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africa scholars

Music Where It Counts: Update from Cape Town

Guguletu Clinics 2012 CTIJF

Jim Odgren works with talented young musicians from Guguletu as part of the Cape Town International Jazz Festival.

When the 6-year old trumpeter walked up on stage with this fellow band mates, we thought is was pretty cool.  When he played the melody along with the band, we smiled with surprise.  When he took chorus after chorus on a traditional South African tune our minds reeled at the potential.

How was it possible that this young boy, growing up in a place that affords so little in opportunity has been able to accomplish all that he has in so short a time?

This was the scene we encountered as we began our clinics for the Training and Development Program component of the 2012 Cape Town International Jazz Festival in the township of Guguletu.  In a packed-to-capacity community center hall, Jim led a two-hour session that feature a number of groups from the township.  We jammed with the students.  They taught us a few of their tunes, and we shared some of what we know.  Walking out of the building, we were left speechless.  My guess is that he was thinking what I was thinking.  You cannot stop the music.  It will always find a way.

Through my work in the Office of International Programs, I am given many opportunities to be out on the road for the college.  We take the very best of the college with us to share what Berklee does and we seek to learn from our experiences — bringing that experience back to Boston.  We visit colleges, universities, technical institutes and festivals.  We hold a variety of events covering a range of musical topics.  We do this to make the personal and musical connection.  At the end of the day, an experience like the one we had in Guguletu is where it is at.  It is where the music counts.

Global Outreach Through Music: Update from Cape Town

Soon after the team arrived in Cape Town, we were brought to the 2012 Cape Town International Jazz Festival’s (CTIJF) opening event at The Fugard Theater.  Festival founder Rashid Lombard, producer Billy Domingo and director of training and develop Craig Parks kicked the week off with an excellent showcase of student bands from Cape Town and Cape Flats.

Being that this is my first time to Cape Town, I did not know what to expect.  We were truly surprised by the quality of musicianship and talent showcased by the 10 student bands that performed.  Chair of music business/management Don Gorder, professor of woodwinds Jim Odgren, assistant director of admissions Gojko Damjanic and I made page upon page of notes identifying a number of exceptional students we heard.

The tough part was next.  With all of this talent, we needed to select two students to received full-tuition awards to the 5 Week Summer Performance Program and two students to receive Berklee Online Awards for an online class of their choice.  With the help of Craig Parks, we were able to select the following winners;

5 Week Full-Tuition Scholarships
• Drum Set – Megan Hilda Saayman
• Guitarist – Gavin David John Kemp

In Megan’s case, we noted her musical taste, groove and the fact that the beat never moved.  She was locked in.  For a young musician that has only been playing for three years, we were truly impressed by her musicianship.

We thought Gavin was the band leader.  He has a presence both personally and musically.  He demonstrated a fine level of skill as a lead player, accompanists and soloist.

Both of these fine, young musician were presented with their awards at the free concert held at Green Market Square on Wednesday evening.  They were greeted with gracious applause.  Megan was even asked to demonstrate her prowess as a drummer (see photo).

The winners of the Berklee Online awards are trumpeter Robin Kock and trombonist Steven Campbell.  These young talented were part of the horn section for a fantastic band from Alexander Sinton High School.

We could have easily selected a number of other musicians for award from this student band festival.  For now, we look forward to seeing Megan and Gavin in Boston this summer, and helping Robin and Steven expand their musical knowledge through their online courses.

Stay tuned for my next post about our clinics in Guguletu.

Award Receipient Megan Saayman at 2012 CTIJF

5 Week award winner Megan Saayman plays for a capcity audience at Green Market Square in Cape Town.

Africa’s Grandest Gathering: 2012 Cape Town International Jazz Festival

We are in between auditions at The Fugard Theater in Cape Town, South Africa.  As I look around the concert hall, I can see that the team at the Festival and ESP Afrika are serious professionals.  The Cape Town International Jazz Festival is a world class event and one that we at Berklee are excited to be supporting.

The event has been sold out for a few weeks.  The 2-day event will play host to 30K guests.  The concert events will all be kicked off on Wednesday evening with a free public concert which will also see about 18K attendees.  A quick glance at the list of acclaimed local and world renown artists helps to bring all of this into focus.

I am here with chair of music business and management/trumpeter Don Gorder, professor of woodwinds Jim Odgren and assistant director of admissions Gojko Damjanic.  This week are supporting the Training and Development program.  This includes checking out an impressive student jazz festival held on Sunday evening at The Fugard Theater, conducting a few days of auditions and interviews for candidates from across the African continent seeking to study at Berklee and giving a few days of lectures and master classes on a range of musical topics.

Throughout the week, I will be making posts on our work and the event.  To start things off, I thought it would be cool to give you a glimpse of the natural beauty of the Cape area and what we saw coming in from the airport as we headed into town.

Heading into Cape Town

Table Mountain

Back from Nairobi

BerkleeTeam (L to R): Michael Shaver, Ron Savage, Sam Skau, George W. Russell Jr.

BerkleeTeam (L to R): Michael Shaver, Ron Savage, Sam Skau, George W. Russell Jr.

We had an amazing week in Narobi, where we met many music educators in the region and a great number and variety of musicians who came to audition – including many who just came to be there and experience the vibe of the week.

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Discovering new Africa Scholars

People who read BoT’s South by Southwest coverage might think that the college’s writers travel far and wide to cover events. Alas, not the case. Hence this blog—we want to follow along too. I’m especially envious this week: faculty and staff are going to Kenya to give clinics and audition potential Africa Scholars.

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