Berklee Blogs

First-hand accounts of the Berklee experience

Tag: voice


Jake Tavill

Summer Programs introduces Jake Tavill from Rumson, New Jersey who came to Berklee last summer to attend the Five-Week Performance Program.

How long have you been playing your instrument?

I have been singing for 7 years and playing the piano for 6 years.

Which summer program did you attend and what drew you to Berklee?

I attended the Berklee Five-Week Performance Program. I was drawn to Berklee by the amazing people that have studied there, the renowned teachers, and the amazing reviews.

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X Factor Milan. A Factor of Life. Not Just a Coincidence.

By: Christine Typadis and Cristina Vaira

Cristina Vaira, a fifth semester student majoring in songwriting and originally from Milan Italy received a call from X Factor Milan asking her to participate in the audition of a TV show in Milan, Italy. X Factor is an Italian television music competition to find new singing talent; the winner receives a 300,000 recording contract with Sony Music.

Cristina received an email from a representative of the Magnolia Production, a tv company that produces a TV program called X Factor.  She states, “The team said they found a couple of videos of mine in YouTube where she was singing her original songs. Because he liked my performance, he asked if I was interested in doing the audition for X Factor 2012.” She completed an initial audition and then wanted her to take a second one. They shot several videos of her singing and took some interviews as well. The tv shows production company called to say they were very impressed by her performances and that they wanted her back for the next phase of TV, where she’d be asked to audition in front of four judges and an audience.

Cristina had mixed emotions about the incredible news.  She was excited about this opportunity, but sad in the same moment because she knew that her parents wouldn’t have a way to afford an unscheduled trip back to Italy. Feeling a bit discouraged, a friend told Cristina she should ask Berklee for help. Brilliant! Cristina then contacted the Office of International Programs with her proposal. To her surprise what she thought was a phone call turned into an opportunity, something she couldn’t see materialize in that one phone call. Within days, her flights were booked and she was off to Milan for unexpected but fruitful journey.

Bright and excited about the opportunity, she was thrilled at her chance for the X-factor audition. Then, all factors from the moment leaving Boston to arriving in Milan went wrong. Flights were canceled; sickness; tired from 18 hours of travel; overbooking and lost baggage. Eventually she made it – one day later. Each factor affected the next course of events.

Cristina remarks that they asked her to sing “If It Makes You Happy” by Sheryl Crow.  The song is challenging — starting very low and rising in the chorus.  “After I did the sound-check, I asked to the engineer to raise the volume for the beginning, but he said that the rules of the show doesn’t allow to change to level of the mic! Cristina states. “I couldn’t believe that he said that, but in that moment I didn’t say anything to him and that was a huge mistake for me because he really compromised my performance later,” continues Vaira. “I’ve learnt that a good sound-check can make the difference in a performance and that I shouldn’t be condescending with people just to not bother them if I don’t get the sound that can increase the value of my performance!”

Cristina explains, “For those who are performers, in my opinion, if you’re looking to check out television, the main point I’d like to emphasize is that TV rules can be highly dramatic and exaggerated. You need to know a lot about television, whether that is X Factor, American Idol, shows like this.  If you don’t know this show and how they act and what they are looking for, it’s pretty hard to enter this area.  You can be a victim in this environment if you don’t know the rules.  This is what I learned about this type of competition.” Cristina adds, “I saw Miss Italy be in this audition and she was the first performer of the day. I was the only one who came from another continent and while I was there I could barely stay awake and they call me to perform at 10 pm — after 12 hours I waited in the same room without any possibilities to go out!! After me there was just 2 people and we were 50!”

What Cristina realized that maybe this call wasn’t her debut or hit song, but this opportunity made her grow as a musician and helped her to learn about herself. Even if the competition did not go her way. Cristina states, “Maybe my destiny was not to go in the show, but probably to finish Berklee.  That, so far, is the most concrete thing that is leading me to build a career in the music field.”  Cristina goes on to say” “…when I put together the factors that I experienced, I came up with a few things to pass on to my fellow travelling musicians. Make the call back and go for it. When someone or something finds you, find the courage to believe in that.”

Take the good with the bad. Check

Book a day earlier. Check

Good sound check. Check

Be prepared. Check

Rest. Check

Expect the worst, do your best. Check




Ken Greenhouse

Former Voice Department chair Ken Greenhouse

Choral conductor Ken Greenhouse began teaching at Berklee in 1982, and went on to chair the Voice Department from 1984 to 1996 before moving to Atlanta in 1999. He passed away July 16. (Read the obituary.) Yumiko Matsuoka, now a Berklee professor, met Ken when she began studying at Berklee herself.

I came to Berklee wanting to learn how to write, especially in a cappella style. Because I was not a voice principal, one of the few options to sing was in Ken’s ensemble, the College Singers. Ken was a wonderful director and phenomenal accompanist. He was very demanding and always asked us to be our best. I also took his Vocal Group Arranging class (now Vocal Writing) where he taught all the basics that I now use in my own writing. I was fortunate to be asked to sing everyone’s projects in Ken’s class, and he also encouraged me to write for the ensemble. If it weren’t for Ken, my confidence as an a cappella arranger/composer may not have blossomed. It was also in the College Singers that I met some of those who became members of my a cappella quintet, Vox One.

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Athens: Of Snow and Spots

After four beautiful days of sunshine and highs in the mid-70s, the weather took a decidedly New English turn on Friday and Saturday of my week in Athens. Snowflakes sprinkled down and cold winter winds whipped into our faces. Goodbye Mediterranean feel, hello Vermont in February. But it didn’t slow things down on Saturday for the Berklee crowd, especially student violinist Adam Moskowitz, who performed Mozart and Schubert in a morning recital; and Ben Thomas, who played a jazz gig into the wee hours.

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