One time, at band camp, 17-year-old Tasmine Ballentine auditioned for a singers' showcase. The Memphis native was one of five vocalists chosen out of hundreds.
Ballentine, along with fellow Stax Music Academy students Ashton Riker and Ricardo Canady, recently spent five weeks in Boston as part of Berklee College of Music's summer performance camp.
Each received a $4,000 scholarship for the camp from the Berklee City Music Network, a group that helps inner-city youth afford the program.
During the five-week camp, students attended private lessons and gave live performances. Each student was taught to master a particular style of music ranging from jazz to pop.
"This camp was geared more toward perfecting talents than performance, like the Stax camp I went to," Canady said. "In my first private lesson, I was assessed and critiqued on my jazz technique. From there, I was given musical pieces to practice."
Riker began singing songs by Al Green when he was 4 years old. Last year, he released his first album, "Lady Luck," on iTunes. A recent graduate of Ridgeway High School, he plans on taking a semester off to work on his second album and then attend Berklee on a full scholarship.
"Berklee is the Mecca of music schools. Thousands of musicians from around the world come here," he said. "It was definitely a learning experience."
Like Riker, Ballentine is a vocalist. "The most important thing I learned at Berklee was to always be alert, always work hard, and always put your best foot forward," she said.
The only instrumentalist from the group was Canady. He plays the alto saxophone and graduated from Central High School last year. He plans on attending the University of Memphis for one semester and then transferring to Berklee in the spring.
"People were competing for the same scholarships, but the competition didn't make people hateful to one another," Canady said. "Everybody was unique in their own way and learned from what others had to offer."
At the conclusion of camp, the three students played with 20 others in an ensemble led by assistant professor Winston Maccow. The ensemble played music by Michael Jackson, Beyonce, and Chaka Khan.
"The music was intense and so was Maccow. You couldn't make a mistake," Canady said. "But it wasn't like your typical band director who was down your throat. The musicians were dedicated. We knew we had to do our work."