Louis Middleton ’10 performs and records with Zander Bleck. In this post, he gives some words of inspiration to the Berklee community on following their dreams.
I am Berklee College of Music alumnus, a professional working musician, and entrepreneur. Long story short, I am probably like every one of you; just trying to make a successful career out of whatever it is each and every one of us loves doing. This is the first post of a three part series of blog “rants” that I am going to be writing for the Berklee Blog. In this first post, I’d like to give you a bit of an overview of what I’ve been doing since I left Berklee. I’d like to stress that I left Berklee with not only positive intentions, but with a positive idea and reflection on my time at Berklee, and no, Berklee didn’t pay me to say that.
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.