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Common App Essay- The rise and fall of percussion


sonrisa247 3 / 7  
Dec 30, 2009   #1
Hi I am struggling with my main common app essay and would greatly appreciate any feedback. It's very long and I would really appreciate any guidance on shortening it. Thank you so much!

Prompt: Evaluate a significant experience, achievement, risk you have taken, or ethical dilemma you have faced and its impact on you.

The final crescendo arrived, pulsating through the arena, and then with the last smash of the closing impact, it was over. We had performed a flawless show. As the arena burst into a deafening standing ovation, I only had eyes for my teammates standing beside me. Never again would this exact group of people perform together to create something magical. Hot tears started to flow thick and quick down my cheeks as I embraced my friends backstage and basked in the grandeur of our accomplishment. We had practiced ceaselessly, endured pain, and dedicated ourselves heart and soul to the music over the past year. We had laughed, cried, and bonded together. We had performed the best show of our lives and made WGI (a competitive indoor percussion ensemble organization) history by becoming the first group to medal twice in the same year. Most importantly however, we had become phenomenal musicians through our own perseverance.

The percussion program was an integral part of my life during junior high and my freshmen and sophomore years. I dedicated myself undividedly to the ensemble and practiced on average 32 hours a week. Our devoted instructors, Rick Barclay and Whitney Stanton, had high expectations and pushed us to grow as musicians and people. Through friendly competition, my teammates and I pushed each other to excel and together we became better musicians. My passion for music grew because I was able to participate in the activity I loved alongside people I loved. I learned that it is fairly easy to become good, but it takes a great deal more to become outstanding. My percussion family helped me realize my potential and taught me the true meaning of teamwork. The feeling of accomplishment after our winning performance at nationals was without a doubt worth the countless hours of pure hard work.

Yet apparently the percussion program had not finished its lesson plan. Only a few months after our gleaming achievement at the national championships, the high school administration hired a new band director who took over the percussion program and let our superb instructors go. Although a percussionist, the new band director's skills and passion could not compare. The returning percussionists recognized that our own skills were superior to the band director's and were frustrated by this inferior replacement. We struggled the entire summer to retain Whitney and Rick, appealing to the administration, attending school board meetings, and discussing our issues with the new band director, but to no avail. We were simply not receiving adequate instruction and it became apparent that the percussion program was no longer an efficient use of our time and energy. As the summer of 2008 came to a close, I resigned alongside the other returning percussionists. It broke my heart. It was a cataclysmic change in my life; the previous four years had been comprised almost entirely of percussion and now it was utterly gone, leaving a gaping hole in my heart and schedule.

The day after I resigned from the music program I contacted the yearbook advisor and after a brief interview process, became a staff member. Then shortly after the academic year started, I joined the speech and debate team. I had always wanted to try these activities and now had the time and opportunity to do so. For a novice, I was competent at both yearbook and speech and debate. However, I was still heartbroken and often cried myself to sleep at night. Sometimes after a yearbook work day I would hear the band practicing and stop to listen. Typically I could only endure for a few minutes before I hurriedly dashed to my car to hide the painful tears. I hated being miserable so when New Year's 2009 rolled around, I made the conscious decision to stop crying about percussion and move on. In order to be happy, I realized I needed to put on a cheery façade and hope the façade would become genuine.

Through my work in yearbook I started to take a greater interest in photography. I had always loved taking pictures that capture memories, but it was not until January 2009 that I began to take full advantage of the high quality yearbook cameras and their artistic capabilities. Through my characteristic determination, I became proficient with the cameras and by the end of the year I earned the "Best Photographer" award. It took some time, but I learned to enjoy these new extracurricular activities. While the destruction of the high caliber percussion program was frustrating, I am exceptionally proud of the way I immersed myself into other pursuits.

Through this whole ordeal, the girl I was transformed into the young adult I am today. I had to mature, to fight for what I wanted, and hardest of all, I had to recover from disappointment and move on. I had to learn one of the hardest life lessons, that no matter how hard you work nor how passionate you are about something, life is just not fair. Given the opportunity to return to the percussion program as it was under Rick and Whitney, I would do so in a heartbeat. During my time with percussion I learned the true meaning of dedication and hard work, and saw its rewards at the WGI national championships. I have come to realize that because I was a part of the percussion ensemble and our magical performance at the nationals, I have been changed forever. I try to apply the same passionate work ethic that I had in percussion to every aspect of my life. Though I have pursued other extracurricular activities, I have still been able to continue my passion for music by practicing on my own.

Am I sorry things turned out the way they did? Not necessarily. Life threw me a handful of sour lemons, but with acute determination I slowly poured buckets of water and bowls of various sugars to dilute the setback and make it sweet lemonade. It took me a while to acclimate to the new taste, but I have learned to savor it. While I regret not performing during the past 18 months, I have discovered a new passion for photography, learned the value of perseverance and a positive attitude, become friends with many people I would not have known otherwise, and emerged a stronger young woman ready to deal with the curveballs life throws my way.

angie127 12 / 49  
Dec 30, 2009   #2
First of all, you should really cut it down. An English teacher at my school who worked with college admissions and scholarship agencies advised to keep the common app under 1.5 pages single-spaced.

The final crescendo arrived, pulsating through the arena, louder and stronger, and then with the last smash of the closing impact, it was over.

This sentence is too long. Try to split it into two or cut it down.

As the note reverberated throughout the stadium during those few magical seconds between the finale and explosion of applause, I caught my breath.

Cut this out. It's a nice sentence but adds too much detail.

My percussion family helped me to realize my potential and taught me the true meaning of teamwork.

I had to practice exponentially harder than everyone else just to play the music at the same level.

This essay is well-written, but long. Instead of giving a long history of your percussion career, focus on a specific part of it that was significant for you, like your dedication :) Cut out the paragraph about the new band director. Also cut down the paragraph about what you began to do once you gave up percussion. Connect your conclusion to the description of the phenomenal performance in the intro. The intro grabbed my attention, but it doesn't seem to connect to the essay because you don't relate back to it.

Good luck to you!
OP sonrisa247 3 / 7  
Dec 30, 2009   #3
Thank you so much, your advice really helped.
I would really appreciate if anyone else had some constructive criticism!
Here is another draft. It's significantly shorter and about a page and a half single spaced.

READ ABOVE
jamie2010 2 / 12  
Dec 30, 2009   #4
Your third paragraph is too long and is not really needed. You can take the main ideas of it and say that you gave it up because of the change in maybe one or two sentences. It only drags your essay and makes it longer.

"The day after I resigned from the music program[comma] I contacted the yearbook advisor and after a brief interview process, became a staff member."

Add in a sentence before this one ^^^ and talk about why you joined yearbook.

Sometimes after a yearbook work day[comma] I would hear the band practicing and stop to listen.

"Through this whole ordeal, the girl I was transformed into the young adult I am today."

It sounds a little awkward. How about try something like this:

Throughout this whole ordeal, I was transformed into the young adult I am today.

I had to learn one of the hardest life lessons, that no matter how hard you work norOR how passionate you are about something, life is just not fair.

"life is just not fair" sounds cliche.

I enjoyed your introduction and conclusion. I liked how you incorporated lemonade making to your experience. Great essay, but you need to shorten it a little bit more because you include unnecessary detail. You introduce a lot of information from your debate team to photography. It may distract the readers a bit. If you make your essay more concise, I think you should be good.

Take what I said only as suggestions :)

Good luck,
Jamie


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