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.

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.

#5to5week Ensemble Director: Marty Walsh

As we count down to Five Week, Berklee City Music is interviewing our Five Week City Music ensemble directors. Today, we’re featuring Marty Walsh, director of the Five Week City Music Pop/Rock Ensemble.

Ensemble director Marty Walsh with Five Week student.
Ensemble director Marty Walsh with Five Week student.

What are you looking forward to most this summer?

Working with very talented City Music musicians.

 

What advice can you give to students to get the most out of your ensemble?

Think above all else what is right for the song. It’s not about individual performances, it’s about how the group performs as a whole

 

Many students travel from far away – what is one thing you think students should do/see/eat while in Boston?

Go to a Red Sox game. Fenway park is the classic old school baseball stadium.

 

SAVE THE DATE: August 11, 2015 at the Berklee Performance Center, 7:30pm

WATCH highlights from the 2014 Scholarship Concert:

Follow along on social media using #5to5week

 

Guest Post: Feb 2015 City Music Caf Show

This post is by guest blogger J. Curtis Warner, Jr., Associate Vice President of Education Outreach at Berklee College of Music.

On Friday, February 20th, we were treated to a stellar performance at the Berklee College of Music Dining Hall by an ensemble made up of Berklee City Music alumni representing Network partners from at least four different cities including Boston, Philadelphia, Richmond, CA, and New Orleans. The group “Turn the Lights On,” led by vocalist/percussionist Henry Oyekanmi (East Bay Performing Arts Center) and vocalist Langston Theard (Tipitina’s Foundation), gave a stellar depiction of what happens when cutting edge contemporary arrangements are blended with old school flavor and a penchant for “keeping things real.”

Customarily noted as “Caf Shows,” these performances are often organized by the students and take place in the college cafeteria without cost to its audience. It is not surprising to hear bands of a very high caliber, and that’s exactly what we experienced last week. The Berklee City Music Network alumni band could have easily opened for a major act at TD Garden, the Staples Center, or the Wells Fargo Center, and I for one would have paid a decent ticket price to see them – main or opening act.

If I dare to categorize the music, I would say: neo-soul infused with funk, a taste of Middle Eastern Phrygian-olydian, jazz-a-matazz hip pop, and some slammin’ R&B vocals atop a technotronic bed. There was a balanced roster of both cover tunes and some headed-to-the-top originals. Along with Henry and Langston were City Music students Darryl Staves on drums, John Dandan on keys, Macston Maccow on “tracks,” and Yesseh Furaha Ali on sax. The group was further complimented by Berklee students Justin Perkins on bass, Willie Moore III on guitar, and Matthew Sallee, Melaner Quiroz, and Alexis Shae on background vocals. An opening ensemble made up of a number of City Music Boston students was chosen by audition and definitely established itself as an “act to follow!”

Throughout the performance, both Henry and Langston repeatedly gave shout-outs to Berklee City Music making such statements as, “… they [City Music] are the reason I’m here [at Berklee] and “they’ve made me who I am.”

If you know any of these young musicians mentioned above, commend them, because they carried the City Music banner proud and high, and are clearly demonstrating the value of a Berklee education… and they are not even out yet!

City Music Scholar Reflects on NAMM Experience

Robert Gould is a City Music Scholar from Little Five Points Music Center in Atlanta, GA, and is currently studying at Berklee College of Music.

The opportunity to perform and receive hands on mentorship by George Clinton, Moby, and the John Lennon Educational Tour Bus crew was an amazing experience to say the least. George Clinton at the forefront of creativity and individuality as a musician mixed with the high level technological advancements and concepts the John Lennon Bus and Moby bought to the experience made this opportunity a life changing musical adventure I will never forget. The ability to be surrounded by music in all directions in the atmosphere set by the NAMM Conference in California made this musical encounter a surreal moment.

Robert Gould-NAAM PHOTO

As musicians and contemporary music students at Berklee College Of Music, we often are searching for innovation and desiring to be at the helm of what will mold and set a new dawn of music for our generation to enjoy. This opportunity yielded to me by Berklee City Music allowed me to see that in order to be innovative in this era we must seek for the foundations laid by George Clinton, Moby, and John Lennon who were and are all men who faced music with fearless tenacity and zeal. Creativity and technology are at the forefront of this new dawn of the entertainment industry we are entering into. This purpose driven experience connecting education, recording, and technology has exposed my mind, enriched my soul, and fueled my determination for success through my artistry. I am so honored to be an ambassador for the Berklee City Music Program.

Find Robert Online:

Soundcloud | YouTube | Facebook | Twitter

 

Tips from a Successful Mentoring Program Coordinator

We recently sat down with Jordan Summers, the Music Mentoring and Youth Development Coordinator for Berklee City Music Boston, to get some tips on how to foster successful mentor/mentee relationships in a program that consists of about 80 participants in the Boston area.  Mentors are Berklee students and mentees consist of local middle school and high school-aged youth from underserved areas that have auditioned for City Music programs. The program provides mentees with 3.5 hours of instruction per week that includes a one-on-one music coaching, theory class, and ensemble rehearsal.

