Berklee City Music Boston visits Phoenix

Last week, City Music Boston travelled to Phoenix, AZ to visit the Phoenix Conservatory of Music.  Guest blogger Jordan Summers from City Music Boston shares details from her trip below.


Last week I had the pleasure of traveling to Phoenix, Arizona with four other colleagues to visit the Phoenix Conservatory of Music. The site director Regina Nixon had a full schedule for our trip and before stepping into the Conservatory we were treated to watching Parent Tot Music Time, a morning program hosted by PCM that gets children as young as 6 months old exposed to music through singing, dancing, and playing with egg shakers.

When we arrived at the Phoenix Conservatory of Music, we were given a tour of their impressive site. Located within a mall, the Conservatory personalized a fully renovated clothing store to make it conducive to learning and performing music. The space had an inviting quality to it, with pictures of students hung on the walls, a hangout area complete with couches, air hockey, a pool table, PS2, as well as a snack table. The location creates a great access point where students hearing music from inside the mall can come into the conservatory and sign up for lessons on the spot.



The first day, we observed a theory class that used PULSE for basic interval review. We were then treated to an ensemble performance on their main stage with audience seating and stage lights. Students performed “Rude” by Magic! and “Girl From Ipanema”. It was a pleasure to get to see previous City Music Summer Scholar, Michael Gloria, in his home environment as well as meeting the new scholars who will be coming to Boston later this month.

The second day gave us a chance to speak with the students and instructors about their experience in the program. The students said that once they joined PCM, they enjoyed it so much that they often came early or stayed past their classes to hang out with their friends and jam. With instruments hung on the walls, a piano lab, percussion lab, and complete stage set up, it’s easy to see why!



Justin Johnson, my colleague at City Music Boston, found the dedication of instructors to their students really outstanding. Hearing about their student-teacher relationship strengthening in connection to the student’s musical growth was something that was very apparent in the organization. Kate Lyons, our Admissions Coordinator said that what stood out about the program to her was the level of student ownership and parent engagement. The students fundraise, help with recruiting their friends, and perform at community events in Phoenix. There is also a Parent Booster club which meets monthly discuss performances, auditions, scholarships, and concerts. This helps to educate parents on the commitment of their children to the program and to provide them support and assistance when needed. Kate hopes to bring the ideas of parental interaction back for further development here in Boston.

As the City Music Boston Director, Misael Martinez observed that the power of music reaches distances much greater than the miles between Arizona and Massachusetts. The educational development of the program was inspiring, as were the holistic approaches and expression of music. As they say, music is a universal language and he noted that while we live in different cities, with different demographics (and extremely contrasting weather!), the love of music and youth development was shared.


Overall, the Phoenix Conservatory of Music is a great place for students in the Phoenix area to focus their efforts in becoming amazing musicians with the energy and passion of Regina Nixon and the staff. We are so thrilled to have been able to travel and see our peers in the Berklee City Music Network!


City Music Spotlight: Adeline Um

Adeline Um (Screenshot)

Name: Adeline Um

Network Site: City Music Boston

School: Boston University Academy

Grade: 11

Hometown: Charlestown, MA

Instrument: Voice

Number of Years Playing: 4

Favorite Musician: Regina Spektor / Jack Johnson / Adele

First Song Learned: A Thousand Miles – Vanessa Carlton

Favorite Record: 19 by Adele

What does Berklee City Music mean to you?

I joined City Music only a year ago yet it’s changed and shaped my life in so many ways. Having the opportunity and privilege to be on a scholarship where high-schoolers receive theory classes, private lessons, and ensemble practices is so unique because it allows anyone with the talent and passion to be able to do what they love on a greater level despite their social status. Everyone at BCM shares this common interest of music and it’s amazing to see the energy and drive that they hold. BCM has also taught me that effort, interest, and hard work has its rewards; this encourages me every day to work to my absolute full potential. With opportunities from singing the national anthem at Celtics and Red Sox games to scholarships for 5 weeks during the summer is what makes BCM “one-of-a-kind”.  However, I don’t think that I would be where I am today without the support from friends and teachers at BCM. The sense of community and love that is fostered here is irreplaceable.

