I’m Justin Poon, a guitarist and hip-hop/electronica producer from Toronto, Canada. I’m currently on my third semester here at Berklee, studying performance and electronic production and design. Last week, I had the chance to see Boston Celtics forward Brandon Bass as he sat in with Berklee City Music ensembles.
Bass’s visit to Berklee was in conjunction with the annual Celtics Partner night at last Friday night’s Celtics game, where J. Curtis Warner, associate vice president of education outreach/executive director of Berklee City Music accepted a donation from the Shamrock Foundation towards scholarships, and City Music students sang the national anthem. Bass is into music, singing, and rapping, and is also interested in piano lessons. The City Music students, being Boston natives, were delighted to have the ball player visit, and have someone they look up to be involved in their music. I only wish that Bass had tried his hand in performing, as I was slightly more interested in how his skills were on the bandstand rather than the court.
Berklee City Music is a non-profit program that provides contemporary music education to students from undeserved communities in Boston and at 45 network sites across the United States. Since its inception in 1991, the program has benefited 23,000 fourth to twelfth graders, and has awarded more that 1,500 scholarships for summer and full-time undergrad studies. The ensembles Bass visited were part of City Music’s High School Academy, where high school students meet three times a week, and participate in theory, ensemble, and private lessons taught by Berklee teachers. The extracurricular music program was very similar to one I took back in high school in Toronto. I’ve always thought these types programs for high school students should be available around the world. They’re great for helping aspiring musicians not only develop their skills but also assist them in finding their way to a professional career.
“The kids were blown away,” says Marty Walsh, instructor of the rock ensemble, “the fact that not only Brandon was there but also the entire media circus definitely made their year!” Walsh’s ensemble performed a cover of the band Foals’ “Blue Blood.” The choir ensemble also recorded Imogen Heap’s “Hide and Seek,” Incognito’s “Wild and Peaceful,” and some improvised circle songs. The final ensemble, the Roots Hip-Hop ensemble, jammed out to a funky version of Michael Jackson’s “People Make the World Go ‘Round.” I thought the music sounded great, with the bands grooving well. Even as someone who very seldom watches sports, I thought it was nice to see a major sports figure supporting the growth of aspiring musicians. Bass was welcomed into the Berklee community and seemed humbled by the music and positive energy.
Berklee City Music Vocal Ensemble directory Annette Phillip summed it up nicely: “I think academic endeavors, when combined with a healthy involvement in sports and the arts, leads to a holistic development of the mind, body and soul, it’s always encouraging to meet star athletes, especially younger players, who are following their dreams. It reminds you (especially the students) that anything is possible, if you put your mind to it.”
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