Just Sayin’: Just Color Me Flummoxed!

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It’s a word my mother would frequently use. In my childhood mind it ranked right up there with flabbergasted and aghast with, maybe, a little agog thrown in.

Whatever they all mean, in my mind they are descriptive of what I’m feeling today.

One of the hats I wear in my travels around the sun is as the chairperson of the North State Symphony League’s Scholarship Awards Committee. We award two, $500 scholarships each year. One is designated for a graduating senior and one is designated for a matriculated college student.

All sounds well and good, right? An important thing to do in the community, right? Support the arts. Support the kids. Support the symphony.

Except . . . . Except . . . .

We have very few to none applicants.

What is going on? Is not $500 a fairly significant amount, especially when it’s a gift? Are kids and their families so well off that this amount does not seem like it’s worth the trouble? Are the requirements for application too difficult?

Please. All that is required of the student is that he/she:

  1. Fill out the application (a half page consisting of addresses and phone numbers)
  2. Write a 300 – 500 (that’s one type-written page, folks) -word essay outlining their interest in music and how they plan to use it in their lives.
  3. A letter of recommendation from a music teacher, either private or public school

The first of February we sent out nearly 40 letters to every high school and college music teacher in the eight northern counties asking them to have eligible students apply for this scholarship. The deadline for submission this year was March 15.

And herein lies one of the hitches.

I know things get hectic for music teachers in the spring. There are festivals for which to prepare their students and ensembles. There are statewide adjudications where each student is graded on their solo performances. There are spring concerts and musicals. There’s information coming in about summer teacher workshops as well as student camps and workshops. I get it. I know. I’ve been there. It’s so easy to look at the notice from the league and say, “Oh, there are a couple of my students who should apply …” Then it gets tossed on the teacher’s desk and buried under the mounds of scores and sheet music and grade sheets. . . etc., etc.

The other hitch is that we require a teacher recommendation. This doesn’t have to be complicated; just a sentence or two saying why a teacher thinks this student is competent and deserving of the scholarship. But again, in the hectic lives of the music teacher, this crucial step may get lost and a student is frequently reluctant to approach the teacher for yet the fourth or fifth of sixth time to request a letter.

So, we face the 2019-’20 school year with very little response.

The result: We received two high school applications, and not one from any of the colleges.

We are working on streamlining our application process and we are going to endeavor to do a better job of publicizing the availability of the scholarship. We plan to have flyers that teachers can post in the music hallways. We also hope to develop an online presence containing contact information and the ability to apply for the scholarship online. Because, when it comes right down to it, there is many a slip-up in the teacher mail room . . . depending on which student aide may be distributing the mail on any given day.

We are open to any and all suggestions. But until then . . .

Like I said in the title. . . color me flummoxed!

Adrienne Jacoby
Adrienne Jacoby is a 40-plus-year resident of Shasta County and native-born Californian. She was a teacher of vocal music in the Enterprise Schools for 27 years and has been retired for 11 years. A musician all her life, she was married to the late Bill Jacoby with whom she formed a locally well -known musical group who prided themselves in playing for weddings, wakes, riots, bar mitzvas and super market openings. And, oh yes … she has two children, J’Anna and Jayson.
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35 Responses

  1. Avatar Beverly Stafford says:

    To resort to cliche, in this day and age, it would seem your idea of an online presence is the best one. And perhaps addressing your flyer to both the administration office and the music department might garner more results.

  2. Avatar erin friedman says:

    Are homeschooled students eligible? Because I know how to get the word out to that community…..

    • Adrienne Jacoby Adrienne Jacoby says:

      Erin . . . .good point. It would seem to me that they should be eligible. If a home school student is considered a senior and if they are formally involved in music, either by taking private lessons and/or playing in a school ensemble like the Shasta or Simpson Symphony, then they should be eligible. HOWEVER, I reserve the right to run that one by the membership for clarification. Whichever, I really appreciate your offer and will take you up on it. We also need to be able to access the eligible charter schools.

      • AJ, I applaud you and the NSS for offering these scholarships. You ask great questions, and I think you were wise to take this situation to the ANC brain trust. I love some of the suggestions already offered.
        My question, similar to Erin’s, is wondering whether the deadline for applications has passed? If not, how might an interested student go about getting an application?
        Thanks in advance.

        • Adrienne Jacoby Adrienne Jacoby says:

          Doni . . . it is, of course, too late for this year. The two students who did apply have already been notified. But for future reference a student or parent or teacher could contact me here; leave their email address and I would send them the application on line. Hopefully, by next year, we have an on-line presence that anyone can access. Thanks for sharing this platform!!

  3. Avatar Doug Mudford says:

    I love the work you do. Not having children, I can only offer these suggestions dredged from ancient memories.