What is it about music that makes you want to be a musician and potentially pursue it as a career?

There is not a single day that goes by where music is not a part of my life. In fact, I believe that music makes the world a better place as it breaks a certain language barrier and allows people of all kinds to be unified.  However, there have been days when I get extremely frustrated when I can’t perfect a riff, or when theory seems nearly impossible; in my opinion, those days are the most beneficial in the long run. If it weren’t for those days, I wouldn’t be able to appreciate the times when I do achieve the “near impossible”. That dedication and love for music is what makes me want to pursue music potentially for a career. In my opinion, you could be the most talented musician in the world, but if you don’t have true dedication, passion, and love for music, there’s nothing that will encourage you to pursue it.

Who’s had the greatest influence on your life and why?

If I had to choose one person to name as my greatest influence, I would have to say that it would be my older sister. The drive and passion that I have for music is influenced by her. She has this incredible character of perseverance and I really admire her for that.

Outside of music what are your interests and hobbies?

I am a ballet dancer at Boston Ballet and I have been dancing for over 12 years. I love getting involved with my school in admissions events such as giving tours at open houses as I LOVE talking. I’m also in the process of learning Korean, which is really exciting!

City Music Spotlight: Justin Riggins


Grade: 10th

Network Site: Berklee City Music, Boston, Massachusetts

Hometown: Dorchester, Massachusetts

Instrument: Drums

Number of Years Playing: 5

Favorite Musician: Ronald Bruner

First Song Learned: “C Jam Blues” by Duke Ellington

Favorite Record: Giant Steps by John Coltrane

What does Berklee City Music mean to you?

Berklee City Music to me is such a blessing. This program is one of the best in the nation because of the resources we have and are provided with. This program allows us as musicians to live out our dreams at a young age and also realize if we want to pursue music as a career. Without this program many individuals would not get a chance to get their feet wet or have an opportunity of the lifetime.

What is it about music that makes you want to be a musician and potentially pursue it as a career?

Music is a vast blanket that covers many different aspects of life. Music is therapeutic, fun, engaging, and helpful. Music provides so many paths because it is associated with everything we do, from the sounds we make to the sounds we hear. Music is always around us, and to be able to make yourself and others feel good makes being a musician a great career choice.

Who had the greatest influence on your life and why?

My mother has the greatest influence on my life because she is my rock. She has always supported me and stood by my side. She has cared for me like no one else has and always encourages me to pursue anything I want. She is also my pride and joy and I would be nothing without her.

Outside of music what are your interests and hobbies? 

Outside of music I enjoy spending time with family and friends. As I grow older each year I value the relationships that I have with people more and more. I came to this realization when one of my close friends passed away. I understood that life was a privilege and we must make the most out of our time on this earth. To wake up every day is wonderful but at times we can take our lives for granted because we are so caught up in things. We should take a step back and realize what we have.

The Perks of Being a Music Student- 30 Facts about Benefits of Music Education

Since 1985 March has been known as Music in Our Schools Month with the mission to raise awareness of the importance of music education. This is our compilation of the benefits that music students enjoy.

