City Music Alumna Q and A: Gerami Groover

Gerami Groover was awarded a Berklee City Music full-tuition scholarship to the Five-Week Summer Performance Program, as well as, a City Music College Scholarship to Berklee. She has continued to take advantage of the opportunities City Music and Berklee has to offer.

pic1When did you graduate from Berklee Valencia and what projects have you been pursuing since?
I received my master in Music Technology Innovation from Berklee Valencia on July 14, 2014.” Since then “I have been teaching full-time as a music educator within the Boston area.”

What were you doing in South Africa?
“I recently traveled to Swaziland, a kingdom located inland of South Africa, via the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders Initiative as their first reverse exchange fellow. I was in Swaziland for two weeks during the month of August providing and organizing a two week formal music workshop program entitled Emandla Emculo (Power of Music) for 150 Swazi youth (ages 8-18) in the town of Lobamba.”

What takeaways do you have from your experience in South Africa?
“There were so many takeaways from my experience in Swaziland, one being understanding fully the power of music and the impact it can have across cultural barriers, and the importance of providing access to arts education to more communities regardless of socio-economic status.”

Tell us about what it means to be chosen for the Mandela Washington for Young African Leaders Initiative- Reverse Exchange Fellowship?
“The Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) has been active for less than five years now, each year sending a cohort of around 1,000 young professionals and aspiring leaders from sub-saharan africa, whom are believed to be the next leaders of their country to the USA. These inspiring group of young people partake in a six-week residence at a US university and work closely with the Obama administration in building international relations and networking with local business, civic, and political leaders here in the USA.

The question was asked to President Obama during his meeting with the YALI’15 fellows, how can this initiative be a proper exchange if only Africans are coming to America, we need Americans to do the same and partake in an initiative here in Africa. As a result, President Obama and his administration created the Reverse Exchange fellowship, American professionals that would be identified and recommended by YALI fellows as individuals who would be great ambassadors and carry out the vision that President Obama has for YALI but in reverse, American professionals establishing international relations with young african leaders and creating an initiative that will continue annually. I was selected to be a part of the first American cohort (only 8 were selected) and I was the first American to be awarded and complete an initiative.”

What’s next on the horizon for you, and what are your ultimate career goals?
“I am currently continuing my partnership with YALI, specifically continuing my works with two YALI fellows from Swaziland. Working together to address some of the challenges facing providing music and arts education to the country of Swaziland. I will be returning back to Swaziland to organize the second year of Emandla Emculo Youth Music Program. I am expanding my work that has been done with YALI and continuing the vision and initiative to other areas of the globe, teaming up with artists from Latin America, Europe and sub-saharan Africa via my project Gerami Groover Presents.”

Read more about Groover and her experience with City Music and Berklee.

Student Testimonial: Santiago Guzman

sadMy experience at this year’s Berklee five-week has been extravagant to say the least. Filled with twists and turns throughout meeting people and making music. The first day I landed in Boston I already saw people flooding the practice rooms and I knew I had found my Candy land. I ended up making music with my neighbors which then turned into me building relationships with other people. I was spending hours on end in the learning center (which Berklee offers to us five-weekers) trying to learn the basics of Ableton and sampling, or if I brought a producer down there with me to make a beat while I was in the other room writing. I’m also staying in contact with many musicians after five-week so we can email each other the projects we are working on and be able to contribute to the projects.

These past 5 weeks have been some of the most productive weeks I’ve had in my life and I want to thank the Motivational Edge program because without them it would not have been possible for me to have done ANY of this. I deeply appreciate everyone who contributed to my go fund me so I can eat 3 times a day and my mom for supporting me and my dreams.

-Santiago ‘Santi’ Guzman

Guest Post: Performing for Hiatus Kaiyote

“My experience as the piano player for the Hiatus Kaiyote ensemble was truly a unique one. I had the responsibility of arranging Borderline With my Atoms for several members of the band. Given that Hiatus Kaiyote is known for their extremely tricky time signatures and groove manipulations, arranging a song like that was a daunting task to say the least!

