City Music Master Class Panel

On Monday, November 9th, at 7:30pm, The Gramercy Theater will be full of passion, insight, and ambition! Six Berklee City Music student bands (Berklee City Music Boston, Boys & Girls Harbor, Camden Repertory Theater, The Philadelphia Clef Club of Jazz and Performing Arts, The Phoenix Conservatory of Music, and Tipitina’s Foundation) have been selected to participate in the Summit’s master class this year. The ensembles will receive coaching from an industry musician to prepare them for the stage that evening.

City Music is excited to share a new presentation this year; we have added a panel to the Summit which features all six City Music Master Class coaches reflecting on their coaching session experience. In the panel, moderated by Music Forward Foundation’s Marjorie Gilberg, coaches will discuss the techniques they used to work with the student ensembles in their three-hour sessions that morning.

Let’s meet the Coaches:

Alissia Benveniste hails from Geneva, was raised between Milan and London, and currently resides in New York City. As a bass player, band leader, and songwriter, Benveniste serves as the “future face of funk music” (Huffington). She is a “funk newcomer with some serious skills and impressive co-signs” (Billboard). Benveniste has garnered millions of views online and has caught the attention of many industry artists and musicians. She is the leader of Alissia and the Funketeers, her 14-piece funk project. Her debut EP features lots of guests and is due for an early 2016 release.

Kirk Whalum’s soulful sound can be traced to his gospel roots growing up the son of a Baptist preacher in Memphis, Tennessee. Kirk’s inspired and passionate saxophone has been heard worldwide via his own gospel and jazz recordings and concerts as well as studio work with artists Take 6, Al Jarreau, Quincy Jones, and his unforgettable solo on Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You”. An ordained minister, Whalum holds a master’s degree in religion. Whalum has received two Dove Award nominations and has won two Stellar Awards. Nominated for 12 Grammy’s, Whalum won his first Grammy (for Best Gospel Song) for “It’s What I Do”.

Mindi Abair is a Grammy nominee whose career spans seven solo albums and countless collaborations on stage and in the studio. Abair has made her mark on a broad stretch of the musical landscape that includes jazz, pop, rock, R&B, soul, funk, and more. In addition to her acclaimed body of solo work that includes 10 No. 1 radio hits and close to half a million albums sold, Abair was the featured saxophonist on the 2011 and 2012 seasons of American Idol, jammed with Paul Shaffer on the Late Show with David Letterman and joined rock legends Aerosmith for their 2012 summer tour. And if writing, recording, and touring weren’t enough, Abair also began a two-year term in 2013 as president of the Los Angeles chapter of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (NARAS).

Bobby Sanabria, seven-time Grammy-nominated bandleader- drummer, percussionist, composer, arranger, educator, documentary film producer, multicultural warrior, and activist, is a native Nuyorican born and raised in New York’s South Bronx. His unique perspective comes from having performed and/or recorded with every single major figure in the development of what today is known as Latin jazz. Sanabria has recorded three Grammy-nominated CDs for the genre’s acknowledged creator, maestro Mario Bauza and has worked for 10 years as the drummer for Bauza’s Afro-Cuban Jazz Orchestra. Sanabria started his career with Mongo Santamaria, and has also worked with Tito Puente, Chico O’Farrill, Ray Barretto, Larry Harlow, Candido, Dizzy Gillespie, Marco Rizo, and many more.

Jody Espina, a magna cum laude graduate from Berklee College of Music in 1983, performed and taught music in Barcelona, Spain and then toured the U.S. with the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra before settling in New York City in 1985. For the next 23 years, Espina pursued a successful career performing, recording, and teaching music, including Broadway shows, recording movie soundtracks, and as the head of the Jazz Department for the Hoff Barthelson Music School. In 2000, Espina founded JodyJazz Inc., which has become one of the premier saxophone mouthpiece companies in the world.

Tuffus Zimbabwe is a pianist, composer, and educator from the Boston area. A Berklee City Music alumnus and college scholarship recipient, Zimbabwe completed his bachelor’s degree at Berklee and then received his master of music degree from New York University. Zimbabwe is in his sixth year as a keyboardist in the Saturday Night Live house band, and also his sixth year as a pianist and assistant musical director for Trilogy Opera Company.


The 2015 City Music Summit will be held at Teachers College, Columbia University in New York City on November 9-11. Register today.

A special thanks to the day’s sponsor, the House of Blues Music Forward Foundation, for providing the chance for students to connect with industry professionals and sharpen skills that will be of great use in their futures. The Music Forward Foundation will also provide “Bootcamp” sessions, a learning tool for students to gain hands-on experience as well as knowledge from other music industry experts.

Check out past master class performances.

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