Berklee Blogs

First-hand accounts of the Berklee experience

Author: Amanda Gouldthorpe (Page 1 of 2)

Solidarity and Mutual Understanding Through Music: Esther Rojas Leads “Berklee Rhythm Collective” to Colombia

Berklee student Esther Rojas, a Barranquilla native, was selected by the Office of International Programs to put together a group of students to visit Medellín, Pereira and Manizales, Colombia, as part of a two-week teaching and performing series sponsored by the Colombo-Americano bi-national centers. In her own words below, Esther shares her perspective on the musical and cultural significance of this experience.

The Office of International Programs wishes to thank Esther, Caili, Magnus and Patrick for their incredible professionalism and enthusiasm throughout the event planning and the trip itself. We also are grateful to director of learning support services Pablo Vargas and assistant director of admissions Billy Herron for traveling with the group and supporting Berklee’s outreach efforts in Colombia. A huge thanks also to the dedicated staff at the Colombo-Americano in Medellín and Pereira for making this event a reality.

This is the first entry in a series of the Berklee Rhythm Collective’s student perspectives on this event. Over the next few weeks we’ll hear from the rest of the band, and get a complete picture of this unique and powerful cultural exchange experience.

Student Perspective: Esther Rojas Rodriguez

I had the honor of being selected to coordinate the group that would travel to Colombia this past June, for a two-week program teaching workshops for young musicians and performing in concerts in Medellín, Pereira, and Manizales. I asked Patrick Simard (drums) and Magnus Bakken (sax) if they would be interested in collaborating in this project. Fortunately, they gladly agreed. Later on, at the suggestion of Jason Camelio, Caili O´Doherty – a recent Berklee graduate and a wonderful pianist – joined our group, forming the Berklee Rhythm Collective.

This trip proved to be one of the most valuable and gratifying experiences I have ever had, as for the first time I was given the opportunity to share with my countrymen something that Berklee has taught me.

Read More

Wambura Mitaru Synergy in St. Petersburg and Helsinki

Post authored by Amanda Gouldthorpe, assistant director for Office of International Programs

As I type this I’m traveling across the Russian/Finnish border by train with the Wambura Mitaru Synergy. We’ve traded winter snowscapes in Boston for those in Helsinki, Finland and St. Petersburg, Russia, to be specific. After our flight out of Boston last Friday was canceled due to the blizzard, we finally arrived in Europe on Tuesday night – to quote Wambura herself, “It’s really happening!”

Sebastian Reunert, Wambura Mitaru and Moez Dawad (l to r) perform at the JFC Jazz Club in St. Petersburg, Russia.

Sebastian Reunert on guitar and Moez Dawad on hand percussion round out this truly impressive trio who are here to showcase original music and represent Berklee at the 2013 Close Encounters festival, an event designed to bring international students together to share their original music and create new music together. With Wambura hailing from Kenya, Sebastian from South Africa, and Moez from Egypt and Sudan by way of DC, this group brings their African roots front and center with a serious groove that you can’t help but tap your foot to and lyrics that make you sing along – participation encouraged!


Read More

Berklee in São Paulo – Olá from our first On the Road in Brazil!

Post authored by Amanda Gouldthorpe, assistant director for Office of International Programs

“Bom dia” from the warm and welcoming campus of our BIN partner the Conservatório Musical Souza Lima in São Paulo, Brazil, hosts of the first-ever Berklee on the Road in Brazil! The Berklee in São Paulo: Art of Improvisation – Blues and Jazz program kicked off yesterday, with 70 students attending seminars and master classes in this four-day program.

Featuring Berklee faculty Fernando Huergo, George Russell, Jr. and Casey Scheuerell, and Souza Lima faculty Lupa Santiago (also Souza Lima’s vice director, and a Berklee alum) and Guilherme Ribeiro, the program gives students a taste of the Berklee and Souza Lima experience. The Office of International Programs‘ “On the Road” program model is designed to promote educational exchange and provide students with an insight into what our institution is all about, in addition to giving them the opportunity to learn from our first-class faculty and to make new musical connections.

We are very pleased to have Berklee’s vice president of Global Initiatives/executive director of Berklee Valencia, Guillermo Cisneros, here with us to kick off the program. And as I’ve already mentioned, we’ve received the most wonderful welcome from the team here at Souza Lima. Director Antonio Mário da Silva Cunha, with the support of Cristiane Cunha and the fantastic staff here, have gone above and beyond not only to make the program run without a hitch, but to make us feel at ease – which isn’t hard, in such an open environment full of music and energy at every turn.

