CMPI Bassoon Fellow Eric Bahena

“Make sure you start your college applications early,” advises Eric Bahena, a senior bassoon fellow with the Chicago Musical Pathways Initiative. To date, Eric has taken trial lessons, submitted video recordings and applications, and, just recently, started his college auditions. The following is a recollection of his trial lessons, the application process, and some advice for students who intend to apply to music schools for college.

To contact the teachers with which Eric was interested in studying, he looked up their email addresses online. He reached out, introduced himself, and expressed an interest in joining their studios. Eric wishes he had started the whole process much earlier and admits he did not narrow his list of schools down until early December of his senior year. He also advises setting in stone the audition repertoire as early as possible.

“If I could go back, I would tell myself, start earlier! I put everything off a little bit. Reaching out is as easy as sending an email to the professor and introducing yourself – saying who you are, where you are from, who you study with, and asking if they can schedule you in for a trial lesson. Most teachers are really nice about it,” said Eric.

He scheduled his first trial lesson with Dennis Michel from Roosevelt University and another trial lesson with Judith LeClair from The Juilliard School. When trial lessons were not a possibility, Eric reached out to introduce himself.

From Dennis Michel, he took away the idea of breathing, having the correct vowel in his mouth, making sure that his notes started on time, and having the word “how” in his mind and saying it backward while breathing in. Judith LeClair emphasized air support and was very adamant about playing out. She pointed out that he needs to make sure he is pushing from his abdomen as he descends in a musical line. In that lesson, he realized many challenges are solved by focusing on air support. In both trial lessons, Eric learned the importance of making the uncomfortable comfortable.

CSO Assistant Principal Bassoon William Buchman and CMPI Senior Bassoon Fellow Eric Bahena play together during a socially distanced private lesson. Captured here, for a Telemundo segment during Summer 2020.

The college application process looks very different this year because of Covid-19. One of Eric’s silver linings was that he did not have to worry about the logistics of traveling to big cities. A piece of advice he offers younger students is to apply to schools even if they think it’s a long shot. “Here I am, applying to Juilliard and taking trial lessons. I really had to slow down and tell myself, ‘you never know if you will make it if you don’t apply.’ Shoot for the stars and be in tune with yourself,” he said.

Eric’s original college list included 20 schools, and he narrowed it down to 10. He has submitted his applications, is taking auditions, and will complete the process this month. When applying to a university, music performance majors apply to a school and audition for the music program. Eric started his auditions on February 1 and will complete them on the 27.

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