Berklee Blogs

First-hand accounts of the Berklee experience

Tag: percussion


Desde Peru para el mundo: Alex Acuña

Alejandro Neciosup Acuña, conocido como Alex Acuña (Pativilca, Perú, 12 de diciembre de 1944), es un músico autodidacta peruano. Nacido en Pativilca, Perú, a la edad de 4 años empezó a tocar la batería y la percusión. A los 10 años de edad comenzó a tocar con la orquesta de su padre y hermanos “Tropical Boys de los Hermanos Neciosup”. Con 16 años llegó a ser uno de los músicos peruanos más solicitados como instrumentista de sesión para diversos programas de televisión, teatro, películas y grabaciones de discos. También participó como músico de conciertos en vivo, llegando a ser un artista de alto nivel.

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Remembering Sa Davis

Sa Davis performs at the City Music Open House in December 2009. Photo (c) Phil Farnsworth.

The Percussion Department is starting the new school year without colleague Sa Davis, who passed away this summer at the early age of 56 (read the Berklee obituary). Here are some remembrances from his fellow percussion faculty, collected by Percussion Department chair John Ramsay. We welcome Sa’s other colleagues, former students, and friends to post their own tributes in the comments.

Sa was just a gentle spirit and a kind human that everybody loved. He was quite humble about all his accomplishments, most notably his five-year tenure as a member of Billy Cobham’s group (see video below). He is greatly missed and loved by all of us here.
—John Ramsay

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Bang on a drum: a percussionist’s week at Berklee

At home in Philly, Shakoor Sanders fills his days with music. Along with attending the Girard Academic Music Program magnet high school, the 17-year-old studies two nights a week at the Settlement Music School and Saturdays at the Kimmel Center Youth Jazz Ensemble and the Philadelphia Clef Club. Classically trained, he also plays and performs jazz, hip-hop, Afro-Cuban, and Latin styles.

So you might think Berklee’s weeklong Percussion Festival would be a snooze for him. Not so… or, uh, obviously we wouldn’t be interviewing him for the blog. He received a scholarship to study here with Eguie Castrillo, a timbales master who has performed with artists as huge as Tito Puente.

We caught up with Shakoor halfway through his week at Berklee to ask how it was going. This is a condensed and edited account of our conversation.

Berklee Blogs: Why did you want to come to the Berklee Percussion Festival?

Shakoor Sanders: There’s no other place like Berklee ’cause they don’t have no other percussion camps out there. I think it’s going to help me in the long-term. Having seen Mr. Eguie Castrillo and watching him and looking up to him as an idol of mine, and now getting a chance to study with him is amazing. You don’t get too many opportunities like that. And hopefully one day I’ll be here.

BB: How did you prepare for your audition?

SS: You’ve got to look at the Berklee [website] like every month so you give yourself time to practice and record with a group. You can get your [audition] tape done by December. It takes about six or seven practices. People don’t understand that. A lot of people say, “I put the tape in at the last minute.” You can’t do that.

It’s about perfecting your song. That’s what it was about for me. I made about 10 videos, seriously, 10 videos, before I sent in mine. I kept on re-cutting. That’s what I’m saying about the time. If you don’t like the video, you sit back and you watch and you say “nah, nah, nah, nah,” click it off, you know, keep doing it. Keep on doing it over until you perfect everything.

I looked at every audition on YouTube possible. For two weeks I just stayed up and looked at them. I saw guys who performed in their pajamas! And they’re in their basements. At least go to your school’s studio or something like that. Just be professional. And dress appropriate.

Watch Shakoor’s audition video for Berklee’s summer programs

BB: What’s your schedule been like this week?

SS: My schedule’s been busy. It’s consisted of different master classes—go to every master class that Berklee offers because you learn something different. I’ve been up until 4 in the morning. . . we’re playing at night and practicing. I’ve been jamming with this bass player named Kenny “Gizmo” Rodgers. He’s here full-time. And this other cat named Gandhi. He’s from Dominican Republic. Great drummer.

Starting it off with Eguie Castrillo, in the morning at 10:00 o’clock, it’s three other percussionists with me. I guess this is the advanced group or whatever. We come in, do our warmup, we talk, and then we get down to the nitty-gritty and play. And every time we get down and we play you learn something new about each person. Like your personality comes out in the drum. It’s just so much playing with others that’s on the same level as you–or that’s behind you but it’s a brotherhood, you pick those people up. You show them the right way and you guide them and you try to help them out. Because my goal is to be one of the best percussionists in the world one day.

Pssst…PASIC Earplugs anyone?!

Ahhh the sound of cymbals crashing, mallets dancing across marimbas, bass drums thumping and the rat a tat tat of a snare.  These are the sounds the Berklee Booth was serenaded by at the Percussive Arts Society International Convention (PASIC)!

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