After having spent several hours writing everything down, it was time to rehearse the actual song. I had listened to each segment of Borderline so many times before to get each part down that it naturally was up to me to direct the cues. During the rehearsals, everything went really well for that song, but I became pretty nervous when it was time to actually perform for the band. It was such a surreal experience seeing the band right in front of me and directing the cuts and cues that they themselves had written!

I have to thank the band for doing such a great job with the arrangement and representing City Music in front of such a prestigious band so well. The hours of work put into all three of the songs will be long remembered, and I believe that my musically oriented leadership skills have improved a great deal based on my participation in this fantastic ensemble.”

– Alex Flavell


Five-Week Alumni Advice: Henry Oyekanmi Jr.

Henry just graduated Berklee College of Music after attending the Five-Week Summer Performance Program and being awarded a full-tuition scholarship to Berklee at the Scholarship Concert.


Do you have any tips for this year’s incoming Five-Week students?
Stay humble. Everybody in the program is talented. Stay focused, and go to every class. Remember that not everybody gets an opportunity to be in the seat you’re in. Take full advantage of the opportunity. Talk to people and become friends with them. The more you socialize and meet people, it will be beneficial in the future.

To read more about Henry, click here.

Countdown to Five Week

Here are five things you need to know as you head to Boston:

The FIVE City Music ensembles featured at five week:

  • Jazz
  • Pop/Rock
  • Choral
  • Big Band
  • Pop/R&B


FOUR reflections on five-week from prior students:

  • “Inspirational” said Ethan Wahl from Washington, DC.
  • “Immersive” said Angus Algrant from Manhattan, NY.
  • “Enlightening” said Alyssa McDoom from Ft. Lauderdale, FL.
  • “Liberating” said Clarke Jackson from Baltimore, MD.

THREE places you can listen to live music in Boston, Massachusetts at walking distance from Berklee:

TWO upcoming City Music events to look forward to:

The ONE most essential tool you will need as you roam the Berklee Campus: the Berklee Campus Map.


Five Week Alumni Advice: Dustin

This is a guest post by Dustin from BCMN site Bahama Village Music Program in Key West, Florida. Dustin attended five-week in 2015.


What did you find most rewarding about your five-week experience? The Five week program is rewarding program that influences and inspires the younger generation to pursue music and to enhance their musical skills. The reason I say this is because I learned more about the music and the different styles there are when I attended the program than I did before. The program is very rewarding in senses that it is up to the student to do the work instead of parents telling them to did it or the teacher asking if they have done their work. They are treated as actual college students and have college like schedules.

What surprised you most about your experience? The surprising thing about the program is the amount of students that attended. I figured that with the music industry and the artificial music that is being created with autotune and such that there would be a decline in people playing musical instruments. How friendly the community was to the students attending the five week program and the staff was very helpful when I asked for directions or was curious about a place.

What piece of advice would you give a student who is attending for the first time? For the the new comers of the five week this a little piece of advice. Be your self and have a wonderful time with your class mates and go out and explore the surrounding city. If you think you seen it all you would be mistaken. Don’t be afraid afraid to talk to new people because they might have something in common with you.



Five-Week Alumni Advice: Nicolina

This is a guest post by Nicolina from BCMN site Lincoln Park Performing Arts Center in Midland, Pennsylvania. Nicolina attended Five-Week in 2015.


What did you find most rewarding about your Five-Week experience? What I found most rewarding about the Five-Week was the level of intensity in the classes and ensembles that pushed me to want to be a better vocalist. You’re never going to be perfect there is always something to be working on; the students and the faculty helped me strengthen my weaknesses.

What surprised you most about your experience? Something that surprised me about Five-Week was the amount of raw talent and dedication pouring out of all the students. It was so inspiring to see all these kids coming in from all over the world to focus on their instrument.

