be gracious and kind. (Like every other day, right?)
8. Exploit your exploits- They want to know what you've done with music. Tell them. (without being arrogant)
10. Reward yourself. (If you're 21+, I suggest The Pour House next door to the Uchida Building- great taps)

Thanks for reading. Thanks to Berklee's staff and students for their kindness. Best of luck to those of you who will be auditioning and good luck dealing with the torment of waiting for their decision! I get my decision on March 31st.