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.

 

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

 

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.

Dean’s Set List: Without A Song

This episode of the Dean’s Set List features students from three Berklee City Music Network sites performing “Without a Song” by Edward Eliscu, William Rose, and Vincent Youmans.  The band features City Music Summer Scholars Lyric Stephen on vocals from Little 5 Points Music Center in Atlanta, Anav Sood on piano from The Music Settlement in Cleveland, and Conner Duke on upright bass from City Music Boston.

The Dean’s Set List features students from around the Berklee City Music Network performing in the office of our Dean, Dr. Krystal Banfield.  In order for a student to be selected they must fulfill certain criteria pertaining to their academic standing, Berklee City Music standing, involvement in their community, and musicianship.  It is a musical Dean’s List.

NOTE: Be sure to watch it in 1080p HD by adjusting the video settings using the gear icon on the bottom right of the video.

Dean’s Set List: Just the Two of Us

Our next episode of the Dean’s Set List features students from four Berklee City Music Network sites performing Bill Wither “Just the Two Us” made famous on his recording with Grover Washington, Jr.  The band features Thomas Stewart on vocal from Campus Club Milledgeville, Jonathan Acevedo on tenor saxophone from Escuela de Bellas Artes de Carolina, Joshua Sutherland on keys from City Music Boston, and Larry Monroe on guitar, Antonio Robinson on electric bass, and Cameron Cephas on percussion from The Philadelphia Clef Club of Jazz and Performing Arts.

The Dean’s Set List features students from around the Berklee City Music Network performing in the office of our Dean, Dr. Krystal Banfield.  In order for a student to be selected they must fulfill certain criteria pertaining to their academic standing, Berklee City Music standing, involvement in their community, and musicianship.  It is a musical Dean’s List.

NOTE: Be sure to watch it in 1080p HD by adjusting the video settings using the gear icon on the bottom right of the video.

Dean’s Set List: Message in a Bottle

This episode of the Dean’s Set List features Madison Denbrock on voice and Michael Gloria on piano from the Phoenix Conservatory of Music and Grace Mann on voice, Antonio Shiell-Loomis on guitar, and Moses Abraham on electric bass from City Music Boston.  They are performing “Message in a Bottle” by The Police.

The Dean’s Set List features students from around the Berklee City Music Network performing in the office of our Dean, Dr. Krystal Banfield.  In order for a student to be selected they must fulfill certain criteria pertaining to their academic standing, Berklee City Music standing, involvement in their community, and musicianship.  It is a musical Dean’s List.

NOTE: Be sure to watch it in 1080p HD by adjusting the video settings using the gear icon on the bottom right of the video.

Dean’s Set List: A Long Walk (Season 2: EP 2)

We continue this season of the Dean’s Set List with our second episode featuring vocalists Sarah Coelho and Adeline Um from City Music Boston, Samantha Spear on alto saxophone from The Music Settlement, Isaiah Hill on Piano from Little Five Points Music Center, and Christoff Glaude on Electric Bass from City Music Boston performing Jill Scott’s “A Long Walk.”

The Dean’s Set List features students from around the Berklee City Music Network performing in the office of our Dean, Dr. Krystal Banfield.  In order for a student to be selected they must fulfill certain criteria pertaining to their academic standing, Berklee City Music standing, involvement in their community, and musicianship.  It is a musical Dean’s List.

NOTE: Be sure to watch it in 1080p HD by adjusting the video settings using the gear icon on the bottom right of the video.

To see season 2 episode 1 click here.

Dean’s Set List: So What (Season 2: EP1)

It’s the start of a new Berklee Five-Week Summer Performance Program and there are Berklee City Music Summer Scholars from all over the country attending.  During the Five-Week Program we record students who are featured on the Dean’s Set List.

The Dean’s Set List features students from around the Berklee City Music Network performing in the office of our Dean, Dr. Krystal Banfield.  In order for a student to be selected they must fulfill certain criteria pertaining to their academic standing, Berklee City Music standing, involvement in their community, and musicianship.  It is a musical Dean’s List.

To start off season 2 our first episode features John Michael Bradford  on Trumpet from Tipitina’s Foundation, Yesseh Furaha-Ali on tenor saxophone from The Philadelphia Clef Club of Jazz & Performing Arts, Ayinde Williams on piano from Richmond Youth Jazz Guild, and Daniel Winshall on bass from City Music Boston performing Miles Davis “So What.”

NOTE: Be sure to watch it in 1080 HD by adjusting the video settings using the gear icon on the bottom right of the video.