Photograph by Janet Hollyday
“I really want to go to school in New York,” says local jazz drummer Carmen Murray.
Eighteen-year-old drummer Carmen Murray recently auditioned for six college music programs back east. A student at San Diego School of Creative and Performing Arts in Paradise Hills, she’s been playing the drums for eight years, most notably as a member member of trumpeter Gilbert Castellanos’ Young Lions Jazz Conservatory. She’s about to turn those years of study into the next phase of her education.
“The eight years I’ve been studying the drums have definitely put me in the position that I’m in today,” says Murray. “Especially early on, the hundreds of hours I spent learning my craft and building a repertoire have allowed me to explore my voice musically since I’ve already put the time in on the fundamentals. The amount of time that I put in when I was younger has really paid off.”
Beyond the Young Lions and her high school band, Carmen says, “I gig around town. I do occasional session work. I’m in the house band at Panama 66 and at the Blind Lady Ale House. Sometimes and I do corporate gigs and fundraisers, whatever comes my way.”
What did her tour of universities yield?
“I started in Michigan at Michigan State, then I went to Philadelphia at Temple University. But most of my time was spent in New York City. A couple of my friends rented an Airbnb for the week. My first audition was at the Manhattan School of Music, then NYU, the day after that was Juilliard, then finally, The New School.”
“I really want to go to school in New York, but Temple and Michigan State have really good programs,” says Murray.
Was the audition process intimidating?
“It’s basically 15 minutes. Each school does it a little differently. I’ve been playing a long time — so even when I’m nervous, like at the Juilliard audition, it didn’t affect my playing.”
What schools might she be leaning towards?
“I’ve gotten offers from MSU and Temple and The New School already. I’m still waiting to hear from the others. I think it all boils down to what is most practical for me financially. They all have amazing faculty, wherever you go it’s all about how you use your resources. Ultimately, I need to remember that as a jazz musician I need to be realistic about being able to pay any student loans back.”
Post script: Carmen chose New York University.