By Jason Camelio, director of international programs.
The afternoon session at the end of the first day of the Art of Improvisation: Blues and Jazz program was coming to an end. As the room began to clear an oddly familiar — in the land of Berklee — event took place. Two young women were having a discussion with assistant chair of the guitar department, Rick Peckham. This is fairly common. It gets interesting when you learn about the two talented musicians speaking with Rick.
First, we have a young Brazilian Blues vocalist and harp player Sarah Messias. Sarah is the winner of the 2012 Lollapalooza – Brazil Scholarship. The award affords her the chance to attend the Art of Improvisation program at no cost! Her peer is also a talented young Blues vocalist from India, Ipshita Roy. Both musicians are enjoying some level of musical success in their home countries. Both have traveled a great distance to the new campus in Valencia to make this connection.
For some, this would be the makings a fine Odd Couples sequel. But, for those of us at Berklee it is just another day in the classroom. The exceptions being that these two musicians totally ROCKED it during the afternoon master class.
Ipshita and Sarah are joined by another 50 students from 16 countries, including Bulgaria, Finland, Honduras, Japan, Russia, UAE, and more. It never fails to amaze me that the power of music — in this case American music — can draw such a diverse group of students together.
As with the Groove School program, it does not hurt to have an incredible group of Berklee faculty members here to guide these students through the art and craft of improvisation. In addition to Rick Peckham, the students will also be taking a series of topics lectures, master classes and special lectures with pianist, composer and professor of harmony George Russell, Jr; bassist, composer, arranger, engineer, producer and professor of contemporary writing and production Michael Farquharson and drummer, composer and professor of ensembles Dave Weigert. The group is being led by saxophonist and assistant vice president for international programs Greg Badolato.
After the cool meeting between Ipshita and Sarah, the faculty members gathered for a quick rehearsal and then presented a pyrotechnic concert of original music by each of the faculty members. The group was joined by composer, arranger, vibraphonist and director of the graduate performance programs in Valencia Victor Mendoza and myself on trombone. I was truly blown away by this hour and a half showcase. Especially the fine job the faculty did with a tune I composed for Rick and a colleague of ours, assistant chair of the ensemble department Sean Skeete, entitled Shinjuku Salmon Run. The Ska bridge was brilliant!
For now, we will continue to improvise these global connections — as we have always done at Berklee. Create some excellent music and ideally develop some life-long personal and musical connections through the Berklee on the Road programs.
More news to follow later in the week. And…we are looking forward to the Re:Tool – Music Technology in Performance and Production program starting on Saturday featuring Stephen Webber, Kai Turnbull, Raydar Ellis and Dawaun Parker.