Amazing Grace: A Goal to Give Back to the Community After Berklee City Music

Grace_Mann_HeadShotAfter spending many years involved with the talented performers and professionals at Berklee, Grace Mann is excited to be finishing up her studies and graduate from college. Since the 7th grade, Grace has been part of the City Music Boston family and it has opened doors to perfecting her craft as a songwriter, as well as exposing her to the aspects of non-profit management for the arts. “After all this time, it’s pretty crazy that I am graduating from the school. I’ve met some amazing people. I’m so thankful for my experiences.”

In middle school, Grace was fortunate to be recognized for her talents by Berklee City Music Boston and she later participated in multiple Five-Week-Summer-Performance events. “I realized at Five-Week that I could do anything that I wanted to do in music. I really enjoyed songwriting and I wanted to explore more outside of performing on stage. Talent definitely can be in different forms.” Eventually, she was awarded a scholarship to Berklee College of Music and Grace was exposed to numerous intensive programs focused on electronic production, songwriting, and vocals. Also, she noticed an opportunity to become involved in the Berklee Women and Action group on campus to support the initiatives of young women at the college.

Grace_Mann-colorIt was the Berklee City Music program that later inspired Grace to get involved in other outreach organizations such as Head Count, which registers people to vote at concerts, in addition to participating on several campus activities at the college. Grace enjoyed collaborating with other students to host and invite special guests that offered advice to young women with aspirations to pursue a career in music. She was also inspired by her teacher Melissa Ferrick, who she first met at a songwriting competition at school. “I had never written a song to be performed on stage and she was one of my judges. Melissa was a wonderful mentor to me and I developed a close relationship with her. I was able to work with her on other student-run productions helping with the audition process, rehearsals and supporting the performers.”

While at Berklee, Grace has been very busy balancing her classes, working part-time for the President of the school, and she has written and produced a few songs. Not too long ago, one of Grace’s songs that she co-wrote with another Berklee student was selected by an artist to perform at the Essence festival in Atlanta. “I couldn’t attend the event while I was in classes, but it was crazy to see someone perform my song on a huge stage! I love to see something that I created come to life through someone else’s ability to share the story.”

Soon, Grace will start a new chapter in her life with a move to New York City and a desire to accomplish some amazing things in her future. She will be attending graduate school at the New School to study Arts Management and Entrepreneurship and she can’t wait to explore a new city, make new friends, and discover the next stage in her life.

Listen to Grace share her experiences at Berklee in this
and her plans for the future. 



Forum Recap: Getting Ready for Five-Week

The City Music Network Forum is a monthly webinar attended by members of the Berklee City Music Network. This month’s guests, Kasey Cox and Madison Denbrock, spoke about getting ready to send students to the Berklee Five-Week Summer Performance Program as a Berklee City Music Summer Scholar.

Dates to remember
Decisions Emails Sent Out: May 9th
Student’s Enrollment Paperwork Deadline: June 1st
Site’s Payment Deadline: Priority, June 1st, City Music June 15th

Program Dates: July 7th – August 10th
The First Week:
Saturday, July 7th: Check in to housing, program and orientation
Sunday, July 8th: Placement – ensemble & theory/musicianship
Monday, July 9th: Academic Orientations – Theory, Musicianship, Instrumental Department and Performance Perspectives
Tuesday, July 10th: Pick-up schedules
– City Music Tuesday Meetings at 1pm
Tuesday, August 7th: City Music Scholarship Concert

Prepare your students for a college experience. Their individual schedules will be similar to that of a Berklee College student, with specific class times and breaks in between. Learning how to manage their free time is new and important to understand for many students. They can utilize that free time to use practice rooms, or attend activities hosted by the Student Activities Center. Additionally, the college has a number of resources (counseling, etc.) available to the students who should be encouraged to seek them out.

College Credit. Students who earn a “B” in their courses can earn 3 college credits from Berklee. Students who go on to complete a second year at Five-Week can earn an additional 3 courses upon earning a “B” the second year. Up to six (6) total credits can be awarded to high school students who attend Five-Week. Encourage your students to be aware of this opportunity.