What piece of advice would you give a student who is attending for the first time? Put yourself out there. Have confidence in your music because it’s your music and nobody writes or plays your music better than you. I realized at Five-Week that nobody is better or worse than you-they are different and that’s what makes our music unique. Take every opportunity. You get to work with some amazing people and perform at some awesome venues. Keep in mind you’re around some of the most talented people in the world- use that to your advantages.

Five Week Alumni Advice: Yancy Garcia

This is a guest post by Amp Up NYC student Yancy Garcia. Yancy attended five-week as a summer scholar in 2015.


What did you find most rewarding about your five-week experience? Outside of having the opportunity to meet industry professionals and getting great advice from them, the most rewarding experience would be the classes. My ensembles were great and I learned how to work with my peers during rehearsals and how to arrange our songs. My favorite, though, would have to be my music theory classes. Every lesson was engaging and my teacher was very enthusiastic – I gained a lot of musical knowledge.

What surprised you most about your experience? The most surprising experience at Five-Week would be getting to meet other students from all around the world. I met kids from South America, Europe, and all around the United States. I have never been in an environment with so many culturally diverse students.

What piece of advice would you give a student who is attending for the first time? For a new incoming student to the Five-Week program, I would definitely say to bring more than enough clothes because 5 weeks are longer than it sounds! But, really, go to the program with an open mind and be willing to get out of your comfort zone.


Amp Up NYC® is a music education pilot initiative designed to accelerate the adoption of Modern Band music programs in New York City public schools. Founded by Berklee College of Music, Little Kids Rock, and the New York City Department of Education, Amp Up NYC provides teacher training, classroom instruction, interactive online technology, and instrument donation that help schools establish contemporary music programs.

JazzBoston helps orchestrate a field trip for City Music Boston students to attend Newport Jazz Festival

Grace Mann is a City Music Scholar from Boston, MA, and is currently studying at Berklee College of Music.

Photo Credit: Jean Hangarten
Photo Credit: Jean Hangarten

Bright and early on Friday, July 31, a group of Boston students attending the Berklee Five-Week Summer Performance Program on City Music Summer Scholarships headed to the Newport Jazz Festival on a little yellow school bus. This amazing opportunity was only possible because of the generosity and kindness of JazzBoston, Natixis Global Asset Management, and Newport Festivals Foundation. The students in attendance were bubbling with excitement to have the chance to see some of their idols perform and could not be more grateful to both organizations for giving them this opportunity.

On our way to the festival we heard from Dr. Leonard Brown, who was invited by JazzBoston to speak to us. Dr. Brown is a professional musician and recently retired as an associate professor at Northeastern University in Boston. Dr. Brown reminded us of the history that surrounds the jazz festival. He discussed how Newport, which began in 1954, witnessed the Civil Rights Movement and mentioned that, “even with existing social pressures, the festival continued.” It was interesting to hear about how the music at Newport withstood the heavy social storms of America since its establishment.

The students started their day at Newport with a presentation from Dr. Wes, founder of the Jazz and Democracy Project, that was arranged by Natixis. He encouraged the students to talk about what’s it’s like when they’re “in the moment” or “in the zone” on stage. One student related his experience on stage to how he feels when he’s driving a car. On the road he feels free, but at the same time he is aware of the other drivers around him, just as he’s aware of the other band members during a performance.

After the workshop everyone was allowed to roam free! Most students were looking forward to Snarky Puppy who was the last band of the day. Joshua Sutherland, a student from City Music Boston, said his favorite part of the festival was seeing Corey Henry perform, stating, “I would have been upset for the rest of the year if he didn’t perform.” The Christian McBride Trio was another highlight from the festival. Many students sat in the front row mesmerized by his amazing performance. The energy and spirit of the trio was captivating.

Overall the day at Newport was a success. By the time the wheels on the bus starting rolling us back to Boston, almost everyone was drifting to sleep in their seats, exhausted from such a full day of inspiration and excitement at the festival.