Student Profile: Bonnie Snyder

Brenda Pike
December 14, 2005
Bonnie Snyder<br> <b>Hometown:</b> Waldorf, Maryland<br> <b>Program:</b> Five-Week Summer Performance Program<br> <b>Instrument:</b> Drum Set
Photo by Liz Linder
Photo by Liz Linder

Driven is the first word that comes to mind when confronted with Bonnie Snyder. The 17-year-old drummer from Waldorf, Maryland, knows what she wants and won't stop until she gets it. And she's been trying to get to Berklee for years.

When Snyder attended this year's Five-Week Summer Performance Program, she had just graduated high school a year early with a perfect grade point average. Both accomplishments were key components to a plan she first sketched back in middle school: Graduate early, spend some time at Berklee, attend the local community college for a year or two, and then transfer to Berklee as a full-time student to major in music business/management and music production and engineering.

"That's the hardest double major to get into and the hardest one to complete, so I've got a lot of work ahead of me," she says. After that, she plans to take advantage of the accelerated MBA program that Suffolk University offers to Berklee graduates. And after all these years of school? "I'd like to start my own company, my own label, my own managing business. Eventually I'd like to incorporate my own studio into it," she says. "I want to make it an empire!"

Snyder is used to dreaming big and working hard. In addition to her musical interests, she's a lifeguard, a member of the Waldorf Volunteer Fire Department, and an EMT. To get the EMT certification, she took classes two nights a week and one Saturday a month for four months, all while finishing her last semester of school. "I've basically got two parts to my life: the lifesaving business and the music business," Snyder says. "I've wanted to be an EMT ever since I was a little girl, and a lifeguard, and I've done them both. But music is my first love."

"That's my B plan," she says. "My A plan is music."

Snyder visited Berklee twice before enrolling in the Five-Week Summer Performance Program. Two years ago, while visiting relatives in Massachusetts, her mom surprised her with a tour of the college. Last year, she participated in the Berklee Percussion Festival. There, she attended clinics featuring such artists as Horacio "El Negro" Hernandez, Eguie Castrillo, and Sheila E. "That's when I really got a good look at the city and the school and fell in love with it," she says. But it's not just the famous names that drew her to Berklee. The personal touch of a smaller school has shone through even in her few visits. Her student-run tour was led by Marcus Santos, a hand percussionist from Brazil. When she returned for the Berklee Percussion Festival, he was her R.A. And this summer she ran into him—now an alumnus—in the computer labs.

Each summer has been a step toward Snyder's ultimate goal—attending Berklee full time. But she almost didn't make it to the Five-Week Performance Program. She just couldn't come up with the tuition. "At home it's just me and my mom, and we have very limited funding," Snyder says. "When I originally told my mom, she was real skeptical about it. She didn't want me to get my hopes up ... because she knew we couldn't afford it." And, indeed, the original scholarship that Snyder won wasn't enough to cover the cost. So she decided that she wouldn't be able to come and notified her employer that she would be available for the whole summer.

Then she received a letter in late May informing her that she was the recipient of the Evans Scholarship from the D'Addario Foundation. It didn't cover the full cost of the program, but "that made it possible," Snyder says. She discussed it with her mother, who fully supported her. "She said, 'Let's go for it, Bonnie, let's put everything we've got into getting you there,'" Snyder says. She gathered the rest of the money from various sources, such as sponsorships from the Kiwanis of Maryland and her grandfather's business, graduation gifts, and her part-time job.

But by that point, the deadlines for housing applications had passed. "That was late May, early June. That was cutting it close," Snyder says. Her mother called the school to try to work out alternate arrangements and was able to find a spot. Her advice for future applicants: "Make sure you get your housing applications in early!"

When she was here, she was excited to experiment with different instruments and beats. The open drum circle was one of her favorite classes, because of the variety. "We played djembe, an African drum, last week. And the week before that we started out with some conga stuff," Snyder says.

By far, the highlight of the five-week program for her was her private lesson, which was taught by percussion department faculty member Rod Morgenstein. Before classes started he performed for the drummers, and "he blew me away," Snyder says. She was intimidated when she found out that Morgenstein had done two compilations with Jordan Rudess, the keyboardist with Dream Theater, her favorite band. "But he really sat down and worked with me," Snyder says. "I told him I wanted to get into some progressive rock tempos. He gave me a sheet of music in 7/8, 15/16, 12/8, just all sorts of weird times."

Of course music isn't easy, especially for a female drummer in a field dominated by guys. "I was really nervous when I got here, but I realized that I'm here for my own benefit, to worry about how I play and how I can improve my own talent and to work with the teachers. I'm not here ... to compare who's the top kid."

Yet the opportunity to play in front of and with other students—outside of classes as well as in—is what attracted her to the five-week program.

"One of the reasons I'm here is to become less shy in my playing," she says. Her rock/pop ensemble, in which students practice for a performance at the end of the program, is one way to do that. Another is after-hours jam sessions. A friend of Snyder's reserved an ensemble room one night and gathered some people together. "We just played what we thought, what we felt. I'm not used to meeting people I've never worked with before and just playing," Snyder says. "It was really neat."

Bonnie's Top Five Albums

  • The Art of Drowning - AFI
  • Once in a Lifetime - Dream Theater
  • Sing Loud, Sing Proud - Dropkick Murphys
  • Greatest Hits '93-'03 - 311
  • The Curse - Atreyu