Studying Abroad at Berklee Valencia

City Music Boston Scholar Grace Mann traveled to Spain for the Fall 2015 semester to study abroad. Below is a guest post about her experience at the Berklee Valencia campus.

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When people ask me how Valencia was, I’ve developed a habit of saying, “Warmer than Boston” as if sunny weather was all the little city had to offer. Don’t get me wrong, shorts in November is a phenomenon I think every person should have the privilege of enjoying at some point in their life, but it was not the sole reason I’d encourage everyone to study abroad. The opportunity to live in a foreign country doesn’t present itself too often. Musicians may tour, families may travel, but these experiences provide mere glimpses of a culture. Living in Valencia for an entire semester granted me the time to explore.

Image 3At least once a day I found myself nestled inside La Pequeña Patselería de Mama drinking a café con leche and eating a croissant. It was one of my favorite hideaways from school. Run by only three women, every cup of coffee, every piece of cake, every stack of pancakes felt personal. I loved stumbling through my Spanish with them because they were always willing to help me figure out what I was trying to say. Valencia is filled with nooks and crannies just like Mma’s. Some students like me had a favorite coffee shop and a favorite restaurant, others had a favorite bar and a favorite club. Whatever your preference, Valencia is home to places that make you feel at home.

Studying abroad in Valencia also supplies endless opportunities for travelling. Flying in Europe is an extremely different experience than in the United States. Websites such as Vueling and Ryanair provide access to cheap flights all around the EU. Along with flights, Europe also has a fairly simple train network. Since I studied abroad in the Fall semester, I chose to stay in Europe for winter break and I know others who have stayed well into summer after Spring semester. Other students take advantage of their weekends and travel then. During my 5 months in Europe, my primary residence was in Valencia, but I had the opportunity to explore 6 countries, 15 different towns and cities.

Image 2Studying abroad may sound daunting, but it’s not as intimidating as you think. You have the chance to explore a new country and a new part of yourself while also having the comfort of an entire study abroad class by your side. I encourage anyone who is thinking about it and maybe having hesitations to reach out to an alumni of the program like myself. We will have answers to all the questions you think aren’t worth asking!


City Music Scholarship Concert


The City Music Scholarship Concert is at the apex of the Five-Week Summer Performance Program.  The annual event, held at the Berklee Performance Center on August 12, will showcase the accomplishments of Berklee City Music Network students from across the country.  Over 100 Berklee City Music Network students will take the stage to perform rock, pop, jazz, hip-hop, inspirational, and R&B songs throughout the event, which will culminate in the awarding of several full 2014 City Music College Scholarships to select students to attend Berklee College of Music in the Fall.

Join us at 7:30pm on August 12, 2014 for an evening of spectacular student performances.  Tickets are available now!


Berklee City Music Network Conference Master Class – City Music Boston

Berklee City Music Boston was the third band to perform at last year’s Conference Master Class. The band was led by Berklee City Music Boston faculty member Greg Holt and consisted of Grace Mann on vocals, Ngomane Bolden-Dendy on trumpet, Gustav Hossin-Endl on tenor sax, Antonio Shiell-Loomis on guitar, Joshua Sutherland on piano, Christoff Glaude on bass and James Doran on drums.

Check out Tipitina’s Foundation’s Master Class Performance

and Lincoln Park Performing Arts Center’s Master Class Performance.

Stay tuned next week for the release of a new video from the Conference Master Class, and if your ensemble is interested in performing at this year’s Conference Master Class in Los Angeles please click here to apply.

Berklee City Music Network Site Explores a New Side of Professional Development

Eagle Rock

When the American Honda Motor Company decided they wanted to explore a new kind of corporate philanthropy in 1980s, education reform was at the forefront of the discussion.  “After talking with folks in big cities and small towns all over the country, the challenged state of public education came back as a resounding cry for help, “ explains Dan Condon, Associate Director of Professional Development at Eagle Rock School.

The early idea around Eagle Rock was teaching professional development. After that came an idea for having learning laboratories in high schools to serve as channels towards education reform, renewal, and reinvention.  We are both a professional development center and a high school, that’s how we partner with Berklee City Music Network,” explains Condon.  “We have kids from all over the spectrum with three main things in common: They want to finish high school, they want a diploma, and because we are fully funded by Honda, we are interested in serving young people whose families do not have monetary resources.”

The Professional Development Center at Eagle Rock provides  an array of tours, visits, fellowships, and residencies through their Professional Development program, but their main focus is working with external schools and organizations. “Much of our high leverage work is focusing on consulting and staff development work in schools, “ says Condon.

But Eagle Rock has a unique approach to their work. Condon emphasizes, “Our vision to our approach to consulting is different than other professional development models. We don’t use an expert model. We aren’t interested in going into a school and telling them all of the things they are doing wrong and coming up with a list of solutions for them. We don’t think that is sustainable.”

Music Students at Eagle Rock School Rehearsing

Condon says the approach is focused around specific steps. “The first step we take is to listen to the aspirations of the school. Then we immerse ourselves in the school and look at all of their assets, the things they are doing well. Even in schools that think nothing is going well, we are able to go in there and root out some things that are working.”

After the initial “aspirations and observations”, the Eagle Rock team engages students and staff on the ground to move toward their aspirations. “We do that a few times throughout the year, “ says Condon. After that, there are video conferences and leadership coaching over the phone. For whatever group they are working with, they do a post visit survey asking a few questions to see how well the process went.

