The audition roster – 30 people per day for two days – had been filled before the Berklee team arrived in Istanbul, mostly with musicians from Istanbul and nearby towns, but a few were from as far away as Bahrain and Azerbaijan. The clinics and audition prep sessions the previous days caused interest to spike further and many put their names on a waiting list in the hopes of coming by an open slot.
Those who attended the sessions found them helpful to their auditions. Said guitarist Ugur Dariveren, “I learned how it was set up. They were there to demonstrate and show example auditions. We saw how it was going to be and what happens when you go in to audition, how they interact with people. They’re friendly, and not like a judge…In Turkey it doesn’t work like that. Teachers are very strict on some things.” Dariveren, who counts influences like Frank Zappa, Steve Vai, Stravinsky, Dream Theater, and Al Di Meola, hasn’t studied music in school, but took lessons for years before deciding to do his own research and teach himself. He hopes to study film scoring or composition at Berklee.
Many of the musicians auditioning in Istanbul are slightly older than domestic entering students (as are many of Berklee’s international students), and have already earned university degrees. Burcu Gulec, a vocalist who majored in child development, is currently studying for a master’s degree in education audiology, and is working with hearing impaired children. Would she pursue music therapy at Berklee? While she’d consider a dual major, she says, “I want to study performance. Maybe I can go on with it [working with children], but I have to sing. It’s very important. It has to be my major. I researched music therapy because with hearing impaired children, I use music to develop their mother tongue. It’s very fun too, but its not singing.”
Another reason Gulec wants to attend Berklee is common to many students. She says, “The community there is what I want. There are so many different people; the most important thing they share is music. That’s what I want; I want to talk with musicians that think like musicians.”
By the end of the second day it became clear there wouldn’t be enough time to audition everyone – and after two 10-hour days, the audition team was too tired to continue. In order to accommodate the musicians that came from Azerbaijan, Berklee extended the auditions into a third day, and MMA offered their space for the extra time, even though it was during a national Turkish holiday. In all, 61 musicians auditioned in hopes of attending Berklee, and now they must wait the long wait for their scholarship letters.