Brooke Walden’s musical journey to college

Jessi Schlewitt, R3 Editor-In-Chief

At 7 a.m., most students wrap up their morning routines, grab their backpacks and head to school. But for senior Brooke Walden, the only thing on her mind at this hour is her trusty flute.

Aspiring to study music in college, Walden sets aside 40 minutes each morning to practice her flute before school. By electing to not take a first period, she dedicates this time to perfecting scales, tone production, articulation and vibrato. Diligent practicing ensues after school as well.

“In the evening, I spend about two hours on my audition repertoire for college,” said Walden. “Since I have to prepare more than 10 pieces, I rotate which ones I work on every day.”

Walden will send these pieces to the music programs she applies to via pre-screening recordings.

“Basically, each school tells me which pieces they want me to record and I have to submit a video playing them by Dec. 1,” said Walden. “If those are passed, I will get invited to a live audition, [taking] place from late January to the middle of March.”

If invited, Walden will perform in front of a panel of judges, followed by an interview. While some schools release acceptance or denial on that day, others send the results by April.

To further prepare for pre-screenings and auditions, Walden attends the Precollege program at the Manhattan School of Music. She travels to New York City every Saturday and takes classes in music theory, conducting, ear training and basic piano. The program also entails private flute lessons and group orchestral rehearsals, with the whole day lasting about nine hours.

After fine-tuning her pre-screenings, Walden will submit them alongside standard college supplementals, including personal essays and academic letters of recommendation and artistic recommendations. Finally, Walden will submit her extensive resume, which entails five-year admittance into the NJ Youth Symphony, selection for first chair piccolo in 2016 and 2017 and third chair flute in 2017 for the NJ Music Educators Association and acceptance into the 2019 National Association for Music Education All Eastern Orchestra, among a plethora of other honors and awards.

Walden is currently in the process of sending these materials and her pre-screening recordings to conservatories such as Juilliard and the New England Conservatory, as well as music programs within larger universities such as Northwestern University and the University of Michigan.

“I don’t really have a dream school and will be thrilled to be accepted to any of the schools that I am applying to,” said Walden. “Flute is one of the most competitive instruments, so I will fully prepare for my auditions and play from my heart.”

According to Walden, the odds for admittance into music programs for flute are not promising; strong applicants will likely be admitted to only one or two of the schools they applied to. Consequently, applicants like Walden must devote significant time and energy to their craft.

But how can a young musician determine if going all-in on music is the right choice? For Walden, the decision became obvious in eighth grade.

“Although I played competitive club soccer 5 days a week for 12 years, music is something I could never live without,” said Walden. “I think my parents knew in eighth grade when I brought my flute to a national soccer tournament in Colorado that music was where my heart was.”

Although she experiences occasional doubt about her decision, Walden ultimately knows music is what she is destined to pursue.

“At the end of the day,” said Walden, “there is nothing in the world that could bring me the same joy and fulfillment.”