“ The studies around professional development are showing that there are a certain amount of hours over multiple years that are necessary for sustainability plans to kick in. Our interest is in allowing groups to crowd source their solutions so that Eagle Rock can step out. It’s not a ‘blow in, blow hard, and blow out approach.’ We are very interested in sustainability, “ explains Condon.

So what are Eagle Rock’s plans for the future?

Condon is optimistic:

“We are pretty excited. We are in our 20th year of operation. About ten years ago we were able to increase capacity in terms of staff. We are currently in exciting talks for our professional development center where more resources are going to be allocated to increase our capacity to serve other schools around the country.”

How can the Berklee City Music Network support Eagle Rock’s initiatives?

“Currently we only have two full-time consultants who go out and consult with schools around the country. Throughout this past year we have been trying to figure out how to increase our staff capacity. We have brought school leaders and instructors into the mix. Ike Leslie is one of those folks. We know his ties to PULSE and the City Music Network. He has come on the road with us and has been instrumental in delivering a professional development school reform mission related to us. If there are schools in the Berklee Network that resonate with our mission about urban, high school reform and renewal, we would love for them to reach out to us. In addition to traveling on the ground level, we also have a professional development center here on site. We can host folks at a cheap rate. We don’t charge anything for our services. We only charge $30 per day for meals and lodging. So that’s an open invitation.”

City Music Student: Aaron Liao’s Senior Recital

Aaron Liao's Senior Recital

Aaron tells us, “my fellow students at Berklee inspire me incredibly.  I’m surrounded by so much talent that it’s impossible to not be able to learn something new every day.”  You could see Aaron’s talent as well as his bandmates at his Senior Recital that took place on April 9th at The Red Room @ Cafe 939.  The performance had two groups and the played a variety of songs from Radiohead’s “2+2=5,” “Actual Proof” by Herbie Hancock, and some of Aaron’s originals.

At his City Music program in Seattle Aaron was the oldest member the year he joined, and tells us he was looked up to in many ways.  “I learned how to be a leader, and how to be confident in myself to see something through to completion.”  He loves playing for people who want to have a great time listening to music, and really enjoys playing with singers.  After he graduates this year he plans to stay in Boston for half a year and then move to New York City.

Aaron has traveled and taught with Berklee groups and tells us he has found those experiences to be incredibly humbling.  “I don’t think there’s much more rewarding than to inspire someone else to see things in a fresh, exciting way, and to make them happy about what they’re doing.  I’ve been fortunate to have had plenty of teachers who have done that with me, and I hope to give back the same way!”

Aaron Liao’s Senior Recital – From left to right: Cory Cox (drums), Elisa Lomazzo (vocals), and Aaron Liao (bass)

Visit Aaron’s Website:

City Music Student: Aaron Liao

Aaron Liao at his Senior Recital on April 9, 2013
Aaron Liao at his Senior Recital on April 9, 2013

Meet Aaron Liao, Berklee City Music student from Seattle, WA, who is now a Senior at Berklee.  He first heard about Berklee through his friends when he was in 9th grade.  “I remember looking up Berklee’s course catalog and seeing ‘Evolution of Hip Hop Bass.’ I thought, no way could this be real,” Aaron recounts.  He looked into the 5 Week Summer Performance Program and attended it in 2008.  While there he met fellow students from his hometown who mentioned they were in attendance on scholarship from Berklee City Music.  When he went back to Seattle he applied to the Berklee City Music Network member in Seattle and was accepted the following year.

Aaron’s dad is a classical pianist and gave him piano lessons from age 5 to 12.  When he was 1o years old he began playing cello until he was 14 when he started playing electric bass.  Aaron remembers, “I took to the electric bass in a completely different way than cello or piano; while practicing would sometimes feel like a chore with cello and piano, it never would with bass. I just couldn’t put it down!”

He played a lot of rock in high school and around his junior year got into jazz.  A program called “Running Start” in Seattle allowed high school students to take college courses and Aaron took jazz improvisation and funk ensembles at Shoreline Community College.

Check back soon for more photos and video excerpts from Aaron’s senior recital.

Aaron Liao Senior Recital April 9, 2013 - From left to right: Matthew Halpin (Tenor Saxophone), Christian Li (Keyboard), Ian Barnett (Drums), Aaron Liao (Bass)
Aaron Liao Senior Recital April 9, 2013 – From left to right: Matthew Halpin (Tenor Saxophone), Christian Li (Keyboard), Ian Barnett (Drums), Aaron Liao (Bass)

Visit Aaron’s Website:

Signature Music Series: Music of Quincy Jones

Congratulations, Robert!  Here are photos of Robert with Patti Austin, Siedah Garret, Rob Rose, and ensemble.  Nice red tux!

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City Music Student and Berklee freshman, Robert Gould (from Little 5 Points Music Center, Atlanta) has been selected to be a part of Berklee’s Quincy Jones Tribute.   As one of 12 vocalists chosen to be a part of this great event, Robert will be singing In The Heat Of The Night by Ray Charles with guest artists Patti Austin and Siedah Garret.

Come out and support our rising star as he pays tribute to a legend!

Sunday, February 24, 2013 – 7:30pm
Berklee Performance Center
136 Massachusetts Avenue
Boston, MA, 02115

Event details here: