For the first time in its two-year partnership with Berklee College of Music in Boston, the Chicago West Community Music Center is hosting auditions for students seeking to study music at the school.

The first round of auditions took place in December with more scheduled from Feb. 15-17, at the music center’s headquarters, located at the Garfield Park Gold Dome, 100 N. Central Park.

Students will have the opportunity to obtain scholarships to attend Berklee full-time, mentoring through Berkley’s summer camp or financial assistance for students relocating to the Boston school’s campus.

“I think this is a wonderful opportunity for students, particularly West Side youth with an interest in music to connect with a music college to expand their skills,” said Darlene Sandifer, a co-founder of the music center, along with husband Howard.

The aspiring students are encouraged to hone in on their skills. The music center’s “The Berklee PULSE method,” program offers the kids a curriculum to sharpen their skills in music theoretical, improvisational and performance.

“But students must be aware that they will be competing against musicians from across the country that have been practicing since they were in first grade. Therefore, students must be are prepared as possible prior to the audition,” Sandifer said, adding that the judges will be choosing students on both their musical performing talents and current academic standing.

“The judges want to see that the students are excelling at their school curriculum,” Sandifer said. “The judges also want to see that the students have a firm grasp on both performing and reading music. Some students excel at one but not the other.”

Students must apply for the program of interest prior to the audition. At the event, the youth musician is called individually to perform for the judges-no parents or cameras are allowed in the actual auditions. Judges will ask a student to perform a piece of music of their choosing; they are then asked to play a piece of sheet music or repeat a vocal sung by one of the judges.

Following the audition, the student is interviewed by a Berklee music instructor.

“The judges,” Sandifer said, “want to get a feel for the student’s personality and how willing they are to work on their craft. This plays into their decision to accept an application as the performance itself.”

Participants are generally notified within a month of the audition whether they have been accepted.

Randiss Hopkins, currently a music education major at Northern Illinois University, was offered a scholarship to attend the Berklee School summer camp as a junior at Curie Metropolitan High School.

Hopkins, 19, said the experience was invaluable in expanding his understanding of Jazz history, his preferred music of choice. In preparation for the audition, Hopkins advises the artists to be confident yet willing to listen to judges’ feedback.

“Practice, practice, practice before you attend the audition so you know your routine down, and you feel comfortable doing it,” he said.

To learn more

  • Chicago West Community Music Center
  • 708-386-5315
  • The Berklee initiative is sponsored in part by the City of Chicago, After School Matters and the Chicago Park District.