Auditions. Sunday,  July 8th – students will have a placement audition to determine what courses and ensembles they will be put into. Although students are always nervous, remind them this is just for placement; they’ve already auditioned and earned their summer scholarship!
 A second audition opportunity is available from Berklee during five week, hosted by the Admissions office. Students can use this to practice their audition skills, but they also have the opportunity to earn scholarships to Five-Week next summer or to Berklee College

Quick Tips:

  • Ask for help
  • Manage your time well
  • Try-out for opportunities – this is a time to explore!
  • Build relationships 


Madison and other students with her site director, Regina Nixon, of Phoenix Conservatory of Music during Five-Week

Madison, a five-week alum and now Berklee student, joined us to share her tips about Five-Week as a City Music student. Her advice is listed below:

Key things to bring:

  • Ethernet cable

  • Computer, adapter

  • Fan (you may not bring that but you’ll probably want to buy one)

  • Portable phone charger

  • Extra XLR and/or ¼” cable

  • Only what you can carry! Don’t overpack

Don’t bring:

  • Multiple instruments
  • Amps

 You’re going to spend more than you think you will

  • Plan for trips on the T (subway)
  • Extra shows in Boston
  • Eating with friends

Preventing Burnout. 

Almost everyone gets sick during week 3; bring Emergen-C or similar
 to boost your immune system. Know your body. If you need more sleep to function well, make sure you take the time and get what you need. There will be late nights, and there is always something going on but make sure you take the time to care for yourself so you can make the most of your experience

Don’t talk about ratings. Everyone receives a rating from their audition; it’s tacky and difficult to talk about them. They’re only used to place you in an ensemble and as a starting place – not a determination of how “good” you are.

Auditions and Anxiety. If you’re well prepared, they will likely ask you to improv over songs you’re already familiar with
. Remember that everyone is scared, it’s “pointless” to worry. Auditioning is part of being a musician

Dealing with being far away from home

  • Travel in packs
  • Talk to your family/support group about how to stay safe
  • Stay busy to combat homesickness
  • Seek advice/support from City Music staff, and utilize the campus counseling resources

Britani Washington Has Something Important to “Say to You”

“I never doubt my talent as an artist and the ability to use my voice to educate others.” – Britani Washington, Berklee College of Music Student (Class 2018)

Britani_WashingtonAt an early age, Britani took classes at East Bay Center for the Performing Arts, a Berklee City Music Network partner, and she gained a greater appreciation for jazz and other genres of music. The program was invaluable and it eventually helped her and her sister to secure scholarships at Berklee College of Music to pursue their education and passion for the arts. At a very young age, Britani started singing in church with her family. It has been her faith in God that has kept her focused on reaching her goals. Yet, it wasn’t until she came to Berklee that she gained the confidence to make a career as a soloist.

Britani recalls, “I never thought that I would become an artist on my own. I was comfortable singing in groups and in the church choir. Yet, the experiences in school have helped to shape my artistry and my musical abilities to believe in my talents.”

Britani is now taking center stage singing and dancing at performances on campus and she’s excited to share her new songs to a large audience. She suggests to young performers to “find a mentor, or I would watch numerous videos of other artists perform. We all have difficult days but believe in yourself, treat it like a 9-5 job, and make that commitment!” 

Over the years, Britani recalls some of the remarkable teachers that had inspired her to become the woman and vocalist she is today. She reflected on some of her experiences singing in church, high school, the classes at East Bay Center for the Performing Arts, as well as her collaboration with the faculty at Berklee College of Music. Each experience has instilled wonderful values that have kept her focused on pursuing a future career in the music business. For 45 years, the East Bay Center has been partnering with local school districts in the Bay Area creating a high-quality arts education programs for all. Students learn about vocal performance, playing instruments, dance, theater and digital media. Britani also enjoyed working alongside Tia Fuller, Tanya Butler, and other Berklee professors, while listening to some of her favorite artists from the Bay Area such as HerMusic and KehlaniMusic.


