Post authored by Erin Gernon, marketing assistant for Summer Programs.
Berklee College of Music may be located in the heart of Boston, but its summer programs attract musicians from all over the world. The Five-Week Performance Program is particularly appealing to international students, who comprised 33% of last year’s participants and traveled from 53 different countries. The student diversity is an extremely compelling aspect of Berklee’s programs for those who attend.
“You get to meet so many people from all around the world, and I made some of the best friends I’ve ever had, ”said Daniela Zamora of Mexico City, who went to Five-Week for voice. “The fact that everyone there has such passion for music is amazing.”
Zamora was convinced to attend after hearing other students’ stories. “I already knew that Berklee was the most prestigious music college, but I finally decided to go after two friends from school who had been there the year before told me that it was the best summer of their lives,” she said. “They were right. I loved everything about Berklee.”
While students find their time at Berklee to be a rewarding and enriching experience, it does pose some challenges.
“It was kind of hard getting used to your classes and knowing where to go,” Zamora explained. “The first few weeks I got lost every time I had to change buildings, but once you got the hang of it, you knew every single place around the whole Berklee campus.”
All incoming summer programs students, domestic and international alike, adjust to a new musical atmosphere at Berklee that is completely unlike anything they have encountered before. For many students, it is their first visit to the United States, which can be a little bewildering initially.
“The biggest challenge was the fact that it was my first time in the USA,” Giulia Dukes of Milan, Italy said. “I’ve never met so many people from all over the world!” Dukes attended Five-Week for voice three years ago. She also plays the piano and the violin and has been writing songs since she was eight.
Dukes regards her time at Berklee as a transformative experience. “I am not the person who took flight for Boston in July anymore!” she said. “I am a better person and a better artist.” She will attend the Five-Week again this summer and would like to return to Berklee as an undergraduate to study Songwriting or Film Scoring.
Zamora described a similar change. “After being at Berklee, I can say that I am a much better musician now. I learned a lot in my music theory class and learned to apply it to reading class, in which I also improved a lot. I learned a lot about melodies and rhythm and I also improved my songwriting a lot, because I now know all the tips to it. But most of all, I found myself.”
Felipe Gutiérrez Reyes of Bogota, Columbia also attended Five-Week and saw a drastic difference in his guitar playing. “Berklee completely changed my views on my instrument, as well as the sounds I could make out of it,” he said. “It changed my views on what a practice routine really is, it gave me the tools to explore and find my sound, it gave me the tools to become the best version of myself as a musician I can have.”
But not all of Reyes’s learning experiences were based in theory or technique. “Berklee taught me the most important lesson I’ve had in my life,” he said, “and it’s that no matter how good you are, there will always be someone way better than you, and that is beautiful because it makes you want to go on and try harder so you become not the best player in the world, but the best possible version of yourself and that is life-fulfilling.”
Students at Berklee’s summer programs study music through an approach that is not only informative, but also invigorating.
“Berklee gave me back the drive I had been missing, that drive that makes you jam until 4 AM in the practice rooms inside the dorms,” said Reyes. “Berklee gave me my dreams and my hopes back.”
“I’ve always been into my music a lot,” he said, “but after Five-Week, music itself has become the drive of my life.” Reyes said he now practices more than ever. “I’m also writing and composing jingles for TV ads lately. I still keep in touch with all my Five-Week friends!” After graduating from high school, Reyes plans to attend Berklee as an undergraduate to study music production.
“If you’re thinking on going to the Five-Week,” he said, “you have to stop thinking about it and do it. I’ll put it down to you this way: When I came back to Colombia after the Five-Week, I felt I had left home somewhere else.”