  1. The opportunity to learn about the arts and to perform as artists is an essential part of a well-rounded curriculum and complete education. The arts help students explore realities, relationships and ideas that cannot be conveyed simply in words or numbers. And the arts engender innovative problem solving that students can apply to other academic disciplines while at the same time, provide experience working as a team- President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities, Reinvestingin Arts Education:  Winning America’s Future Through CreativeSchools, Washington, DC (May 2011).
  2. Stanford University research has found for the first time that musical training improves how the brain processes the spoken word, a finding that researchers say could lead to improving the reading ability of children who have dyslexia and other reading problems- From “Playing music can be good for your brain,” SF Chronicle, November 17,  2005 (article on recent Stanford research study linking music and language).
  3. Students who participated in school band or orchestra have the lowest lifetime and current use of all substances (tobacco, alcohol, and illicit drugs) among any other group in our society. – H. Con. Res. 266, United States Senate (6/13/2000).
  4. Schools with music programs have an estimated 90.2 percent graduation rate and 93.9 percent attendance rate compared to schools without music education who average 72.9 percent graduation and 84.9 percent attendance. -Harris Interactive poll of high school principals, (2006).
  5. A study from Columbia University revealed that students who study arts are more cooperative with their teachers and peers, have higher levels self-confidence, and are more equipped to express themselves and their ideas
  6. The College Entrance Examination Board found that students involved in public school music programs scored 107 points higher on the SAT’s than students with no participation.
  7. According to a 2003 Gallup survey, 95 percent of Americans believe that music is a key component in a child’s well-rounded education- American Attitudes on Music, Music Making and Music Education, The Gallup Organization (2003).
  8. A research team reports that early music training dramatically enhancing children’s abstract reasoning skills. These findings indicate that music uniquely enhances higher brain functions required for mathematics, chess, science and engineering- Neurological Research, (Feb 28, 1997); Frances Rauscher, Ph.D., Gordon Shaw, Ph.D, University of California, Irvine.
  9. Music majors are the most likely group of college grads to be admitted to medical school- Lewis Thomas, Case for Music in the Schools, Phi Delta Kappa, (1994).
  10. High school music students have been shown to hold higher grade point averages (GPA) than non-musicians in the same school- National Educational Longitudinal Study of (1988).
  11. Nine out of ten adults and teenagers who play instruments agree that music making brings the family closer together- Music Making and Our Schools, American Music Conference, (2000).
  12.  With music in schools, students connect to each other better-greater camaraderie, fewer fights, less racism and reduced use of hurtful sarcasm- Eric Jensen, Arts With the Brain in Mind, (2001).
  13. 22. 71% of Americans surveyed by the Gallup Poll believe that teenagers who play an instrument are less likely to have disciplinary problems-Gallup Poll, “American Attitudes Toward Music,” (2003).
  14. College-age musicians are emotionally healthier than their non-musician counterparts for performance anxiety, emotional concerns and alcohol-related problems- Houston Chronicle, (January 11, 1998).
  15. The foremost technical designers and engineers in Silicon Valley are almost all practicing musicians-Dee Dickinson, Music and the Mind, (1993).
  16. The world’s top academic countries place a high value on music education. Hungary, Netherlands and Japan have required music training at the elementary and middle school levels, both instrumental and vocal, for several decades- International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement (IAEEA) Test  (1988).why-music
  17. Nearly 100% of past winners in the prestigious Siemens Westinghouse Competition in Math, Science and Technology (for high school students) play one or more musical instruments. This led the Siemens Foundation to host a recital at Carnegie Hall in 2004, featuring some of these young people, after which a panel of experts debated the nature of the apparent science/music link.  -The Midland Chemist (American Chemical Society) Vol. 42, No.1, (Feb, 2005).
  18. Research made between music and intelligence concluded that music training is far greater than computer instruction in improving children’s abstract reasoning skills- Shaw, Rauscher, Levine, Wright, Dennis and Newcomb, “Music training causes long-term enhancement of preschool children’s spatial-temporal reasoning,” Neurological Research, vol. 19, (February 1997).
  19. Musicians had a thicker corpus callosum, the nerve fibers that connect the two halves of the brain- G. Schlaug, L. Jancke, Y. Huang and H. Steinmetz (1994); “In vivo morphometry of interhemispheric asymmetry and connectivity in musicians.” In I. Deliege (Ed.), Proceedings of the 3rd international conference for music perception and cognition (pp. 417-418), Liege, Belgium.
  20. Arts Education aids students in skills needed in the workplace: flexibility, the ability to solve problems and communicate; the ability to learn new skills, to be creative and innovative, and to strive for excellence- Joseph M. Calahan, Director of Corporate Communications, Xerox. Corporation.
  21. According to Americans for the Arts, the country’s leading non-profit organization for the arts, “students with high levels of arts involvement are less likely to drop out of school by grade 10.”
  22. This organization also cites a Stanford University study conducted between 1987 and 1998, found that young people who participated in an arts program, at least three hours on three days of each week throughout at least a year, were 4 times as likely to be recognized for academic achievement, 3 times as likely to be elected to their class office, 4 times as likely to participate in a math and science fair, and 3 times more likely to win an award for school attendance than their peers who did not participate in an arts program- Americans for the Arts (8/6/2004) .
  23. “Arts education increases interest in academic learning, cognitive and basic skills development and the development of academic achievement skills.” –R.R. Konrad, Empathy, Arts and Social Studies, (2000).
  24. “During moments of musical euphoria, blood travels through the brain to areas where other stimuli can produce feelings of contentment and joy- and travels away from the brain cell areas associated with depression and fear.” –Dr. Frederick Tims, rept. in AMC Music News (6/2/1999).
  25. “Students of lower socioeconomic status gain as much or more from arts instruction than those of higher socioeconomic status.” –James Catterall et al, (1999).
  26. Music is one way for young people to connect with themselves, but it is also a bridge for connecting with others. Through music, we can introduce children to the richness and diversity of the human family and tothe myriad rhythms of life.” — Daniel A. Carp, Eastman Kodak Company Chairman and CEO.
  27. “Since studying an instrument requires years of practice and learning, it may create alternate connections in the brain that could compensate for cognitive declines as we get older,” – Brenda Hanna-Pladdy, an assistant professor of neurology and radiology and imaging sciences at Emory University.
  28. Research from the Auditory Neuroscience Laboratory at Northwestern University shows that music education could give students a boost in overcoming obstacles faced by low socioeconomic status–

