Best of Both Worlds: World Class Academics and World Class Music

Studying as an orchestral trombonist is not for the faint of heart. There are hundreds of things that require focus and attention: interpreting every mark in the part on the page just as the composer intended, coming in at precisely the right time, keeping one eye on the conductor while keeping your place in the part, breathing in the right place, starting the note cleanly and on the right pitch, and making it sound beautiful, even when you’re just playing a long, loud note. There’s a reason that so few students make it to the professional orchestra level. Still, if you’re paying attention, you’ll see Isabel Laurel’s red hair in the back of the Vanderbilt Orchestra and starting her collegiate orchestral journey this fall at Vanderbilt’s Blair School of Music. And you’ll know you’re seeing the start of a brilliant career.

When asked about her college search process, Isabel said: “In searching for the perfect college, my consultant and I had to strike a balance between a fabulous trombone studio and access to amazing academics. All my life, I’ve known that I wanted to play trombone, but I’ve also felt strong pulls toward academia and research. I was worried that I would have to choose one over the other. I’m proud to say that with my consultant’s help, we found several options that allowed me a conservatory-like experience in addition to rigorous academics. I was so excited during the process, knowing that wherever I ended up, I would have access to both parts of who I am. We didn’t have to make any sacrifices.

After we got to know each college, we could pair down our top choices and dig into the requirements for each. I learned a lot as I recorded and took many auditions, and I saw improvements in my playing under this pressure. I had so much fun traveling to the schools for my live auditions. Visiting the campus on audition days, you got a sense of the school and its energy, and nothing compared to meeting the professors and studio. My trips to Nashville and Boston were so much fun, and I loved being in the center of such vibrant cities.”

Her mom, Carolyn, says, “We are thrilled that Isabel was accepted to her first choice, Vanderbilt. When she visited campus for her audition, she felt immediately at home. After meeting and getting to work with Trombone Professor Jeremy Wilson, Isabel became even more sure of her choice. The academics, music program, and trombone studio felt like matches, and she was thrilled. She knew she had found a school that could nurture her passions while providing her with a foundation to build a musical career.”

Peabody Library, Vanderbilt

Isabel and Vandy were a perfect fit. As Isabel says, “As silly as it may sound, stepping off the plane in Nashville, I immediately felt a strong sense of “home.” The air seemed to crackle with hopeful, creative energy and everyone I met was so joyful and positive. From the first moment, a small part of me was like, “Okay, I HAVE to make it here.” Needless to say, I was pretty nervous about my audition. But the staff at Blair were so kind and helpful, and each person I met offered encouragement. After finishing my audition, I took a lesson with the trombone professor, Jeremy Wilson. I am so excited to study with him for the next four years. While Vanderbilt’s strong academics and rigor were significant factors in my decision, I ultimately chose Vandy because of the chance to work with Professor Wilson. His approach to music making and teaching is incredible, and I feel that he will be able to make me not only a successful trombone player but a better person as well. I feel as though he will be able to help me achieve everything that I hope to achieve.”

Ingram Center for the Performing Arts, Vanderbilt University

Mike and Carolyn are so excited to see Isabel at Vanderbilt: “Mike and I are so proud of Isabel’s tenacity to work on achieving her goals. Since she decided to pursue a professional trombone career, she has individually managed her workload and practice schedule. It has been such a wonderful adventure to see her set and achieve her goals without pressure from us having to push to strive for results.  We are so proud of Isabel for finding her passions and for looking to build the life she wants to live.”

“Her strong work ethic, artistic creativity, and intellectual curiosity have been fascinating to watch.  We have always known that Isabel’s future will include a combination of academics and the arts. We are thrilled she will explore her next chapter in the Blair School of Music at Vanderbilt University.”

Isabel, Carolyn, and Mike had the following advice for those going into the college admissions process, “Our advice would be to welcome the aid of a dedicated college planner! I remember the first meeting that we had with College Inside Track. We were told that the college admissions process is very much like the Land of Oz – There are things at work behind the screen. CIT’s job is to know about those things to help you work with all of the information available. This is how we will help you achieve your best results. We would not have had a successful admissions process without our consultant’s help. The process is certainly stressful; however, having help and advice along the way let us relax as much as we could, knowing that we had an expert to steer us. Our consultant’s expertise in both college admissions and in music schools in particular was very helpful.”

Isabel would like to thank her teachers first. She studied with John Froelich (Lake Woebegone Brass Band)and Doug Wright (Minnesota Orchestra). “I have been so fortunate to have fabulous and inspiring teachers. Some of the most impactful teachers in my life have left indelible marks by changing how I see the world and myself. Thank you to those who showed me that learning is a passionate and exhilarating practice and that there is much to learn in the world.”

Finally, Isabel thanked her parents: “Thank you both for being a source of constant support and guidance for me. Truly, you helped me achieve all that has gotten me here; without you, I would not have done so. Thank you for bringing me to a very busy schedule of rehearsals, lessons, and concerts. Thank you for always reminding me that if your heart’s in it, you can achieve it. Thank you for advocating for me and seeking the teachers and mentors that have changed my life. You poured an incalculable amount of energy and time into helping me pursue my dreams, and it means the whole world to me!”

Isabel, we are all so proud of your hard work and efforts that got you to Vanderbilt. We are thrilled at your success and will be checking out the back row of the orchestra (where the trombones sit) for many years, listening for you. CONGRATULATIONS!