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!

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Counter-Classical Boombap with City Music Alum, Erica Telisnor

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When you listen to Abstract Scenario’s second rehearsal track on soundcloud, it’s categorized as “counter-classical boombap”.  Then you move onto fusion, hip hop, and jazz, but these categories are simply that.  Abstract Scenario are all about creating abstractions of these various musical styles, and the inspiration for such musical adventure and foundation was learned early on for Erica Telisnor, who attended Berklee City Music’s Preparatory Academy and High School Academy.

“Berklee City Music has broadened my understanding of the music I liked to play and to listen to with the ‘breakdown’ of the theory behind it.  My first harmony class consisted of learning the circle of 5ths and the order of sharps and flats.   That concept alone had me blown at age 14.  At age 20, I’m still baffled by little quirks pertaining to counterpoint and advanced harmonic structures.  City Music gave me the foundation so that I’m better able to tackle the material I am now learning today.”

She also credits a fellow City Music alum for pushing her to practice because in the music industry, women still need to work harder to stand out.

Erica feels “blessed” by all of the opportunities that she says has been given “so freely” by Berklee City Music.  It has obviously made an impact on her future goals.  This summer, Abstract Scenario, plan to raise funds for organizations that specifically target poverty in Boston.  She’s already begun her first project and hopes to plan larger events to tackle  homelessness and poverty.

The band includes two of our college scholarship students: Omar Sosa and Jackson Mann

Abstract Scenario play next Wednesday, 3/27.  Details here:

Be there to support!