  29. A study by Shields (2001) using music education in a mentoring program found a significant positive increase in self-perception derived from musical competence and a correlation between musical competence and global self-worth.
  30. Catterall (2012) demonstrated that the arts significantly boost student involvement – both for low SES and high SES groups — in extracurricular activities and student government, reduce discipline problems and increase the odds that students will go on to graduate from both high school and a four-year college. In short, music helps improve the overall quality of a young person’s life.

City Music Spotlight: Jennifer Aldana


Name: Jennifer Aldana

Network Site: Boston City Music

School:  Berklee College of Music

Grade: 6th Semester (junior)

Hometown: Boston, MA

Instrument: Voice

Number of Years Playing: 14

Favorite Musician: Brooke Fraser

First Song Learned: “God Bless America”

Favorite Record: So hard to choose! One of my favorites at the moment is Twenty One Pilots “Vessels”

What does Berklee City Music mean to you?

Berklee City Music means community and support to me. When I first started City Music in 2009, I felt like I was immediately adopted into this musical family through supportive teachers and encouraging friends. City music also means excellence to me. I’m well aware that the students that are accepted into this program have showcased excellence in what they do, whether in their musicality, lifestyle, skill, or all of the above. It makes it very easy for me to admire or look up to many of the other students in this program.

What is it about music that makes you want to be a musician and potentially pursue it as a career?

Wow, what a good question. There’s so much! When I first began taking music seriously, around the age of 12, I used to use music as an outlet to express myself and cope with situations in life. Now, that I’m a bit older and in college, I still do that, but I feel like I have a healthier relationship with the music I create. It’s now a matter of wanting to play, and wanting to sing, because of the joy it brings me, and the joy it brings other people. There so many musicians out there that have inspired me through their lyrics and their overall message, and I long to do the same for people out there. Being an inspiration to others through music, whether it be to lift someone’s spirit or inspire another person to pursue music, is an ultimate goal for me.