Listen to her full interview and learn more about her childhood experiences, as well as Britani’s future aspirations. Britani is thrilled to release her first music video featuring her song “Say to You,” and she hopes to encourage others to be strong, confident, and follow their dreams!

Watch now “Say to You,” a song and music video by Britani Washington

John Michael Bradford, Berklee City Music Alumnus Featured on CNN

After a time of great tragedy,  John Michael Bradford was fortunate to discover his musical talent as a trombone player. Hurricane Katrina was threatening his community in Louisiana and he was forced to evacuate his home with his family. They quickly left everything behind and moved to San Antonio, Texas to stay at a family friend’s house.

On his trip, John Michael met Sam Williams, a trombone player that had been a part of the brass band called the Dirty Dozen, and he is now the leader of the band called Big Sam’s Funky Nation. “We were listening to some music in the car, singing along and I pretended to play the trombone,” recalls John Michael. Music was always part of John Michael’s life, as his mom and sister are singers, and his grandfather played the trumpet in high school. At a very challenging time when his family had to uproot their lives, music became a wonderful way to bring everyone together and Sam changed his life forever.

John Michael Bradford: Music and Performance Student 
John Michael Bradford: Berklee Student

Today, John Michael is a celebrated artist in the brass community and he is recognized for his talents. He has performed in New Orleans, Japan, Cuba, Switzerland, The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, as well as played at the GRAMMYS, and Carnegie Hall. A former Berklee City Music alumnus, John Michael is soon to complete Berklee College of Music with a Bachelor degree of Music in Performance. His first album came out last year called, “Something Old, Something New,” and he was awarded a full-tuition scholarship.


“Sam was the first time I had been around a trombone, and his sound is so big and warm. It really made me feel good to hear music and that New Orleans funky style.”
John Michael Bradford

John Michael Bradford: Berklee College of Music

Recently, John Michael was featured on CNN in a personal interview, as he recounts his experiences and ability to rise above the tragic events of Katrina “My favorite thing is about playing and making people feel good. It’s incredible because I always think back to Katrina,” recalls John. After the storm passed, John Michael went back to his hometown to nurture his talents and signed up for lessons using his grandfather’s instrument. He wanted to play the trombone and he became one of the youngest members to join the Tipitina’s Foundation. Donald Harrison, a Berklee alum and the Program Director, recognized John’s gift of musical performance. The after-school program is a Berklee City Music Network member and focuses on jazz performance for young artists. Many students that have completed the program have been selected to receive summer scholarships to Berklee City Music’s Five-Week intensive training.

John Michael recalls, “As far back as I can remember, I looked up to Donald and I wanted to follow in his footsteps at Berklee College of Music. Donald taught me everything about jazz and I gained his respect.” At 21-years-old, John Michael has been fortunate to meet and perform with many popular musicians early on in his career. He had the opportunity to work with The Meters guitarist, Leo Nocentelli, a Recording Academy’s Lifetime Achievement Award recipient, as well as with trumpeters Christian Scott, and study under the guidance of Sean JonesBerklee’s chair of the Brass Department.

Over the years, John Michael has been influenced by other musicians including Louis Armstrong, Clifford Brown, Herbie HancockJustin Timberlake and Bruno Mars. “Bruno is great and he has an amazing ability to do all styles of music that appeals to different audiences. I would love an opportunity to work with him in the future, as well as JT.”  

Music is the universal language that brings people together from around the world. John Michael aspires to become one of the many great jazz performers idolized by others after he graduates Berklee. At a young age, he has meet with many influential people during a difficult circumstance and turn it into a rewarding opportunity. “For me, it was a tragedy turned into a blessing,” John Michael says. “I think music can turn a tragedy into something that’s beautiful because it can touch so many people.”

Learn more about the Berklee City Music Network, and the online educational portal for music teachers called the PULSE.

Berklee City Music Boston Student Spotlight – Danny Rivera

Name: Danny Rivera
Grade: 11th
School: Boston Arts Academy
Instrument: Voice

How long have you been with City Music:

I’ve been in City Music for two years now. This summer will be my 3rd five-week.