The program will be followed by two days of Berklee Auditions & Interviews here at Souza Lima, with additional A&I happening in Rio de Janeiro at the end of the month ( Check out photos from the Berklee on the Road event here:

Helsinki and Beyond: Seminar on Music Pedagogy Senior Student Advisor/Marketing Coordinator Michael Moyes, along with the Chair of Professional Music, Kenn Brass, recently participated in an educators event hosted by our BIN partner schools in Helsinki, Finland. Here is Michael’s account of the experience, which was sponsored by the Office of International Programs.

Fall came early for Chair of Professional Music, Kenn Brass and I last week. We traveled to the northern city of Helsinki, Finland to meet with other music educators and to present at the Helsinki Seminar on Music Pedagogy. The event, hosted by BIN schools Helsinki Pop & Jazz Conservatory and Helsinki Metropolia University of Applied Sciences gave us an inside look at how partner institutions in Finland, Russia, Estonia, Malaysia, Puerto Rico, Latvia, and other countries are preparing their students for careers in music and at how their institutions are engaging in distance education and online learning.

Michael Moyes, Kenn Brass, Márta Schmidt and fellow educators at the 2012 Helsinki Seminar on Music Pedagogy

I gave a presentation on Berklee’s online continuing education division,’s history, pedagogical methods, and how to enhance the quality of online learning followed by a show and tell with interactive examples from several of our courses. The schools were very impressed and inspired by how we teach music online; however, many have barriers that make their institutions unable to implement distance education programs. Berklee alumnus and President/CEO of International College of Music in Malaysia, Irene Savaree, spoke candidly about obstacles such as lack of broadband Internet in student’s homes, weak language skills, negative perception of online learning, and most strikingly the lack of government framework. Innovation and partnership for continuing education will be exciting elements of these institutions’ futures.

Kenn gave a very inspiring discourse on how to help students become entrepreneurs. What do you want to do? What does success look like to you? How do you get there? What does a musician entrepreneur do? This discussion continued with professors and students over the next day and we learned about the TOP program (Finnish acronym meaning on the job training), which was developed by Helsinki Pop and Jazz Conservatory Producer Márta Schmidt ten years ago.

20 academic credits are dedicated to this program, which teaches students how to grow into responsible, decision-making musicians. One component deals with gigging. Professors set up gigs for students in local venues while giving them minimal background information. It becomes the student’s responsibility to coordinate the details: When do we go on? What type of crowd will we be playing for? What tech issues do we need to be aware of? Do we get fed? Club owners work closely with the musicians union and professors and give feedback on the students: Did they show up on time? Did they spend half the night hitting on the club owner’s daughter? Would you hire them again? The gigs are diverse and teach students that in order to make your primary income from music you need to be versatile and on your “A” game all the time!

In our spare time, we caught up with some of the jazz musicians Helsinki has to offer. Whether it was young kids playing “Yesterday’s” for captivated teenage audiences or the vibraphone quartet whose most basic tune seemed to be in something like 11/16, we were very impressed by the musicianship and the community commitment to the arts.

The trip was a great learning experience for me and for our partners around the world. Everyone is looking forward to working with Berklee students once again at this year’s ‘Close Encounters Helsinki-St. Petersburg’ ( event in February!

Michael Moyes

Senior Student Advisor/Marketing Coordinator

Samantha Schultz Trio at Close Encounters Helsinki-St. Petersburg

“Hei” from the winter wonderland of Helsinki, Finland! I’m here with three Berklee students who are making the most of their experience as part of the Close Encounters Festival this week. The Samantha Schultz Trio, led by Samantha Schultz (vocals, guitar) with Alexander Toth (bass) and Charles “Trey” Macias (hand percussion) represent Canada and the US for this week-long event promoting international musical exchange. They are joined by bands from our Berklee International Network partner schools the Helsinki Pop & Jazz Conservatory (who are hosting and producing the event), Helsinki Metropolia University, and France’s Music Academy International, along with student bands from the Helsinki Conservatory, Sibelius Academy, and the Mussorgsky College of Music in St. Petersburg.

Monday night was the trio’s first gig, during which they performed a five-song set of Samantha’s originals to an enthusiastic audience of over 100 people at the Helsinki Pop & Jazz Conservatory’s Arabia Hall. Here they are performing “On the Sidelines”:

Up next for our Berklee crew? A gig tonight at the Caisa cultural center (where the program also includes fellow Berklee student and Pop & Jazz alum Anni Mattila), and then we head to St. Petersburg tomorrow for a gig at the JFC jazz club. More to come! In the meantime, you can check out additional footage of the Samantha Schultz Trio and the rest of the artists at the Close Encounters Youtube page.

Page 1 of 2

Copyright © 2024 Berklee College of Music