Stephenson senior awarded $40,000 Berklee scholarship
Jessica Smith | 8/30/2013, 6 a.m.
Next May when Stone Mountain piano prodigy Isaiah Hill graduates from Stephenson High School, he will be headed to the prestigious Berklee College of Music on a $40,000 scholarship.
Isaiah, who has been playing the piano since age 9, nabbed the scholarship at the end a five-week summer program at the Boston school. More than 1,000 students participated in the July 6-Aug. 9 program.
After an applause-worthy audition on Aug. 3, he was one of 25 participants to receive the award.
“I still can’t believe it,” he said on his return home. “I’m so happy.”
Isaiah, 17, will head to Boston in August 2014 to double major in jazz composition and arranging and film scoring. The scholarship will cover $10,000 of the $37,586 tuition and fees each semester for a total of two years.
Isaiah made it to the summer program, which cost $7,600, on a coveted $4,300 full-tuition scholarship and donations from the Community Music Center of Atlanta, the DeKalb Lawyers Association, friends and family, and readers of CrossRoadsNews who saw his story in the June 15 edition.
His father, Derrick Hill, said a lot of people invested in him.
“He took the $982 that DLA raised for him and the donations that he received as a result of the article from CrossRoads and turned it into a $40,000 scholarship,” Hill said. “It takes a village to raise a child. To see an investment in a child’s future pay off like that is just amazing.”
Isaiah said attending the summer program has changed his life in more ways than one. He knew no one in Boston when he arrived in the city, which he said forced him out of his shell, and he set out to meet as many people as possible and make connections.
“I had this preconceived idea in my head that you can’t meet a wrong person,” he said.
In classes on musicianship, composition and arranging, and theory in performance he met musicians from across the United States and more than 70 countries worldwide.
The exposure to different cultures has given him a new perspective on his own music.
“When people ask me what I listen to, I always say jazz,” he said. “So that made me get to thinking I’m going to get with maybe some Caribbean guys or some Asian guys and see what their kind of music is to broaden my horizons with music and to get new palates to draw from.”
When he is playing and improvising, Isaiah said he can now draw from many different palates.
“Now I can say that I am one big melting pot,” he said. “I have more to inspire me.”