Who are your musical influences?

I really love Frank Ocean, Sampha, Solange, Hiatus Kaiyote, Johnnyswim, Thundercat, and Thirdstory.

What are your goals/dreams for the future?

I want to become a professional musician and tour singing. I’d also be interested in teaching music, or entering into the music/songwriting business.

What is your favorite thing(s) about City Music?

It’s a diverse open community, not only in physical appearance (skin, race, etc) but also in tastes and styles of music.

Are you in a band? If so, tell us a little about your band:

No, but I do some gigs where I share my music as a solo artist, which is a privilege. I love being able to write and sing what’s in my heart.

What kind of tips/strategies do you have for your peers thinking about applying for City Music?

If music is something you want to pursue and you want to take your craft seriously, invest and take advantage of every opportunity you can get. It’s only what you make it, so try everything and continue to shed. Use the library, practice rooms, and network! That’s the most important thing to do.

What steps have you taken to improve your music skills?

I shed. Every day I work on developing a more advanced, mature tone quality and making the best of what I have to offer. It’s vital to find the thing that you’re good at as well as acknowledging your weaknesses and continuing to work on your craft daily.

How does your involvement in music affect your other day-to-day activities?

I’m a musician first. If I wasn’t involved in music I don’t know what I would be doing with my life. There’s not one day that I’m not singing or not having a vocal tech class, whether private lesson or with an ensemble. I’m always singing!

Do you have a teacher/instructor that has inspired you?

Nichelle Mungo, Imani Wilson, David Alexis are all hardworking musicians who have not only taught me musically, but they have also poured into me spiritually. They teach me new things every day and when I mess up they help pick me up and tell me what I can continue to work on.

What has your experience been like being on the student committee and your recent performance at the David Friend Recital Hall, “Vibe of the Night?”

It was awesome!  I had numerous responsibilities/roles that kept me very busy and were somewhat stressful,  but it was worth it. Jennie.O killed it! I got lots of compliments on my original music from the group of people who played with me which was very encouraging to hear!

City Music attends the Berklee Global Summit

Berklee City Music traveled to Valencia, Spain to participate in the Berklee Global Summit. Hosted by Berklee’s Global Initiatives department, the department that organizes Berklee’s International Programs, City Music participated as a department in the college with a domestic network of education partners that offer music education to pre-college youth. Many of the global partners also offer youth programming and are interested in learning more about the City Music methods and Berklee PULSE.


BCM Panel
Berklee City Music Panel at Berklee Global Summit

In addition to Dr. Krystal Banfield and Amanda Lacanilao representing Berklee, Charyn Harris of A Place Called Home and Regina Nixon of Phoenix Conservatory of Music also attended and spoke about their programs and their experience with the Berklee City Music Network. Their reflections are included below:

Charyn Harris, A Place Called Home & Project MuzEd

Inspiring, Impactful and Innovative.  This is what comes to mind in reflecting on my experience of attending the Berklee Global Summit in Valencia, Spain.  It was inspiring to meet so many dynamic and brilliant minds from around the world who have such a strong connection with Berklee. The threads of passion, learning and educating were woven into a beautiful tapestry, swirling deeply into exploring global connections and blended pathways to benefit students beyond their musical development.  We were impacted by unearthing and comparing our universal commonalities challenges, resources and access. In sharing our overview of The Berklee City Music Network, there were many questions of how we leveraged our BCMN partnerships and how the BCMN could expand globally. This brings us to the innovation that Berklee maintains as a creative and caring global thought leader.

