More time in the practice room

New England seems like a place where you can find your own voice

Zion Dyson’s got a big decision to make.
  • Zion Dyson’s got a big decision to make.
  • Image by Amy Dyson

“I’m excited about the future, I’m getting my college audition videos together to send out,” explains 17-year-old vocalist Zion Dyson, who just returned from a tour of several notable music schools back east with her parents, as she prepares to enter her senior year at the Bishop’s School in La Jolla.

Dyson’s two-week adventure included stops at the Frost School of Music at the University of Miami, Florida, the New England Conservatory in Boston, the New School in Manhattan, the University of North Texas, and Oberlin College in Ohio.

Dyson, a long-time member of Gilbert Castellanos’ Young Lions Jazz Conservatory, had a very practical goal in mind. “One of the main reasons for doing it was to meet the faculty in terms of your particular instrument, because they are going to really shape who you become as a performer.”

Because she made the trip during the summer break, Dyson didn’t get to connect face-to-face with everyone, but “At the Frost School, I got to take a lesson with Kate Reid for an hour and find out about their program and what they believe in.”

Likewise, she enjoyed her time in New England, where she spent a week at a vocal workshop studying with Dominique Eade. “Getting to know her and Kate really pushed those two programs to the top of my list,” Dyson recalls.

She’s pumped about Oberlin, where vocal instructor La Tanya Hall had a compelling reason for being unavailable at the time — like being out on the road with Steely Dan. They’ve kept in touch via email.

I asked her for thumbnail impressions of each school. “The University of Miami is like a resort, it’s a gorgeous campus around a lake. New England seems like a place where you can find your own voice. North Texas is huge, much like the state itself, but I thought they had a real sense of community. The New School in Manhattan is like the embodiment of the city — kind of big and in your face. Oberlin is a really small, liberal-arts school with less than 3000 students.”

How will a lifelong San Diego girl fare in places with more extreme climates?

“I’m not worried about the weather — it might take a minute to adjust. Those long winters in Boston or Cleveland will probably inspire me to spend even more time in the practice rooms.”

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