    When I applied for scholarships, my least favorite part was getting a recommendation from a teacher. I was intimidated and concerned the teacher would say no. I was so stressed, I didn’t apply for some.

    If the idea is to award a student interested in music, why not post a simple form on the school website or other social media such as Facebook (and take Erin’s advice to include home schooled), asking anyone with an interest in music to apply…and give a short reason why they should be selected.

    It would shift the emphasis from the teacher to the student and concentrate more on the end result rather than the form to get there.

    • Adrienne Jacoby Adrienne Jacoby says:

      “Dredged from ancient memories,” indeed!!! The scrapbooks of my memories are chiseled on cave walls!!

    • Steven Towers Steven Towers says:

      What Doug said. There’s $500 in it for the student and a chore for the teacher. Focus on grabbing the attention of students.

      As for the student who’s shy about asking teacher for a letter of recommendation? Get over it, kid. Few if any teachers are going to refuse you.

      • Avatar Beverly Stafford says:

        Being an ancient, as I am, my memory of the teachers in our small-ish high school (1,000 students) was that they were very willing to go the extra mile for us whether it was chaperoning dances, being available for an interview, serving as advisor to the various clubs, all those extra-curricular activities that take up teachers’ time. A letter to help a promising student receive $500 should be no problem.

        • Steven Towers Steven Towers says:

          No, you wouldn’t think writing a letter—or just letting students know the opportunity exists—would be a problem.

  4. Adrienne Jacoby Adrienne Jacoby says:

    Thanks for your response Doug. Your point very well taken. This is exactly the direction that we need to go. If the student can apply on line, then the teacher should be able to submit on line, also. It’s been interesting over the past few years. Some of the letters from teachers come to us in sealed envelops, some are simply handed to the student. Like I said, interesting!!

  5. Avatar Tim says:

    I remember well the stress, excitement, and uncertainty of my last year in high school. I was fighting to maintain a 4.0 gpa while working 25-30 hours/week and trying to cram in occasional resume-building volunteer activities. What little time remained was spent with friends. I’m amazed I didn’t have a breakdown!

    College looked so far away when I was just struggling to put one foot in front of the other.
    Getting scholarships seemed like a total pipedream – far less likely than winning a raffle (and I never won raffles). A typical application & essay took me at least 2 hours so the only ones I filled out during the school year were big ones — large enough to cover tuition (and probably the same ones everyone else went after). Smaller scholarships had to wait until spring or summer break so if the deadline had passed, oh well, there were only 24 hours in my day.

    A $500 scholarship would have been equivalent to a $175 scholarship back then (just under 42 hours of minimum wage work at $4.25/hr). Because I’d been stocking shelves since 16, I made a bit more than minimum wage. So taking 2 hours to write a tailored essay for a *chance* at winning $175 would have kind of felt like a dog being made to twirl on its hind legs in hopes that its owner is hiding kibble in his closee fist. I worked hard to ensure I never need be made feel that way.

    Perhaps I wasn’t the type of student you would encourage to apply, but if I was I would offer the following three recommendations:

    1) Make your entry deadline the week after spring break or a couple weeks after graduation so working students can have more time to apply.
    2) Don’t require a unique essay if you don’t have to. Can the student submit an existing writing sample – a favorite essay of theirs from school? Or perhaps a mp3 of an original piece of their music?
    3) If possible use a standardized online application form that is compatible with autofill.

    • Avatar Tim says:

      PS: Thank you and the North State Symphony for helping local kids with college!

    • Avatar Tim says:

      PPS: I remember getting a list of open scholarships from the school counselor so you might CC them when emailing music teachers.

    • Steven Towers Steven Towers says:

      Tim — When I read of your experience, it reminds me of what a dumpster fire I was at that age. My parents took no interest in my high school grades or my future plans. Save the classes I enjoyed, I got mediocre grades. I didn’t take the SATs. I didn’t apply for scholarships. I applied for admission to exactly zero colleges.

      I really had no idea what the hell I was going to do.

      That I eventually ended up attending a university involved following the girl I’d fallen in love with from our community college to UC Davis. I was still an aimless, mediocre student who decided in the first week whether a class/professor inspired me, and if it not I’d barely go through the motions.

      Then as undergraduates, that girl and I had a baby, and it quickly dawned to me that being a slacker was no longer an option.

      I got through grad school in 5 years in a program where the normative time was 8 years, with no debt added to what I’d accrued as an undergrad. I applied for and got a NASA fellowship that paid a nice salary and a living stipend for four years, and supplemented that with Teaching Assistant and later Lecturer appointments. I co-wrote a sizable NSF grant and several smaller grant applications that paid for my research. My wife and I juggled our schedules on daily, weekly, and quarterly time scales so that we could both stay in school.

