The New School’s Got The Money Blues?

If the voices of Billie Holliday and Ella Fitzgerald had a baby, they would give birth to Isabella. This girl has an undeniable gift, and everyone around knows it too. Well apparently not everyone…


Isabella, 21, hales from a small town Northeast of Stockholm, Sweden who came to the US in Spring 2007 to pursue a career in music. “If you like the 40s, then you’ll like my music,” she says.

She came to study at The New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music, a small program part of The New School University, in which she was one of the 15 or 20 vocalists in the entire program. Most of her teachers would say she took talent to another level. “Isabella was incredibly gifted, one of the best I’ve seen, a hard worker too” said a former teacher in an email exchange.

But The New School administration seems more pre-occupied with their own alleged financial blues than they are with those of the student artists who want to grow but can’t because of inadequate resources. Which seems odd, considering they “admitted 88 students this year, which is more than [they] admitted in 2007, definitely” says an admissions officer from the New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music, who was unable to give me exact numbers, just an estimate.

Isabella no longer goes to The New School as a result of not being given enough money to attend. Her scholarship the last two years required that she maintain a certain GPA. Her GPA has been higher than what they asked of her.

“I couldn’t afford to pay the remaining tuition,” Isabella says, adding, “they gave me a chance to find the money, but there was no real effort in making me feel valued.” When she first arrived in New York, the administration was accommodating, she says, but added, “There wasn’t a lot of support for me having traveled so far to attend their school.” n761545954_2429725_3619146

What Isabella says concerns her most is that the school doesn’t consider talent as important as money. “Some singers in my program didn’t have any talent at all, but they could pay so they got a pass. Whereas the ones who did have talent, but maybe couldn’t afford it, were just shoved out the door.”

Singers in the program like Maddie, who have parents comfortably paying for her tuition, were outraged that the program didn’t put up more of a fight for her friend. “I was so pissed when I heard,” says Maddie. “They’re letting her leave so easily, and letting some of the shittiest vocalists stay because they can pay. It’s gross.”

In the summer of 09, before her payment deadline, the jazz singer mustered up funds that she reluctantly loaned from friends and family. “I was walking to the office to make my payment and I just couldn’t do it. I couldn’t give them the satisfaction.”

Those working in International Student Services and the Office of Student Financial Services knew she would lose her visa and be forced to return to Sweden if she lost her scholarship. Yet they still catered the “too bad, your loss” attitude, according to Isabella.

“I love my life here, I don’t want to go back,” says Isabella. When asked what her general consensus was towards The New School now she answered diplomatically, claiming, “It’s one of the best contemporary music programs in America. But it doesn’t work in this economy. This program was supposed to be progressive. It’s supposed to be small, great, and intense. It’s bigger and lost a lot of prestige.”

While behind the scenes, Isabella is angry, and quietly resentful of the kids who get to stay – “fucking rich little spoiled brats who have no talent and whose parents send them off to pay someone else to tell them they have no talent” – Isabella plans to take action to stay in the States. “They didn’t fight to keep me, but they’ll see it’s their loss.”

6020_1138128726024_1011553022_30364223_7235188_nAnd with that, we end our interview; she gulps her whiskey on the rocks, and climbs on stage at the jazz club where she holds a weekly residency, and does what she does best.

(will provide a link in class to hear her music)


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