City Music Mentoring Program Collage
City Music Mentoring Program

 

Jordan broke down her keys for program success into the “3 R’s”: Research, Recruit, Relationship

Research

Jordan frequently uses free online tools to enhance Mentorship programming. There are several non-profit organizations that provide guidance for mentor programs in the form of networking, helpful information, and organizational tools.  She said that she regularly checks for new resources like handbooks, activity ideas, and training information from the websites of the following established national mentoring organizations:

  • http://www.mentoring.org: Mentoring program that develops quality resources to advance mentoring program effectiveness and innovation, while sharing knowledge among mentoring programs, and works to drive increased investment to sustain and grow mentoring programs nationwide.
  • http://www.massmentors.org: Mass Mentoring Partnership (MMP) helps to fuel the movement to expand empowering youth-adult relationships to meet the needs of communities across Massachusetts.
  • http://www.nationalmentoringmonth.org:  Focuses national attention on the need for mentors, and how businesses, government agencies, schools, faith communities and nonprofits can work together to increase the number of mentors to assure positive outcomes for young people.

Recruit

“Always be looking for mentors!” Jordan advises. Because City Music mentors are usually full-time Berklee College of Music students, Jordan is sure to have a “back up for the back up”.  She sources her mentors from general interest meetings that she advertises through the college, referrals from Berklee faculty and staff, a recruiting table that she sets-up at college events, and through informational materials she places around campus.  Jordan also leverages the program’s many success stories to encourage students to sign-up.

Show Value:  Jordan knows that Berklee students are more likely to sign-up as mentors if she can show them the value of being a mentor goes beyond spending time with a kid in need of music instruction and someone to hang out with after school.  Jordan said that her mentors oftentimes tell her that they have become more aware of their own learning style through the applied teaching of their mentee.  Following graduation from Berklee, several of her City Music mentors have requested and received recommendation letters and connections with industry professionals throughout the Berklee City Music National Network.

Relationship

For the mentor’s first contact with their mentee, Jordan provides them with a “first call” template/script to make communication effective and easy.  She also put together a handbook for mentors that contains best practices and acts as a trouble-shooting guide to get the relationship off to a great start.

Jordan plans at least one non-music activity per month and told us that “pizza always works!”  She highlighted the importance of taking the mentors and mentees out of the context of a demanding learning environment.

Jordan left us with her favorite quote to share with new mentors/mentees, “In learning, you will teach and in teaching, you will learn.”

Click here for more information on the City Music Mentoring Program.

The John Lennon Education Tour Bus in Boston

Earlier this fall, the John Lennon Educational Tour Bus made a stop in Boston to work with City Music students. In a single day, the students found the chemistry to write and record an original song, plan the project from start to finish, and conclude with a video shoot. Below is the final production of their original song and City Music College Scholar Yanina Johnson’s reflection of the experience in her own words. Yanina explains how her time on the bus helped her find the confidence to write a song, how to lean on the support offered by her peers, and to trust in her own voice.

When we first walked on to the bus we were in shock. We sat down and were greeted by the wonderful staff. We introduced ourselves by saying our names and spiritual animals (mine was a sloth). The staff only included three guys who did the recording, the music video, and engineering. They were supportive and willing to work with us through everything. They were excited and enthusiastic about any style of music we wanted to play.

I never imagined myself writing music. I never had the confidence to write how I feel and share a part of myself with other people. Coming on this bus, I didn’t expect to be needed as much as I was. It felt good knowing that people were depending on me to write lyrics and sing. It was a new type of feeling and pressure that I have never faced before. I felt challenged but I was not alone. Everyone on the bus had my back. It was a beautiful feeling to share and write music with other talented musicians.

I remember being in the booth, I thought I sounded terrible with every note I sang. Each time they would convince me that it was a good take, helping me every step of the way. The energy was always high, never turned down. I could tell that they had a passion for music and I felt privileged to have the opportunity to work with everyone one the bus.

I loved how every moment was enjoyable. We got work done while having fun at the same time, which can sometimes be really hard to do. I feel that sometimes people get caught up in this idea of being the best at what they do, like having the best runs and tone, or the best chops on drums. Somewhere along the line, they lose themselves and forget what music is all about. We had the chance to do what we love without having to sound perfect. Just showing our love for music was enough to make a killing song. I am happy that it was a judgment free zone. I felt comfortable to write and sing freely. Lastly I enjoyed myself on the bus, thank you so much for the opportunity!