As a side note, I’ve been fortunate to have several synergistic connections with the Valencia campus  Three of my students from Los Angeles: Brielle Blount, Heidi Jauregui and Nile Seabrooks have attended the campus.  Brielle also attended the Valencia campus for the graduate program. I am currently hosting a fantastic intern in Los Angeles from Valencia, Paula Piñero Quesada, who is a talented aspiring drummer and educator.  I’d be remiss if I neglected to mention the history and the beautiful aesthetics of the city with its blend of cultures and music. The experience is transformational. We provide a unique model of stepping outside of normal boundaries with the intention of creating a connective and sustainable framework of excellence.  Imagine how this mindset empowers students to be not only highly competent musicians, but global and progressive thought leaders. This is important and sacred work, and there’s so much more ahead. Stay tuned…

Regina Nixon, Phoenix Conservatory of Music

As a Berklee City Music Site, we were completely honored to be a part of the 2017 Berklee Global Summit!  It was an amazing experience to be in the City of Arts and Sciences in Valencia, Spain, tour the Berklee Valencia campus, connect with friends and colleagues, and meet new people changing the landscape of music education the globe over.   In our role at the summit, we were there to bring awareness to the tools that the City Music Network brings (professional development, teacher training and PULSE (among others) and to learn about alternate pathways that our students can use to make a post high school education possible.

For me, it was about starting relationships to make those pathways available to our students and increasing my organization’s visibility. But the real impact was about creating opportunities for more Berklee Partners to learn about the magic of the Berklee City Music Network, and help them to envision ways that the tools the network provides can enhance their programs.  It was an excellent opportunity to reflect on what makes this network so special.  From leveraging brand, creating strategic partnerships and collaborations, utilizing the resources of Berklee College of Music, taking our place as a local and national thought leader, and being part of a paradigm shift in music education, and the community of like-minded thinkers; the benefits of being a Berklee City Music Network member are unparalleled.   We were proud to represent and be a part of this fantastic experience of fellowship and join in the global mission of creating quality music education experiences all around the world.

Phoenix Conservatory of Music Awarded National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award

Berklee City Music is pleased to announce that on the evening of November 9, 2017, the Phoenix Conservatory of Music — a longstanding partner of Berklee City Music Network and PULSE — was granted the National Arts and Humanities Youth Program (NAHYP) Award in Washington D.C.

PCM students Marcus Wolf (16), Lourde Childs (13), and Michael Rodriguez (15) were representatives of Phoenix Conservatory of Music at the event, travelling from Arizona to the Nation’s Capital to find out that their organization’s College Prep Program is an awardee for the National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award.  Childs and Rodriguez gave a stunning performance of Man In The Mirror recorded by Michael Jackson on live TV, which was observed by the Phoenix community at a viewing party that evening.

The NAHYP Award is the highest honor in the country that can be given to an out of school arts program.  There were only 12 awardees chosen from a pool of 350 nominations from 46 states.  Recipients of this award are recognized as the most outstanding programs in the country for providing creative youth development programs, exemplifying how arts and humanities outside of school enrich the lives of young people by teaching new skills, nurturing creativity, and building self-confidence.

The Phoenix Conservatory of Music offers a high quality music education to hundreds of students each year, with programs ranging from introductory-level music to advanced private lessons and the most prestigious College Prep Program for contemporary music education in the Arizona — the Berklee College of Music’s City Music and PULSE programs.  The affordable and accessible program has provided a path for students to achieve their dreams in music since its outset in 2010.  Students in grades 4-12 are provided with weekly private lessons, music theory classes, and Popular Music Ensembles. PCM has a graduation rate of 95% (compared to 86% in the local community and 77% in the state), and a 71% rate of students who go to a college or university. 43% of those students go on to study music professionally.

April Network Forum: Community Engagement and Performance Opportunities

Special thanks to Abria Smith, Associate Director for Community Engagement in the Office of Community and Government Relations at Berklee, for sharing your insights at this month’s Forum.

Community Engagement: Gaining Local Support for Your Program

Key Relationships within the Community:

  1. City offices
  2. Other community nonprofits
  3. Neighborhood associations

Fostering these key relationships can offer a variety of benefits, such as:

  1. Gain support for your organization and its mission
  2. Grow your local network
  3. Learn about joint funding opportunities and collaborations
  4. Contribute to the culture of the neighborhood (can help with fundraising)
  5. Help legitimize your programming


Performance Opportunities:

Leveraging Your Brand

The goal is to be approached by others for performance opportunities. So how can you make it known in your community that your students are available, reliable, and professional?

