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.

Black History Month: PULSE and Take Me To The River

In celebration of Black History Month, we’re highlighting special content in PULSE that was created based on the award-winning film Take Me To The River, with curriculum developed by Dru Davison, Ph.D., Fine Arts Advisor for Shelby County Schools, Memphis, TN.

The PULSE team spoke with Cynthia DeJesus, an instructor at the Berklee City Music Boston Preparatory Academy, about how she uses the Take Me To The River content in her classroom:

How did you introduce the TMTTR elective?
My objective for this lesson was to bring cultural awareness of music from the south and study how music has transformed over time. I introduced Take Me To The River to my students with discussions on the history of Rock and Roll and Blues. PULSE provided enough resources and information to allow me to teach these lessons to the class.

How did you share this theme of cultural and generational collaboration with your students?
My students listened to different arrangements of famous tunes in the documentary such as “Ain’t No Sunshine” by Bill Withers, and learned about the history and influences behind the songs. We had discussions on the TMTTR videos, listened to related music in the Jam Room, analyzed the form and instrumentation, and talked about how the tunes were arranged by Stax.

What did your students think about the TMTTR content?
Overall my students were very engaged from the beginning until the end, and enjoyed watching the musicians recording in the studio. They were very interested to know more about Stax Records, and the fact that Terrence Howard was the narrator of the documentary sparked their attention even more. In learning about the background and history of Stax Records, they recognized the significance of Stax Records occurring at the same time as the Civil Rights Movement.

Were you able to utilize any of the Teacher Guide lesson plans Dr. Dru Davison provided?
Dr. Dru provided significant resources to assist me with my lesson planning.  I found his instructional activity projects to be very helpful.  By the end of the lesson the students worked in groups, listening to existing pieces of music and discussing different ways they might arrange it regarding style and instrumentation from what they’ve learned throughout our TMTTR studies.

About the teacher: Cynthia DeJesus
Cynthia DeJesus is a vocalist and recent graduate of Berklee College of Music with a degree in Music Business and a concentration in entrepreneurship. While enrolled as a voice major at the Boston Arts Academy, Cynthia participated in the Berklee City Music High School Academy and Berklee’s 5-Week Summer Performance Program on a City Music unnamed-1.jpgSummer Scholarship. In an interview, Cynthia mentions that the City Music program prepared her for college at Berklee and provided her with the opportunity to take Berklee courses while still attending high school. She currently teaches PULSE classes, assists the ensemble teachers, and works with the vocal students at the Berklee City Music Preparatory Academy.  Her weekly PULSE classes are 30 minutes long; her students range from 4th-8th grade, and represent a large variety of experience, instrumentation, and age in the same class, which challenges her to develop creative solutions in order to fulfill each student’s needs.

About the site:
Berklee City Music Boston—the founding site of the City Music Network—provides music education programs and scholarship opportunities to 1,400 underserved students annually throughout Greater Boston. With year-round instruction, expert faculty, and a comprehensive curriculum based around Berklee PULSE, City Music Boston gives students the tools and support they need to reach their full potential.


Counter-Classical Boombap with City Music Alum, Erica Telisnor


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!

Former City Music Student Making It Happen

A former City Music Student and scholarship recipient for the Berklee 5-Week Summer Performance Program, Randiss Hopkins keeps busy and continues his success on his musical journey.  Randiss attended the City Music Program through our member Chicago West Community Music Center under the tutelage of Howard Sandifer who “has played a very significant role in my life, and I am honored to have him as a mentor,” Randiss told us.  Randiss is in his third year of a dual major in both music education and jazz performance, where he studies under jazz pianist Willie Pickens.  His program take five years is expected to graduate in 2015.
Radniss Hopkins at Northern Illinois University
Randiss Hopkins at Northern Illinois University
“Since 5-Week, I’ve been truly blessed with many opportunities.” In 2010, during his senior year of high school, he was selected to be a part of the Chicago Public School All-City Jazz Band.  “This gave me the opportunity to play at venues such as Navy Pier in Chicago, and even the American Jazz Room in Kansas City.”  In 2011,  he opened for gospel artist Fred Hammond, at the Convocation Center with the Northern Illinois Black Choir.
Recently he has started his own group called “Fresh Ingredients,” which fuses the sounds of neo-soul, jazz, and hip hop to create a fresh and pure sound.  In the future, he plans to start a small hip hop/neo soul orchestra based off Fresh Ingredients under the name “Orchestra called Fresh”.  Randiss is also one of the keyboardists for a project called “North Music,” a very unique hip hop/soul group that works and records with different artists in the Chicago area.  When he is not in school, Randiss gives back to his community, by being a mentor at the place where he himself sought to expand his knowledge and capabilities at Chicago West Community Music Center.  Check out their promo video: