A Serious Musician’s Mountain School Experience

Mountain School graduate Isaac Schultz (Spring ’12) speaks about his experience as a serious high school musician attending the Mountain School. Isaac is a graduate of Phillips Exeter Academy now studying at the Rice University Shepard School of Music.

1. How did you manage the logistics of a semester at TMS as a high-level musician? (eg. choosing which semester, talking to your teacher & parents)

I didn’t begin my preparation for college auditions until the late summer and fall of my senior year. I think that this schedule makes a lot of sense, especially because we have been playing the majority of the music for auditions throughout high school. I think that players auditioning for conservatory would be better suited to the spring semester at Mountain School.

The most difficult problem for me logistically was taking time away from my youth orchestra. My conductor accepted only using me for half the year, but I was in a prep orchestra associated with a conservatory. It may be more difficult to take the time off if you are in an independent youth orchestra program. For those who are living near Boston and playing in one of the orchestras: don’t consider commuting to Boston every weekend; it’s not a workable option.

2. How did you keep up with your practice schedule while at TMS?

In terms of the practice schedule: it’s not going to be easy. I was able to keep myself together at around an hour to an hour and a half each day through very aggressive time management. Throughout the day I would look at my free time and allot hours for playing and homework.

However, playing music seriously is not easy, no matter where you are. I’m at conservatory right now and I don’t finish my have-tos until after midnight. If you’re serious enough academically to get into TMS and you’re also a musician at your high school, it’s going to be similar in terms of time commitment. You will, however, be at Mountain School, the greatest place on earth.

3. How did a semester away affect your competition and college prep schedule?

The most significant problem in preparing for college is the fact that you won’t be able to take lessons with prospective teachers [college professors] during junior spring. I was able to take all the lessons I needed during senior fall, but this is coming from a bassoonist. There are a lot more violin teachers than bassoon teachers. It may be a problem for some who intend to do many college applications senior fall and don’t have a clear idea of what kind of teacher they want.

4. Any other benefits or drawbacks of TMS for musicians to consider?

I think that as musicians, especially as musicians who have to do homework, our field of vision can shrink to only ourselves. Just us, our homework, our practicing, the other music people we talk to. Mountain School forced me to step away from the musical culture and have unbelievable life experiences that aren’t related to music at all. It changed me from someone who only cared about music to a person with far more complex and mature values. That should be reason enough for you to stop reading and click the apply button.

Listen to Isaac’s recent NPR interview here. His piece starts around 33 minutes, and he talks about Mountain School afterwards.



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