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College isn’t cheap. January workshop will help teens find music scholarships and nail auditions.

By Baris Gursakal, High Ground News

Did you know that both music majors and non-music majors can get a music scholarship to cover college costs?

PRIZM Ensemble will host its second annualCollege Audition Preparation Workshop on Saturday, January 4, from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. for high school seniors interested in the processes for winning a music scholarship.

The January workshop is intended for students pursuing music majors but also geared towards students whose future career plans aren’t music-related.

“You can major in whatever you want to major in, but since you love music, maybe you play in the band. There are scholarships that are available for that,” said Rod Vester, PRIZM’s executive director.

The workshop fee is $10. Interested students canapply here.

PRIZM aims to build a diverse community through chamber music education, youth development, and performances.

Lindsey Baker is a graduating high school senior who has attended many of PRIZM’s music-centered, youth development programs for the past seven years. Baker said one of the things PRIZM does really well is bringing together people from different backgrounds.

“They put you in contact with people that you wouldn’t otherwise meet. I think that’s valuable in and of itself, aside from what they do musically,” said Baker.

In addition to how and where to apply for scholarships, the workshop will include tips for auditioning, including dressing for success and how to control performance anxiety.

“Overall, the goal is just to take the guesswork out of the audition process,” said Vester.

The first PRIZM Ensemble college prep workshop was a big success. The second is scheduled for January 4. (PRIZM Ensemble)

Baker attended the first College Audition Preparation Workshop in 2018. She said the event helped her be mindful of factors affecting her college audition. One of her biggest takeaways was learning what colleges want to see but don’t include in formal requirements.

“They want to see sort of varied repertoires,” Baker said. “I tried to pick a repertoire that shows more than just purely technical or purely musical aspects of my playing [to] show a little bit more versatility as a musician.”

The workshop’s featured speakers will include college music faculty and administrators, as well as PRIZM alum who are now in college and returning to talk to the next crop of scholars.

Representatives from the University of Memphis, University of Mississippi, and other regional
schools will be on hand. The Director of Choral Activities from both Rhodes College and LeMoyne Owen College will work with students interested in vocal music scholarships. The workshop will also feature instrumentalists from varied disciplines.


PRIZM was founded in 2005. Since then, the organization has served more than 600 youth from across the region. The nonprofit aims to bring music opportunities to under-served students and communities with a philosophy of promoting equity over equality.

“Equality is giving everyone the same thing,” said Vester. “Equity [is] giving people what they need in order to succeed.”

“Students in an under-served community, they may need more tools than maybe someone coming from Germantown. If I were to give them both the same thing that would be equality, but chances are one of them need more tools than the other,” he added.

High school students listen intently at the first PRIZM Ensemble college prep workshop in 2018. The panelists included college music and scholarship program representatives, as well as PRIZM alum. (PRIZM Ensemble)

In addition to college prep workshops, the organization hosts seasonal music camps and the annual PRIZM Music Camp & International Chamber Music Festival. The festival is a chance for young musicians to meet and work with world-class national and international professionals and peers through workshops, mentoring, and performances.

PRIZM’s annual camp also includes sessions to co-create stronger music curricula for Soulsville Charter School, Compass Community School, and Cordova High School.

“It’s just a really good community to be a part of. I have friends that I met at the camp six or seven years ago that I still run into on a fairly regular basis,” said Baker.

The organization holds performances of its professional chamber orchestra featuring musicians from Memphis and around the country. They performed at Clayborn Temple as a part of the MLK 50 celebrations and have sold out shows in collaboration with Opera Memphis.

Baker recommends anyone with an interest in music get involved with PRIZM, which she said was one of the most formative events of her childhood. Beyond her musical abilities, she’s learned to work collaboratively with a diversity team and improved her communication skills.

“Ever since I was young, [I’ve worked] with professional musicians that had all sorts of awesome tips and things on how to improve [and] not just my playing … better life skills in general, not just music,” she said.

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