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Trombone, piano, and…laptop? Stephen Croes on the auditions

Stephen Croes, Dean of the Music Technology Division, talks about the auditions and the music and culture of Istanbul.

“I think the thing that stands out about the musicians we’ve auditioned [in Istanbul] is the enormous diversity.  There was a woman who’s got a degree in opera, who came in and sang an aria. It was very well done, a young woman of 21.  Some people sang classic American jazz standards with a certain edge of pronunciation that’s distinctly Turkish, and it grabs your attention.  This person is belting out Gershwin, and they’re owning it, then you realize that the music we grew up with is truly universal at this point.”

Stephen Croes

Stephen Croes

One musician particularly impressed Croes and teammate Michael Farquharson. “A kid came in with a laptop computer.  He had some stuff programmed using Macs MSP, and he had M Audio Oxygen 48. He had put together a composition, and then he had to perform the composition, just like playing a piano or an accordion or a trombone. What he came up with was so original and so unique.  He was really playing the computer, not like a musical instrument, he was playing a musical instrument that happened to be a computer. And it was telling a great story.  It didn’t sound like computer music, it sounded like a human story. It was a world of ideas and musical accomplishments.”

“In the years that I’ve been doing auditions, this is the first time somebody has showed up and challenged us, like ‘I want to come to Berklee and this is what I want to study.’ He also played piano and was a really well educated musician, so laptop wasn’t his only instrument.”

“When I hear young kids play I always get something from it, whether it’s at Berklee or in Istanbul. I listen to these kids playing music they like and it rubs off on me, and gives me something to think about, and the next thing you know there’s some kind of a new movement.”

Istiklal street is filled with people and music every night

Istiklal street is filled with people and music every night

“The thing that I don’t think people realize is what a vital role music plays in the social scene here, especially at night.  It’s a very social society.  They go out and eat and drink and they do stuff together.  And one of the things they like to do is listen to music. So there is an enormous community of musicians here and there always has been, it’s deep in the culture.”

“I think Berklee really needs to pay attention to this area. As we continue our movement towards being the place where new things happen, Istanbul’s got something to teach us. It’s a place that’s been the new thing and the old thing over and over again. I think they struggle with it a bit because there are a lot of conservatories and a lot of really well trained classical musicians here, but there’s also this new thing that’s kind of always in a struggle to be born.”

“This is such a fascinating place.  Anybody that comes here is going to be struck with the combination of truly ancient and the truly contemporary.  That’s the thing I love about it. And the food is fantastic!”


60+ musicians audition in Istanbul


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1 Comment

  1. Thank you for sharing this story. I’m completely inspired by this kid with the laptop. So often, we get stuck thinking of music and music schools in a very traditional way. It’s great to hear that there are people like this guy, who are so forward-thinking that they can challenge a school as innovative as Berklee.

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