 Who has had the greatest influence on your life and why?

There are many people that have influenced my life, I honestly cannot pick just one person because it’s been a cumulative influence of several people that have influenced my life and kept me going. The first I think of is God, I’m a person of Christian faith and He has been my first influence and inspiration to write, sing, and live life. Secondly, I think of my family. My mom, my dad, my grandmother, my sisters: they have all been so supportive to me and told me to always follow my dreams in music and made me believe that I can and will accomplish my dreams, even when I didn’t believe in myself. Even though, no one in my immediate family is a musician, seeing the way they have each worked so hard to work through life, raise a family, and focus on their own careers has been a big influence to me. Lastly, I think of my best friend, Kevin. He has always pushed me to try new things musically, and take risks when I was second guessing myself. That’s something I consistently need in my life, people that are willing to push me and support me, so I’m super thankful for him!

Outside of music what are your interests and hobbies?

Outside of music, a big hobby of mine is reading. It’s amazing how literature can inspire and open up ones eyes to a different perspective on almost anything. I usually like to read books on faith, how-to books, artist biographies, and fiction/non-fiction books.  Another big passion of mine besides music, is the passion to be a public speaker.  I grew up in church and have always desired to speak in a church setting, or be a motivational speaker for youth in middle/high-school. Those are the years when young people decide who they want to be or how they want to live their lives, and I would love to be a voice to this generation and give some perspective through the ups and downs of my life. I’m just a people person, so anything with counseling, leading others, or speaking really interests me.


COMPÁS Indiegogo Campaign to Support Youth Mariachi

COMPÁS Mariachi Band

COMPÁS was recently named one of 56 Knight Arts Challenge Detroit winners from over 1,400 applicants.  Their project, Mariachi COMPÁS, will support and expand their youth mariachi ensemble, creating an important outlet for youth in the community to explore music, culture, and entrepreneurship as professional musicians, and educate metro Detroit about Mexican culture through music.

Being a Knight Arts Challenge winner is a prestigious distinction and comes with a one to one matching grant award of $35,000. In order for COMPÁS to receive the Knight award, they must raise their share and need your help.  The more you give, the more they get!  Funds will be used to recruit new students, purchase needed instruments and uniforms as the group grows, and provide quality music instruction.

Supporting this project is an investment in the historical and cultural heritage of Southwest Detroit, ensuring that Mexican and Latino culture is carried on through youth. It also provides a much-needed outlet for youth who will have a better chance of success in school and in life if they remain engaged in opportunities to stimulate their creativity and individuality. Anything you can give will help and be appreciated.

Please visit their Indiegogo page to donate and to see special rewards as a way to say thank you for your donation!

Click here: Support Youth Mariachi’s in SW Detroit

City Music Spotlight: Caleb Smith

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Grade: 11

Network site: The Cleveland Music Settlement

Hometown: Cleveland

Instrument: Trombone

Years playing: 6 years

First song learned: Hot Cross Buns

Favorite record: Directions in Music: Live at Massey Hall- Herbie Hancock

What does Berklee City Music mean to you?

To me, Berklee City Music is something that allows people from all over the country to come together and collectively embrace music. I love that in City Music I am surrounded by people with the same interests as me. Usually, in school, whenever I bring up a topic about music, everyone is very inattentive, but in City Music I can actively talk and share my music with other people who actually care to listen. City Music is also a place where you can learn about many things, whether it’s music, culture, or even getting to know somebody, you can always learn something new with Berklee City Music.

What is it about music that makes you want to be a musician and pursue it as a career?

I believe that music is something that is representative of the human soul. By that, I mean that music is able to define a person better than any combination of words. For example, if I asked someone who they loved listening to and they said Stravinsky; it probably means that they are boisterous, unique, creative, outgoing, and revolutionary. For me, music is the easiest way I am able to express myself. Sure I can tell someone something using words, but I believe it’s more heartfelt and meaningful if it is presented through music.

