OTTAWA — Just getting into the Berklee College of Music is a big deal given that the school selects 30 percent or fewer of those who audition.
Levi Burwell’s audition also got him nominated for a Presidential Scholarship to the top contemporary music school in the country. Then the Ottawa-Glandorf High School senior become one of seven winners of the full, four-year scholarship. About 7,000 people auditioned.
“I was kind of nervous,” he said of his Cleveland audition for the Boston-based school, adding that he knows a lot of other students around the country are good musicians.
Burwell auditioned with the trombone. He’s played since the fifth-grade, but says his real love is the guitar. He has been playing since the first grade, teaching himself after his dad, a musician also, showed him a few things.
“I took off from there and taught myself,” he said. “Most of what I play, I taught myself.”
Burwell knows he will be playing a lot of the trombone at Berklee, including in a jazz ensemble, but he is fine with that. The trombone did come as almost a second thought for Burwell. He was playing the drums and decided he wanted something a little more challenging.
“I found my own voice with it,” he said. “It is more of a jazz instrument and I can improvise.”
Burwell has been in the Ohio Music Educators’ state jazz band for two years and has started his own band, 4th Avenue, with a few friends. He sings and plays guitar for the alternative rock band.
At school, Burwell plays the trombone in the marching, jazz and concert bands. He has also been on the bowling team and will graduate with a 3.4 GPA. He was this year’s homecoming king.
There was a time when Burwell was set on going to Bowling Green State University for orchestra composition. But playing the guitar, singing in the band and writing songs led him to switch gears to more popular music.
Regardless of the genre, he has stuck with music all these years and knows he will continue to play no matter what.
“It never gets old. There is no end to music,” he said. “There is always new music. It is more creative than anything else. And going to Berklee will allow me to explore my inner creativity more.”
Burwell will major in either music production or song writing at Berklee. He is leaning toward song writing because it would include some music production.
He started writing alternative and pop songs in middle school. His first songs, written with a cousin, was “See This Girl.”
“It was real cheesy,” he said with a laugh. “That song is long gone.”