Piano professor Philippe Moehrke likes green. Bright green. His seven-piano practice studio at the Jazz & Rock Schulen has lime green walls, lime green splashes on the door, and a neon green fleece throw on the couch. He also bakes very good cookies, which he pressed on everyone who came in Tuesday morning.
Moehrke teaches basic keyboards I and II to Berklee students, covering everything from classical sight-reading to German folk songs to funk vamps. What with a different semester length (the J&RS’s runs through February), the language barrier, and required Berklee coursework, the study-abroad crew mostly takes separate classes, which are very small.
As a Berklee grad himself (’90, professional music), Moehrke is familiar with Berklee teaching methods but tried to make the competencies a little more fun, he said. Not that he shirks traditional piano discipline. “How old are you?” he asked Tom Brennan, a trumpet player.
“20,” Tom said.
“And how old do you sit at the piano?”
Tom said, sheepishly, “Like I’m 85.” He straightened up his back.
The only larger classes are the German cultural blocks: art and music history, which all 10 Berklee students take. (Daniela, who is blind, gets a pass on attending art history; she has a paper assignment instead.)
The organizers thought it was important for the visitors to learn about the country’s creative traditions. Instructor Bernhard Drinnenberg had a slightly different idea, however, creating instead “a course about classical music with an accent on German composers,” he said.
Germany is only one piece of the full story of European classical music, he explained. “Without Austria it’s not possible—Mozart. I must speak about Mozart.”
Tom raved about the level of personal attention, especially in his one-on-one arranging II class with J&RS artistic director Bernhard Hofmann. “Last week we spent two hours just working on a composition I wrote,” Tom said. “We spent an hour and a half picking out two chords.”
They were, he added, really amazing chords.