City Music Scholar featured on NBC’S The Voice

The Voice - Season 7

Brittany Butler is a r&b/jazz/pop singer-songwriter/musician. At the age of nine she met and sang with the pianist for Saturday Night Live, a Berklee alum. At his suggestion, she auditioned for Berklee City Music and received a scholarship at age 11. Brittany even toured with the City Music Rock Ensemble through four cities. Most recently, Brittany was a contestant on NBC’S The Voice. Her blind audition got both Gwen Stefani and Pharrell Williams to turn their chairs, and she ultimately chose to join Pharrel’s team. While on the show, Brittany received a coaching session with Alicia Keys.

Berklee City Music reached out to Brittany and asked her to discuss her experience both with City Music and The Voice:

When did you first get involved with Berklee City Music?

I first got involved with City Music when I was about 11 years old. I went through the mentoring program, the high school academy, and was eventually awarded a full tuition scholarship to the college through City Music. I first found out about the program at age 9 by Tuffus Zimbabwe, a Berklee and City Music alum that I met when he was performing with a trio at the Hyde Park Library. I remember I couldn’t wait to be old enough to audition!

What about City Music has been most effective in your music training?

I think the ensembles, and theory classes have been most effective in my music training! The ensembles helped me to become so much more comfortable performing with a band. And, I was able to apply what I learned in my theory classes to the work we were doing during rehearsals. It made it so much easier to follow along with lead sheets and whatnot and figure out melodies instead of just sitting there kind of unsure of myself.

How has your experience with Berklee helped prepare you for The Voice?

My experience with Berklee has been completely invaluable. I’ve been involved with Berklee now for half of my life, and it’s helped to shape me into the performer and artist I am today. I consider myself to be a much more knowledgeable vocalist and musician today, which I think made my time on The Voice a lot smoother and more enjoyable. I learned a great deal of vocal technique through Berklee/City Music, I ended up not being as worried about the technical aspects of my performances as I thought I would be. Because of that, I felt like I was able to enjoy the moment better!

The work I did in ensemble classes helped so much, because I got to work with The Voice band, who’s members are some of the most incredible musicians in the business. The Drummer actually happened to be a Berklee alum! So, that was cool! Like, I mentioned before, those ensembles really helped me feel more confident during band rehearsals for the show. I was able to communicate my ideas clearly with the band, and I just think it helped everything to jell better overall!

Learn more about Brittany on her website, keep up with her on Facebook, or check out her newest videos on her YouTube Channel.

Just Announced: Gladys Knight at the BCMN Conference

Register Here

Known as the “Empress of Soul,” the seven-time Grammy Award-Winner, Gladys Knight will join Ron Weisner’s panel, Remaining Fresh, Being Creative: Developing Artists for Tomorrow’s Industries, at this year’s Berklee City Music Network Conference in Los Angeles on November 2-5.

Georgia-born, Gladys Knight began performing gospel music at age four in the Mount Mariah Baptist Church.  Three years later, she won the grand prize on television’s “Ted Mack’s Amateur Hour,” and the following year, she, along with her brother Bubba, her sister Brenda and her cousins William and Elenor Guest, formed The Pips. In 1959, Brenda and Elenor left the group and were replaced by Cousin Edward Patten and friend Langston George. The group was renamed Gladys Knight & The Pips, and following George’s departure in 1962, the classic line-up was in place.

Don’t miss Gladys Knight.  Click the link to register for the Berklee City Music Network Conference.

Register Here

Lalah Hathaway Added to the BCMN Conference and Master Class

 Click Here to Register

Lalah Hathaway is a Grammy Award-Winning musician.  She recently won the Grammy for best R&B Performance with Snarky Puppy for “Something” check out the video below to hear her performance. Originally from Chicago she was born into a musical family as Donny Hathaway is her father.  She wrote her first song as a 10th grader and later went on to study music at Berklee College of Music, and released her first self titled album in 1990 that had hits such as “Baby Don’t Cry,” “Heaven Only Knows” and “I’m Coming Back.”  Currently Lalah is working on a new albumn titled “Lalah Hathaway Live,” you can find out more on her website and contribute to her Pledge Music Campaign: www.lalahhathaway.com

Lalah Hathaway will be participating in the Berklee City Music Network Conference in two roles.  She will first participate on Terri Lyne Carrington’s panel titled “Working Hard, Aiming High: Developing the Young Artist” on Monday, November 3 from 11:05am-12:05pm.  Later that night she will be one of two clinicians at the Berklee City Music Network Conference Master Class (check out the video below) hosted at the Clive Davis Theater at the Grammy Museum where she will critique five bands from across the Berklee City Music Network during a live performance.

Check out her interview with Shea Rose ’11, a Berklee City Music alumna, and where they discussed her experiences at Berklee and beyond, her perspective on the music industry, and her experience with Berklee City Music Network member member Stax Music Academy in Memphis.

 Click Here to Register