      Anyway, I was the Platonic ideal of a late bloomer.

      When my friends are having trouble with their 18-ish sons and can’t see any light at the end of the tunnel, I tell them the story of what an absolute flake and failure-in-the-making I was at that age. Not that I recommend my path—you don’t ever get to completely walk away from those wasted years. Rather than slack off, if a boy isn’t ready for college it’s probably more prudent for him to spend a few years in the military, learn a trade, work for a non-profit or in a National Park, or just wander the world.

      • Adrienne Jacoby Adrienne Jacoby says:

        Thanks for your thoughts, Steve . . . . And here is where I recommend a gap year. NOT a year to slack off as some assume, but a year of working in the real world and/or traveling or even the military. There are precious few of us that really have a handle on either ourselves or our futures at 18.

      • Avatar Tim says:

        Maybe the grass looks greener Steve, but I could have used a gap year or two. It wasn’t until the end of my junior year in college that I realized I was on someone else’s path (which I think that was common among my type a peers). Some just pushed forward – deferring their quarterlife crisis for middle age, others swapped majors and added years, and some dropped out altogether.

        My advice to kids is to forget about finding your “true calling” and instead work backwards from the type of life you want to live. If you want to live near your family in Redding, have enough flexibility to never miss your children’s soccer games, and have enough money to be comfortable — well let’s just say it would be a waste to study molecular biology or quantum physics unless you’re willing to teach high school chemistry…

  6. Deb Segelitz Deb Segelitz says:

    In high school and in college, I never went for scholarships. Why? Intimidating, thoughts of “oh someone else will get it anyway,” or “everyone else will be going for this, what’s the point” or other such self-defeating thinking. Which is a shame, because I had wonderful teachers and voice coaches who would have been happy to write a letter of recommendation for me! But I have to agree with the ideas already posted. Getting information and the application online for starters, which you mentioned as a goal, is a great idea. I wonder if it would be possible for the music teachers/advisers to email their recommendation as well – people can be pretty quick with an email, rather than a letter which has to be typed up and (gasp!) printed out, or (double gasp!) handwritten. I wonder if there is a way to merge the two sides of the application to be wholly online: student application, and rec letter?

    • Adrienne Jacoby Adrienne Jacoby says:

      . . . . and add another gasp or two for putting on a stamp and then getting it to the mail box!!
      Yes, we are also looking at ways the teacher or director can respond on line. All great ideas!!
      Keep ’em coming, folks!!!

  7. Avatar Bruce Vojtecky says:

    California, as well as most states, allows 18 year olds to apply for an instate CDL. They must be 21 to drive across state lines. Several trucking companies are hiring that offer free paid training, no student debt, CR England, Swift, Schneider, among them. This can lead to, right now, an $80,000 a year job with benefits and no student debt. I am writing Arizona’s two senators about dropping the national CDL age to 19. My son is a CDL driver with CR England in Arizona who is trainer and the company is looking for new drivers. He went through Schneider’s free training and has no student debt.
    My oldest daughter joined the Army upon graduating Anderson. She traveled the world while earning her Masters in Computer skills. She has no student debt. She just moved back from Alaska to her half a million house in Cheyenne and works in Denver. That would be equal to living in a $2 million house in San Jose while working in Silicon Valley.
    My youngest daughter went the scholarship route and is still paying off student loans.
    Unfortunately for north state students who do not have financial well off parents, over half the students, there are few options.

    • Steven Towers Steven Towers says:

      Not to pick at nits, Bruce…but isn’t your last sentence disproved by most all of your previous sentences? It appears that there are several good option to the take-out-school-loans-and-pay-them-off-until-you’re-50 hamster wheel.

      Good advice.

  8. R.V. Scheide R.V. Scheide says:

    Geez Adrienne I’m agog too! One of the cool things going on in local schools are the music programs. My youngest brother graduated from Shasta High and plays a bad-ass saxophone. And guess what? Our own Robert Burke goes to Shasta High and plays the saxophone too! I’ll bet he knows a horn player who could use $500!

  9. Adrienne Jacoby Adrienne Jacoby says:

    R.V. Shasta County is WEALTHY in music programs. I’ve stated this elsewhere, but I don’t think the general public has any idea how rare it is, a community of this size, to have three high schools and if you include Anderson, four, with outstanding, award winning music programs. The second part of that is that you don’t get outstanding high school programs without highly successful feeder (elementary/jr. hi) programs. We are blessed!!

  10. Frank Treadway Frank Treadway says:

    AJ, is the NSS scholarship app over, or extended ? If not how does one apply ?
    I remember your daughter J’anna and her playing the fiddle/violin around the area in the 1970s.

