Berklee Blogs

First-hand accounts of the Berklee experience

Author: J.P. (Page 1 of 2)

Daryl Lowery: Getting Ready to Record Your Band “Live” in the Studio

As a performer and songwriter, I live for the moments I get to see my work come to life as well as the process it took to get there. Any musician will tell you that albums are never easy to make. You will find that things don’t go as planned, and it is in those moments where true magic, creativity, and open-mindedness meld to breathe life into your studio project. I had an awesome opportunity to attend a clinic on this very subject featuring the Daryl Lowery jazz!Quartet.

This quartet—featuring Berklee faculty Mark Walker on drums, Consuelo Candelaria-Barry on piano, Keala Kaumeheiwa on bass, and Daryl Lowery on saxophone—performed some original music at Cafe 939 in preparation for an upcoming recording session slated for this month. Daryl, a Berklee ear training professor, has played with the likes of such jazz cats as Ran Blake, Boston’s funk legend Ellis Hall, Dizzy Gillespie, and Jackie Byard. How cool is it to be within feet of someone who has played with the greats and be able to ask pretty much whatever I wanted? This was a free concert, Q/A session, and a meet-and-greet rolled into one. I was in awe and knew that I couldn’t and wouldn’t let this opportunity go to waste.

I caught up with Daryl after the clinic and picked his brain about of how the band is preparing for the experience of “cutting” live. We also talked about limited rehearsal time/rehearsal strategies, and how pre-production strategies are key to putting together a killer live studio album.


Daryl Lowery jazz!Quartet

Here is an edited version of the conversation.


On putting an album together

 When recording an album, is there a form to putting it together? Should you have an equal mix of ballads and up-tempo songs?

I wrote so many ballads leading up to today including the one we just played. For me you can’t put a record together with five ballads so I suppose I need to make sure I mix it up.

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The Dynamic Duo: Nell Benjamin and Larry O’Keefe

Larry O’Keefe and Nell Benjamin met at an improv audition at Harvard University. The pair has been making magic ever since and have gone on to create musicals such as Cam Jansen, The Mice, Sarah Plain and Tall, and Life of the Party.

O’Keefe and Benjamin visited Berklee’s 1140 building on Tuesday, April 2, 2013 for an intimate and candid discussion about how to become a successful writer and composer in the musical theater industry. The dynamic duo represents the first artists to participate in the Curtain Up visiting artist series. The Curtain Up concert is an annual concert featuring the winning songs of the Curtain Up Musical Theater Songwriting Contest. It was held in the David Friend Recital Hall on April 1; Larry and Nell attended and were able to offer some feedback to the students who attended the clinic.

O’Keefe ‘93 has made a name for himself in the musical theater community. Earning an education from USC, Harvard, and Berklee, he honed his skills to create works like the Drama Desk Award-nominated Bat Boy: The Musical, which ran off-Broadway in 2001. This production received an Outer Critics’ Circle Award and the Lucille Lortel Award for Best Off-Broadway Musical.

O’Keefe is very busy working on multiple projects, including Andy, which will feature Steve Carell and which is based on the musical Annie, and an adaptation of the novel Heathers into Heathers: The Musical, which will be opening up in Los Angeles.

Benjamin’s television credits include the last and weirdest season of Unhappily Ever After, Animal Planet’s Whoa!, Sunday with Mo Rocca, and the new Electric Company. She received the 2003 Kleban Foundation Award for lyrics and a 2003 Jonathan Larson Foundation grant. She is currently working on a musical adaptation of Because of Winn Dixie with Duncan Sheik and on Pirates!, a witty adaptation of Pirates of Penzance.

For anyone who has a hard time writing melodies or knowing when (or when not) to edit a piece…this clinic was for you. Personally, I have a hard time with melody manipulation and song structure when I’m writing and they answered questions with clarity and examples. After talking with Larry and Nell after the clinic, I was inspired and motivated to pick up the script I had been writing (one that I had previously put away for good), revisit it, and bring some new life to it.

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Hearing Is Believing: A Look at Hearing Health

Hearing is one of the most important tools that musicians utilize, and one we normally take for granted. Hearing is fundamental in everything that we do—musician or not. On February 6, I had the opportunity to sit in on a clinic, led by senior audiologist J. Ackland Jones, Au.D., CCC-A, that dealt with this very subject and my mind was simply blown away.

As a vocalist, I heavily rely on my ears to guide me in the direction I want to go musically. Without hearing, it would be very difficult to continue to sing and stay in tune with a band or another person on a consistent basis. It’s important to remember how easily we can lose hearing without even realizing it. If you are anything like me, I really enjoy going to concerts and events where I get to listen to great music and be around some really eclectic people. However, I have gone to plenty of shows without ear protection. I’ve been right next to the speaker tree simply because I did not know better and because the tickets were cheap in that area of the venue. I assumed that my hearing would last forever and that the concert would not sound as great with something in my ear. I could not have been more wrong.


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Christine Vitale: Making Every Second Count

Attending Christine Vitale’s Optimal Performance Workshop gave me a better sense of how to deal with the intangible, but very debilitating, things that happen to a performer before, during, and after a performance. But before I get into the meat and potatoes of this topic, if you have never heard of Christine Vitale, she is an accomplished concert violinist and a performance psychologist who applies mind-based strategies to aid any musician in how to overcome or manage anxiety, concentration issues, and perform at a consistent level.

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Beth Bruno: Building Blocks of a Great Vocalist

I recently had the opportunity to attend a vocal mastery class led by Beth Bruno. Now for those that don’t know who Beth Bruno is, she is an accomplished singer, whose career spans more than 30 years. Critics have celebrated her as one of Brazil’s greatest artists of the new generation.  She has also had the opportunity to collaborate with musical giants the likes Brazilian songwriters Milton Nascimento, Djavan, Gilberto Gil, Ivan Lins, Roberto Carlos, and performed on tour with jazz icon Al Jarreau.  This master class focused on a lot of important areas that every vocalist should pay attention to.

BB Vocal Master Class_2Bruno touched on many areas like passion/connection to the message of a song; pitch accuracy; breathing; and vocal technique, but her two messages that stuck out for me were about breathing and delivery. Delivery is huge for any performer, especially me, because it dictates whether my audience will stay engaged in what I am doing. Delivery has everything to do with how a song is presented. Whenever I look at who I consider to be the greatest vocalists of all time (Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin, Ella Fitzgerald, Freddie Mercury, Luther Vandross, Pavarotti, Whitney Houston etc.) what comes to mind is how easy these individuals made it look. They did not let the technical part of singing get in the way of the delivery. I grew up singing gospel music so I always had a sense of style with a carefree approach because I was at a point where I did not have to think about what I could do with my voice; rather, I just sang with everything I had and left nothing on the table. I now struggle with this very principle, which on paper seems very simple. But when you really get down to the nuts and bolts of this concept, it can really be a long process.

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