Draper drumming prodigy accepted into Harvard-Berklee dual degree programMar 07, 2023 04:15PM ● By Katherine Weinstein
Sofia Detjen of Draper plays a drum solo as part of Caleb Chapman’s Crescent Super Band. (Photo courtesy of the Detjen family)
When Sofia Detjen began drumming along to her favorite Taylor Swift songs at the age of 5, her parents had little idea that it would lead to a lifelong passion and potential career. Now a senior at Lone Peak High School, the Draper resident will move to Cambridge, Massachusetts next fall to begin a highly-selective dual degree program at Harvard University and Berklee College of Music.
Sofia is one of approximately 10 students worldwide to be offered admission into the program. It is geared toward exceptional musicians and scholars who are interested in pursuing artistic careers along with a solid liberal arts education.
Her talent on the drums became apparent at an early age. “She was in first grade and entered a competition for the Percussive Arts Society of Utah held at Juan Diego High School,” explained her mother, Reina Detjen. “Sofia did a snare drum solo and practiced so hard. She won first place against all these middle-schoolers. We thought, ‘There’s something really here.’”
At first, Sofia took drumming lessons with a local teacher, Jeremy Brown, before going on to study with Jay Lawrence, an associate professor at Brigham Young University who also performs and composes. By eighth grade, Sofia was performing at a college level. “Knowing other drummers pushed me to get better and better,” she said.
She also started playing drums at Caleb Chapman’s Sound House in American Fork, which allows talented young musicians to gain experience playing in a band outside of school. In 2020, Sofia became rhythm section leader of Caleb Chapman’s Crescent Super Band, a renowned 20-piece jazz orchestra. She is the first female drummer in the 23 year history of the band and has toured North America to perform. This summer, Sofia will travel to France, Italy and Switzerland with the Crescent Super Band to headline at three of the world’s top jazz festivals.
The Sound House invites well-known artists to do clinics with students. Sofia has had the opportunity to learn from a variety of award-winning jazz and rock musicians including members of Journey, The Killers, the Saturday Night Live Band, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy and many others.
“Recently I’ve had the opportunity to play with Steve Smith from Journey,” Sofia said. “It was so cool to play with him! When you’re playing with a professional, it makes you professional.”
She counts jazz drummers Max Roach and Dave Weckl among her favorite musicians. “I love playing jazz,” Sofia explained. “It has a tradition of its own, but it gives you a lot of freedom.”
Jim Detjen, Sofia’s dad, commented that her skills as a jazz drummer gave her an edge when she auditioned for Berklee College of Music. “If you’re a rock drummer, it can be hard to play other genres,” he said. “But if you play jazz you can play other genres.”
Sofia’s leadership in academics and athletics also made her a strong candidate for the dual degree program. She is a National AP Scholar with Distinction and was a 2023 Deseret News/KSL Sterling Scholar finalist. She received the Deseret News/UHSAA Academic All-State Award for 6A girls cross country.
When Sofia completes the Harvard-Berklee dual degree program, she will earn a bachelor of arts at Harvard and a master of music or master of arts at Berklee. Like many incoming freshmen, she hasn’t quite decided on which undergraduate major to pursue.
Her dream career would be to tour the world as part of a band. “My ultimate dream would be to tour with Taylor Swift,” she said with a smile.
“The drums and bass are the backbone of a band,” Sofia said. “We’re the metronome, we’re really the glue. This is one reason why I love the drums so much. I like to be deliberate in what I do.” She practices every day. “During vacations from school is when I can really shred in the practice room,” Sofia added.
Balancing music with school, friends and family requires discipline. Sofia is usually up at 5 a.m. to work out with her mom. “I also prioritize time with my friends,” she said. “I’m a pretty social person.”
This summer, Sofia wants to maximize her time with her friends in Utah. Move-in day at Harvard is on Aug. 30. “I’m really excited,” she said. “It’s going to be great!”