  11. Adrienne Jacoby Adrienne Jacoby says:

    Frank, thanks for your interest. Yes, this year is too late. The recipients have already been notified. However, in the future, contact me here with an email address and I will be happy to forward application and information.
    J’Anna is still busy making her way with her music. Well into her 20th year in the Rod Stewart Band.

  12. Joanne Snyder Joanne Snyder says:

    Don’t forget Adrienne that high schools have counselors for all students. One of their jobs it is to help students with post high school plans, applications and scholarship information. Instead of supervising and teaching 40 students at a time, they see students one on one AND have access to students classes, grades and e-mails. I was never ever jealous of school counselors but they do all have their own offices with comfortable chairs and don’t have the second to second responsibilities that teachers have. I’m sorry I too late with this suggestion. Maybe I could help you next year?

  13. Joanne Snyder Joanne Snyder says:

    I am too late. And yes I was jealous of counselors!

  14. Adrienne Jacoby Adrienne Jacoby says:

    Joanne . . . a couple of schools had requested that we send info to the counselors . . . which we did, but perhaps we should make more o a concerted effort to send to all of them. Next year . . . .

  15. Avatar Linda Cooper says:

    Off topic perhaps? However, this one is for Doni, who seems to be huge fan of the comment section.

    History lesson: Mae Helene Bacon Boggs was seriously responsible for Shasta State Historic Park to even become a California State Park in the early 50’s. She also donated her collection of early California paintings to the Courthouse Museum in Shasta. Oh, heck. Since I’m on a roll, Mrs. Boggs is also attributed to the fact that we call it the Shasta Dam to this day. Anyway. Mrs. Boggs left a trust for a graduating 8th grader to be awarded a scholarship based on the writing of a historical essay regarding the town of Shasta.

    The recepient received a cash award of I believe $500, plus a trophy! I always thought the trophy was a nice touch. Displayed at the elementery school in Shasta. I was doing research for an exhibit, and I called the then principal of the school, (this is over twenty years ago) and asked why did Mrs. Boggs give so much in scholarship to a graduating 8th grader?. My thinking was that $500 is usually reserved for high school students. Pause. Silence. His eventual reply was, “well, in her day, an eighth grade education meant something.” I’m still laughing.

    Adrienne Jacoby, I admire the good work you and others are contributing.

  16. Avatar Bruce Vojtecky says:

    Off topic a little. I remember the graduation ceremonies at SLC several years ago. It gave high school diplomas to, if I remember right, about a dozen Shasta County residents, who had enlisted in the military during WWII. After retuning from the war they started careers in Shasta County and never finished high school. Education was not essential to finding a job in rural Shasta County then. It was a special graduation with a full house present and not a dry eye in the place.

  17. Terry Turner Terry Turner says:

    Adrienne, you are so right about getting a teacher’s letter.
    I am a recently retired teacher, and say without exaggeration that between State of CA and school paperwork requirements, my paperwork load (that had almost nothing to do directly with teaching) had quadrupled in the last ten years.
    I would make myself huge reminder notes for needed letters, and often did them on the weekend or late in the evening. And the time and mental effort it takes to compose a good letter of recommendation is significant, in my opinion. Too many co-workers did lose the request in their email or on the paperwork piles on their desk.
    For what it’s worth, here’s what I thought was a fabulous thing:
    A few colleges changed their “Teacher Recommendation” to be fully online. The teacher would get an email from the scholarship or the college, saying so and so was asking for a recommendation. When you opened it up the online site, Easy! There was an interactive page. It was a matter first of five or seven categories, where you clicked a box and rated the student 1 to 5, or below average to excellent. Then there was a space for one or two short paragraphs, where you gave details on why you gave that ranking. Hit “Submit” and you were finished. It was quick and so much less time-consuming.
    I don’t know how to make such a thing, but I suspect there are ANC folk who do. And since students are so much more tech savvy now, I would bet their application, too, was fully online.
    Good luck, and Thank You for caring so much for our music students. This scholarship is wonderful!

    • Adrienne Jacoby Adrienne Jacoby says:

      TERRY . . Thanks for the feedback. That is exactly what I’m hoping to implement for next year . . . the next item on the list is to find someone a few years younger than my 82 years that is conversant with how to make all the tech stuff work.
      Every time I hear horror stories about the paperwork that is required of teachers ow, I think my lucky starts that I am pretty much out of it. The little k-3 choir that I see once a week has no such requirements . . THANK GOODNESS!!! THANKS AGAIN . . . .

      • Terry Turner Terry Turner says:

        That is a great idea, Adrienne, and, I agree. It certainly helps us to find someone younger than we are who is conversant with making tech stuff work.

        And it delights me to know that you are still teaching (and not having to do excessive paperwork). You are a gifted, talented, well-known and well-loved teacher! 🙂