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AMP scholarships help students face the music

Since 1983, MIT students have taken part in a rigorous competition which requires expertise, talent and heart. Unlike MIT's highly visible engineering contests, these are closed-door auditions, in front of three judges who rate individual student's performances of two prepared pieces and sight-reading skills to determine recipients of Advanced Music Performance (AMP) scholarships.

AMP, which developed from a continuing grant from the late alumnus Ragnar Naess (SB '23), has two components: a half-scholarship program which provides funds to cover half the cost of private lessons, and a full scholarship which offers undergraduates (except for freshmen) and graduate students course credit and financing for personal one-on-one music lessons with area professionals. In addition to making a full-year commitment to private study, AMP students must attend regular master classes/seminars, belong to one of the MIT music groups and perform a solo public concert.

Since its first year, when 10 scholarships were given, the AMP program has awarded 407 half-scholarships and 178 full scholarships. AMP is very competitive and generally only open to students who have completed at least one year of private-lesson study at MIT with distinction.

Pianist Jason Wong, a sophomore in chemistry who's thinking about minoring in music, noted that the AMP program was the only way he could continue his music at the level he'd achieved in high school. "One of the reasons I chose to come to MIT was because I knew my dedication to music wouldn't become trivialized," he said.

"There has never been a lack of talent," said John Lyons, administrative officer in the music and theater arts section. "Most of the students who get accepted to either the half- or full-scholarship could be pursuing a music degree at almost any conservatory or music program in the country."

Senior Lecturer David Deveau, who has been with the program since its formation, noted that unlike many students at conservatories, AMP students take on new challenges, from learning about and performing new music to tackling assignments that might disconcert a professional musician. "How many top-notch professional pianists would play a solo recital one night, play violin in an orchestra concert the next, premiere a resident composer's music the next week and accompany a singer the next?" he wondered.

AMP students are serious musicians, but most do not plan to become professionals. Pianist Julia Rosolovsky, a senior in chemical engineering, has faced the decision to make music her career three times. "Every time, I decided against it, simply because many teachers told me that there's no money in it," she said.

For Mr. Deveau, teaching the AMP students provides a "very pure musical experience" unaffected by musical-career worries. "They will always have their music, yet as scientists, doctors, researchers and engineers, they'll have the resources to be safe and sound and still play or sing beautifully."


Many AMP students cite the solo performances--held at Killian Hall and repeated at Lincoln Laboratory--as their favorite component of the program. "For me, the pinnacle of AMP is being able to perform your music and convey your interpretation to the audience after a year of hard work," said violinist Grant Ho, a senior in electrical engineering and computer science who is minoring in music. Students have found that Killian audiences include supportive friends and teachers, while the Lincoln Lab series, now in its third year, offers a chance to perform for appreciative strangers. Ms. Rosolovsky commented that performing at Lincoln Lab "raises your ego big-time."

The spring AMP series of 24 concerts begins Wednesday, Feb. 12 at 5pm, with a recital by physics junior Steven Tistaert, which will be repeated at Lincoln Lab on Friday, Feb. 14 at noon. Concerts continue through Tuesday, May 13. For a complete listing, see the weekly Tech Talk Arts Calendar. For more information, call x3-2826.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on February 12, 1997.

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