Start by creating an authentic brand. At Berklee, the strength and reputability of our brand opens recognition makes it easier for Berklee to find opportunities. As a member of the City Music Network, your program can leverage its affiliation with Berklee when establishing your brand within your community. (For more information regarding the City Music Network Branding Toolkit, contact Jean Connaughton.)

You can introduce your program to the local community by hosting a public event, like an annual showcase, showing people first-hand how talented your students are. You can even connect it to a charitable cause!

Paid vs. Free Performances

Paid gigs are great, but free performances can also benefit your program. When approached about a volunteer or free performance opportunity consider how the relationship serves your organization, mission, or cause. If the organization is a non-profit, are they paying for everything else, other musicians or special guests?

Recruiting Top Talent for an Event
When engaging celebrities, artists, and local talent to support your program, a little research can help you leverage your appeal.

  1. What other organizations they support and does it align with what you do?
  2. Would partnering with another nonprofit for a particular event make the ask more relevant?
  3. Share what you do, acknowledge their value and don’t be afraid to ask them to donate their time
  4. Consider asking for them to speak instead of perform — they might be more willing to donate time for that
  5. Foster an ongoing relationship instead of a one-time ask

About the Network Forum

Each month, members from around the Berklee City Music Network® gather to discuss topics and best practices helping you to leverage City Music resources in support of your local program. To inquire about participating in next month’s Network Forum, email

March Network Forum: Engaging Local Alumni and Building a Volunteer Network

Special thanks to Vanessa Bouvry from Berklee Alumni Affairs for leading discussions about engaging local alumni.

Engaging Local Alumni: What You Need to Know

Berklee has 6 major cities with large concentrations of Berklee Alumni:

  1. Boston, MA
  2. New York City, NY
  3. Nashville, TN
  4. Miami, FL
  5. Los Angeles, CA
  6. San Francisco, CA

In each of these cities, there is a Berklee representative responsible for the region and a group of Alumni Volunteers. Regions outside of these 6 major cities may have Alumni Ambassadors.

Interested in contacting a Berklee alum to share an opportunity or information about your organization? Contact

Engage alumni by providing win-win opportunities in which they can network with each other and elevate your organization and their career, all while giving back. Some suggested opportunities include:

  1. Hosting events
  2. Participating on panels
  3. Being paired with youth as a mentor
  4. Coaching
  5. Engineering
  6. Supporting music in schools
  7. Supporting music in the community

If you already work with an alum, ask them to reach out to their personal network to engage more people in support of your organization.

Building a Volunteer Network: Get Personal

Building your organization’s volunteer network should be a two-way process—your volunteers are helping to support your mission and organizational goals, and you should be just as in-tune with their needs.

  1. Give them roles that are appropriate for their qualifications and goals. Don’t give them a job they don’t want.
  2. Acknowledge their contributions! Send a personal thank you letter, a special note on their birthday, etc.
  3. Be available. Make sure your volunteers know they can reach you by email, phone, or text.

About the Network Forum

Each month, members from around the Berklee City Music Network® gather to discuss topics and best practices helping you to leverage City Music resources in support of your local program. To inquire about participating in next month’s Network Forum, email

“Wish I Had Answered” for Orff Ensemble


It’s time to break out those Orff instruments and start jamming because Berklee PULSE is offering their first-ever arrangement for Orff Ensemble!

All elementary school students now have the opportunity to learn and perform the tune “Wish I Had Answered” by The Staple Singers. This Gospel classic was arranged to accommodate all traditional pitched Orff instruments and provides challenging rhythmic nuances that are commonly found in Gospel music. Students will have opportunities to solo, sing, and simply have fun through a live ensemble experience.


  • Lead Vocal
  • Backing Vocal
  • Glockenspiel
  • Soprano Xylophone
  • Alto Xylophone
  • Alto Metallophone
  • Bass Xylophone
  • Shaker
  • Tambourine
  • Drums

Download the “Wish I Had Answered” for Orff Ensemble arrangement by Nicholas Koechel. Then head over to the PULSE Jam Room to listen and play along to the original recording.