Berklee Blogs

First-hand accounts of the Berklee experience

Author: Lesley Mahoney (Page 2 of 10)

Remembering Piano Faculty Member Ray Santisi

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Ray Santisi
, a cherished member of Berklee’s Piano Department, passed away unexpectedly Tuesday night. Ray was an accomplished pianist who strived for authenticity and spontaneity in his music, and encouraged his students to do the same. Piano Department faculty and staff remembered their colleague this week: 

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Professor Prince Charles Alexander: The State of Black Music in America

PCAPrince Charles Alexander is a musician, recording artist, record producer, audio engineer and educator. He is a professor in the Music Production and Engineering Department at Berklee College of Music in Boston, Massachusetts.

Something happened to black music in America!

In 1979, I hated “Rapper’s Delight”! You could have shut down hip-hop right there for me and called that a novelty record. How dare they steal Nile Rodgers’s hard-earned intellectual property! Besides, I had just put out my first single and that record was taking up my airtime at local radio.

In 1985, while walking down 7th Avenue in Times Square, I saw the Billboard magazine headline, “Walk This Way” Reaches No. 1. I knew then that the handwriting was on the wall, and, sure enough, most of the funk and soul artists got dropped from their record labels within a two-year span. A cheaper, more cost-effective way of making music had proven its economic viability.

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Professor Bill Banfield: Music in Cultural Zombieland

billb-300x200Bill Banfield is a professor of Africana Studies/ Music and Society and director of the Center for Africana Studies and programs at Berklee. An award-winning composer, jazz guitarist /recording artist, and public radio show host, he has authored five books for Scarecrow Press on music, arts, cultural criticism, and history.

 

I’ve been concerned about the slip in the quality of mainstream popular music artists and culture. Hip-hop song, style, and imagery, much of black popular music today, has little interest in telling the people who they are, where they are, and who they can become. The music culture has slipped into zombieland on these issues. I’ve watched—with tears in my eyes and blood in my ears—the slow decline of excellence, artistic focus, and commitment in the fields of popular music. For the bleeding hearts and “hip-hop bandwagon heads” again, I’m talking about mainstream, radio (non)friendly, commercial hip-hop—what younger people listen to. The cultural form of hip-hop, underground and politically astute; and “value griot–based,” spoken word and creative progressive music forms, are completely outside of my attack here.

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Professor Bill Banfield: Reflections On Harry Belafonte and the Needs for ‘New schools of Arts Activism”

billb-300x200Bill Banfield is a professor of Africana Studies/ Music and Society and director of the Center for Africana Studies and programs at Berklee. An award-winning composer, jazz guitarist /recording artist, and public radio show host, he has authored five books for Scarecrow Press on music, arts, cultural criticism, and history.

 

During the week of March, 3, 2014, Berklee engaged itself in a series of concerts, talk-ins, and film showings on the life and work of Harry Belafonte. The culminating celebration was a night of his music performed expertly by an incredible array of Berklee’s best, and then the awarding of an honorary doctorate to Belafonte. My purpose here is to raise up a few ideas: sustaining themes that connect us to the practice and methods of artistic social action. I was blessed to have been able to sit and have a long chat with this inspiring figure. Harry Belafonte, and the work of artists and social activism in the world, is a model of immense importance and relevance today. Artists and educators have an important duty to shape our times with knowledge of this side of the work of music. Harry Belafonte and people who marched and worked in the civil rights days had to put themselves in the shoes of other people, and possessed a kind of not sympathy, but empathy.

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Professor Bill Banfield and Harry Belafonte

 

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Berklee Represents at the Panama Jazz Festival

Lydia Liebman is a student at both Emerson College and Berklee College of Music, and CEO of Lydia Liebman Promotions. She is the publicist for the Berklee Global Jazz Institute, which she accompanied on its recent trip to the Panama Jazz Festival, where it participated in a series of concerts and clinics. The festival was founded in 2003 by Grammy-winning pianist Danilo Pérez, who is also the founder and artistic director of the BGJI. Read Liebman’s account of the festival below. 

Day 1

The festival unofficially kicked things off the previous night with the opening of the Danilo Pérez Jazz Club in Panama City. BGJI artistic director Danilo Pérez and BGJI managing director Marco Pignataro musically broke ground with a moving duo performance followed by a jam session with master saxophonist George Garzone.

The following morning, Danilo Pérez and George Garzone took part in the press conference, officially beginning the Panama Jazz Festival. Danilo explained the importance of the festival to the people of not just Panama, but all of Latin America: “This is not my festival—this is our festival for all of Latin America.” When BGJI faculty member George Garzone held the mic, he shared an anecdote about his first previous time in Panama, which was with Danilo in 1993. Garzone remarked especially about how Panama has changed and flourished over those 20-plus years due largely in part to the cultural exchange the festival promotes.

Danilo Perez at the Panama Jazz Festival.

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