By: Jason Camelio, Director of International Programs
Carlos plays cuatro. He’s 12-years old. He just got back from Cuba, where he was playing at a conference for cuatro players. Edgardo plays soprano. He’s been playing for a year. He is 15-years old.
It is not uncommon to see such young musicians in Puerto Rico. Music starts early here and runs deep. But, what is intriguing for me is how easily they wish to share their music – without hesitation. These young musicians stopped but to hang with assistant vice president for international programs Greg Badolato and I yesterday afternoon during lunch. They eagerly pulled out their instruments and wanted to play for us.
Programs like Berklee in Puerto Rico open the doors, sow the fields, pave the paths…you name it. Students have the opportunity to interact with their peers and also the wealth of knowledge and experience provided by the exceptional faculty members. They do this through a full week or lectures, master classes and ensembles. Carlos and Edgardo are new students to the program and we can already see the potential paths before them.
There is a strong likelihood that they will develop into fine musicians and educators like Berklee alum and student in the first Berklee in Puerto Rico program in 1995 Ruben Amador (`04) . He is the founder, director and inspiration behind the Conservatorio de Artes Del Caribe (CAC). Ruben graciously invited Greg, Eguie Castrillo and I to attend the semester ending concert showing the excellent talent studying at the Conservatory. We were truly impressed by the range of experience and styles presented in the concert. His students rocked out on the tunes like the Chili Peppers “Scar Tissue”, interpreted beautiful jazz ballads like the Ella Fitzgerald version of “Black Coffee” and showcased their total musicianship chops with a short set of Police and Sting tunes to cap off the night.
CAC has a prime location in the heart of the music scene in old San Juan. The students’ commitment to their education and the development of the Conservatory is deep. As Ruben took us on a tour of the facilities he told us that, “the students tell me that if they could live here in the building, they would. They are so into the school that they are even helping with the renovation of the building.” A quick look around and you get the feeling of the old Berklee 1140 Boylston Street building — its character and sound and smell. The vibe is right for the work Ruben, his teacher and students are doing.
The Berklee in Puerto Rico program is also thankful for Ruben’s generosity. Based on the recommendations of Berklee faculty members teaching at the program, three students in our program will be selected to receive scholarships to attend CAC for one-semester starting this fall. Thus keeping them on the path.
Though Carlos and Edgardo are part of a whole new generation of young musicians. There are many similarities that can be drawn between them and Ruben. Their basic instinct is to work on the music. They are not in it for the glory — just for the satisfaction of going a fine job. Only time will tell where it will lead them. If alums like Ruben are any indication, the music is in good hands.