To many musicians, the groove is the basis of all that we do. It’s the feel; the groove moves us. As we wrapped up the last day of the Berklee Groove School program at the new campus in Valencia, the groove was in full effect.
I do not think the students had any idea what pianist, composer and professor of harmony at Berklee George Russell, Jr. had in mind when he asked the group to get up out of their chairs and start to get their bodies in motion. The result put the icing on the cake of this 4-day program by making the students do what they had been studying over the long weekend. Shake it, baby!
Greg Badolato, assistant vice president for international programs and I were asked to put together a series of special program to present at the new campus. The goal was to expose musicians to a diverse spectrum of approaches and disciplines. In addition to covering exciting topics like songwriting, improvisation and music technology, we both want to make sure that the topic of groove was covered. We wanted to focus on the fundamentals of playing in a band or a session, understanding our roles as musicians and exposing students to a wide range of styles and how to approach practicing them. At the core of the program was the importance of musical feel As George put it, “It’s in your heart. Commit to the groove.”
Of course the key to making a program like this a success is bringing together some exceptionally season musician/educators. In addition to George Russell, Jr., the students had the opportunity to work with bassist, composer, arranger, producer, engineer and professor of contemporary writing and production Michael Farquharson; guitarist, composer and assistant chair of the guitar department Rick Peckham; vibraphonist, percussionist, composer and director of the graduate performance program Victor Mendoza; and drummer, composer and professor of ensembles Dave Weigert. Greg Badolato was the master of ceremonies.
Taking this world-class group of musicians and educators and putting them in front of a group of fine musicians from around the world created some brilliant energy and deep musical exchanges. The students came to Valencia from 10 different countries to engage in a seminar program that featured a variety of topic lectures, special lectures, master classes, faculty performances and jam sessions. The range of different sessions allowed the students to look at, listen to and apply what the faculty members imparted to them.
Some of the highlights from the program included a talented young guitarist from Chile, Manuel Torres. Manuel is the recipient of the Lollapalooza – Chile Scholarship which covered the total cost for his attending the program. Additionally, we had the chance to hear a couple of talented vocalists including Nathalie Arganoza from Switzerland and Hannah Tveter from Norway who was joined by her drummer from Mexico, Antonio Torner. Hannah, with the help of Michael, composed a new piece of music that was performed by the faculty group on the final day of the program. The highlights rounded out with a young Romania drummer who demonstrated excellent potential an was awarded a full-tuition scholarship to attend the 5 Week Summer Performance Program in Boston in 2013 — Sergui Nadaban.
The program had an incredibly positive vibe. The group of students all left on a high note having been schooled in groove. I look forward to having the chance to repeat this program soon and also wish these fine students the very best with their music.