Amy Renzulli has always been interested in music, but at first had a difficult time deciding whether or not to pursue this passion at the difficult professional level. She has been singing for as long as she can remember, beginning with elementary school level chorus. “From there I just kept going, because I really liked singing and it helped me get through a lot,” the Verona High School Class of 2018 graduate recalls.
The type of music she enjoys singing depends on the setting, as she says she doesn’t mind performing classical music when she is in an old-fashioned choral setting, but it isn’t her favorite. “I usually like performing jazz or contemporary, as long as it’s not overdone”, she says. “Otherwise I love simple things like belting rock n’ roll or Broadway show tunes in the car with my friends.” (She performed “You And Me (But Mostly Me)” from The Book Of Mormon at the VHS Creative Arts festival in May, where it was captured for the Verona Music Students’ Facebook page.)
Although she likes performing a variety of music types, Renzulli’s biggest inspiration was the band Nirvana. “I always felt Nirvana was very true to who they were as musicians because they performed songs about the weirdest subjects, not just the same ‘sex, drugs, and money’ kind of thing,” she says.
When the college application process rolled around, Renzulli was still hesitant to dedicate her search to this area, but after gaining her family’s full support she became fully intent on pursuing a musical career, and is now heading to Boston’s Berklee College of Music in the fall.
Throughout high school, Renzulli immersed herself in music by participating in VHS’s marching band and choirs. On top of that, she auditioned for and was accepted into Region Choir and All-State Choir, two New Jersey choirs that are both very prestigious, not to mention very difficult to get into. Renzulli credits Claire Ma, the choir director at VHS, for helping her with this process of auditioning for these elite programs.
Being part of these choirs had a huge impact on Renzulli, and she values the experiences greatly. “They really help you reach out and make connections with all kinds of people who you remain friends with for a long time afterward,” Renzulli says. In school, Renzulli also took AP Music Theory, a class she found extremely important, as she says the skills she gained from it will help her greatly when she takes her music theory placement exam during orientation.
Renzulli began her college search by looking up colleges with strong music programs. She then narrowed her options and applied to The New School of Jazz and Contemporary Music, The Hartt School at University of Hartford, Temple University, Drew University, Montclair State University, William Paterson University, Ithaca College, New York University, and of course, Berklee.
What’s different about applying to music schools is that there is another large and quite stressful component to the application process: the audition. “You need to prepare a lot more than kids going to school for something like business, for example,” Renzulli says. For each school she applied to she was required to audition, preparing pieces to sing that ranged from jazz to contemporary, depending on the school. “The audition process is terrible,” she admits. “It was great when it was over.” (Performance auditions are also required of theater majors, as Mia Corbett, VHS ’17, learned.)
Renzulli was accepted into seven out of her nine schools, only being waitlisted at Ithaca and rejected from NYU. While many students struggle with choosing between schools, Renzulli knew right away when she received her acceptance letter from a particular school. “It was an easy decision,” Renzulli says. “Berklee was my dream school.”
Berklee has an acceptance rate of only 34 percent and is one of the more selective music schools in the country, which is why it is fantastic that Renzulli got in, along with her AP Music Theory classmate and guitarist Michael Petillo, who will be attending as well.
One of the things Renzulli is most excited about that Berklee has to offer is their professional music major, a create-your-own major where students are able to choose one to three areas of concentration, giving them the availability to use and combine a multitude of skills such as songwriting and production.
Initially, Renzulli was set on Berklee’s performance major, but quickly realized that it would be an incredibly competitive program. She soon found there were other possibilities and that the professional music major was a great opportunity to combine her interest in performance with the business aspect of the music industry as well. Those will be her two concentrations within the major.
Renzulli’s recommendation for anyone interested in an instrumental or vocal career is to stay involved. “Do band, do choir, and join any music programs outside of school. Be involved and know that there are a ton of opportunities open and available to you.”
Deciding the path of your future is difficult, but Renzulli supports going with your gut. “You don’t ever want to be thinking ‘what if’,” Renzulli says. “Definitely pursue music if your heart is set on it.”
“What’s Next” is a series of profiles about what members of each Verona High School class intend to do after graduation. MyVeronaNJ has been publishing the series since 2010 and you can read all of them here.