Who’s had the greatest influence on your life and why?

This might sound cliché, but the person who has had the greatest influence on me is probably my mother. Any good mother should be an extremely strong, confident, determined, and compelling person. I believe that I gained these attributes from my mother because she had them and taught them to me. Since my mother is a preacher, I was raised in a somewhat religious and God fearing home. Through this, I was able to learn how to have faith. I believe that people who have faith tend to be more positive, therefore when a bad situation occurs they respond to it in a positive manner, making the situation less bad.

Outside of music what are your interests and hobbies?

Most of the time, my life is pretty much consumed by music and school work, but because I am part of the International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma Programme, I am able to do many fun extra-curricular activities that aren’t necessarily music related. In the IB programme I am required to have at least 150 CAS (Creative, Action, Service) hours, although this can be difficult, I really enjoy doing this and trying to help out the community. Also, in the IB programme, I take the Theory of Knowledge (TOK) course, where we contemplate how we know what we know. Overall the IB programme is something that exposes me to many different things other than my main focus.

BCMN Conference Speaker: Libby Chiu


Prior to her role as the Chief of Staff at the Illinois Council, Libby Lai-Bun Chiu was the Senior Advisor for Learning where she managed the Arts and Foreign Language Grants program and directed the Education Leaders Institute, an initiative of the National Endowment for the Arts. She is an adjunct professor of two courses – Arts Education and International Arts Policy, at Goucher College; she is a consultant specializing in program evaluation.

Libby is an active member of the Asian Pacific Islanders in Philanthropy; she has served in leadership roles in nonprofit organizations in various sectors. Libby Chiu will be a featured guest speaker at this year’s Berklee City Music Network Conference in Memphis. To learn more from leaders in music education, register here!

A Testimonial on the Berklee Five-Week Experience by Ahmari Underwood

Ahmari Underwood

The Berklee City Music 5 week experience is one that changed my life. Before I went to the Berklee 5 week program I was unsure what to expect. I heard many testimonies from a variety of different people who had already experienced what I had yet to. Although I had many affirmations as to how awesome the experience was, I was still filled with doubt. I did not think that 5-weeks during the summer would completely change the way I view my life; but it did.

I learned so much about myself, my musical capability, and how to cope being so far away from home. While I was in Boston for the Berklee 5 Week program I was tested mentally. I was placed into an ensemble that was required to play some extremely advanced jazz music that I had never fathomed performing. However, hardwork, perseverance, and pushing myself mentally each day allowed me to reach new heights. Not only was the 5-week experience one that allowed me to stretch my mental capacity musically, it was one that allowed me to be involved with a plethora of young musicians who were doing the same. For this reason alone, along with many others, I was able to make some really good friends who I would even consider “life-long friends”.

I am so thankful to have had the opportunity to grow in such a way that I never thought that I could have. The amazing staff and facuty at Berklee, the ensemble leaders, peer leaders and advisors, and the list goes on. I am so glad that I had the opportunity to represent City Music during this amazing conquest, because they are the ones who pushed me, helped me remain focused, and treated me as family. I am a blessed man. I’d like to personally thank everyone who helped me get to where I am today, and I would encourage anyone who has the opportunity experience the Berklee 5-week summer program to meet it head on and make the most of every single note. Thank you.

Through the Summer Scholars’ Lens

Check out our Instagram poster of photos taken by Berklee City Music Summer Scholars throughout their experience at the Berklee Five-Week Summer Performance Program.

Be sure to follow us on Instagram @BerkleeCMN as we will be taking our own pictures and micro-vidoes of the Summer Scholars at the Berklee City Music Scholarship Concert tonight at 7:30pm Eastern.

We hope you are able to tune in and see the Summer Scholars perform through our live stream: