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.

 

BCMN On the Road: Community Music School

This post is #2 in a guest series by BCMN Registrar Andrew Sammut from his visit to 4 BCMN Sites this spring.

Community Music School Raleigh

Arin and Andrew continued their tour of BCMN’s southeastern region at Community Music School of Raleigh. NC. Founded over twenty years ago at around the same time as City Music, CMS provides private lessons at virtually no cost to students in elementary school all the way up through high school. Beginning musicians receive introductory instruction in music reading and advanced students have the opportunity to play in CMS ensembles and perform at local community events, including through partnerships with local symphony orchestras.

Our day at CMS began with meeting acting interim executive director Debra DeCamillis, school operations manager Erin Zanders and PULSE coordinate Matt Douglas. Once again it was great to put faces to all of the names we were so used to emailing and calling over the phone! We also enjoyed the tour of CMS’s facilities, including the main building where students study everything from piano to ukulele and the community center next door, which CMS uses for performances while sharing it with other community organizations.

CMS Raleigh Percussion Ensemble
CMS Raleigh Percussion Ensemble

We then broke for a lunch discussion of CMS’s history and programming (as well as the finer points of Carolina barbeque!). Matt shared some of his successes with PULSE in his Composition Workshop, and a common theme of eagerness to recruit more students, a desire to share the craft and confidence-building of music with even larger audiences, had already emerged on this trip. That was the perfect segue to head back to CMS and continue our discussion while students began filling the halls and rooms for their after-school instruction. We also got to observe a high school percussion ensemble, a piano student learning the harmonies and chord scales for John Legend’s “All Of Me” and a first grader practicing her solfège.

Matt teaching his Saturday Composition Seminar at CMS Raleigh
Matt teaching his Saturday Composition Workshop

We came back the next day to observe Matt’s Composition Workshop, which allows students of all ages to write original material. It was rewarding to see a teacher incorporate PULSE into his own curriculum, inspiring to see and hear his students using that City Music platform to channel their own creativity. This was yet another example of what makes our Network so strong and so important. We left looking forward to meeting other Network partners, learning more about their work and doing more to promote it.

PULSE Training Institute 2014 Recap

Berklee City Music Network site teachers from across the nation (and Canada!) converged in Boston for the the 2014 PULSE Training Institute (PTI).  Friday night’s PTI Welcome Dinner, hosted by J. Curtis Warner, Jr.  and Dean Krystal Banfield, included some delicious food and jamming entertainment by former Berklee City Music National turned Berklee College of Music students.

PTI Attendees were introduced to Lee Whitmore, the VP for Education Outreach and Social Entrepreneurship for Berklee City Music National.
PTI Attendees were introduced to Lee Whitmore, the VP for Education Outreach and Social Entrepreneurship for Berklee City Music National.

 

PTI- Welcome Dinner Photo Henry IV, Meghan, Joey, Zach
PTI Participants and Clinicians enjoying the delicious food at Friday’s Welcome Dinner.

PTI has been an intensive learning experience with activities ranging from student/teacher jam sessions to multimedia PULSE and live performance demonstrations.

PTI_ Will Wright Ensemble Photo 3
Will Wright’s (Philadelphia Clef Club) Ensemble session
Charyn Harris (A Place Called Home) Singers and the Ensemble Session
Charyn Harris’ (A Place Called Home) Singers and the Ensemble session

PTI came to a close at the City Music Scholarship Concert and post-concert reception.

PULSE Training Institute 2014: From Screen to Practice

This year’s PTI, PULSE Training Institute, starts bright and early this Friday morning with ear training, ensemble observations, and theory classes and will end with a Welcome Dinner.  J Curtis Warner Jr., Executive Director for Berklee City Music, and Krystal Prime Banfield, Dean of City Music, have formally invited PTI participants to a “Meet the City Music Leadership” Dinner.  It is going to be an event to remember!

PTI will be going strong through the weekend, with myriad classes focused on integrating PULSE and music training in the classroom.  Courses include “Creating Music: From Writing to Production” and “PULSE: Capacity Building Through Programming”.

The Institute will end with a bang on Tuesday, 8/12 at 7:30 pm; The Five-Week Performance Program’s City Music Scholarship Concert will take place in the Berklee Performance Center and will feature students from many of PTI participant and clinician sites.

John Mayer and Chick Corea—New Jazz Album in the works. Hope they release it soon!

Chick Corea and John Mayer recording at Electric Lady Studios in New York.

On May 11th 1997 Chick Corea received an Honorary Doctorate from Berklee College of Music, a few months later John Mayer came  to Boston to study, and last December they met while they were guests on Stevie Wonder’s “House Full of Toys” Concert. Chick Corea and John Mayer decided to jam and in the end of February 2014 they got together to record in Electric Lady Studios in New York.

They haven’t as of yet, released anything, but John Mayer posted a rough mix of one of their songs/improvisations called “Little Sur” followed by some insights on the creating process.

John Mayer and Chick Corea

Chick Corea also released a podcast where they discuss their project and Improvisation. For more of Chick Corea’s podcasts explore this link.

You can also watch them collaborate live on Late Night with Seth Meyers playing “After Midnight.”

Mayer has also presented 2 clinics at Berklee College of Music. The first you can find on PULSE and online.

John Mayer’s 2008 Clinic at Berklee College of Music: Information and Inspiration 

Part 1 Inspiration from Berklee

Part 2 What it takes to Succeed

Part 3 Turning Information into Inspiration

Part 4 Economy in Songwriting and Playing

Part 5 Working up the Dynamic of Your Solo

Part 6 Honesty in Songwriting

Part 7 The Songwriting Process

Part 8 Getting Started

Part 9 John Performs

You can read about the second clinic on our Berklee Blog or listen to it.

Words of wisdom from John Mayer and Chick Corea!

 

Impressive Enrollment Numbers at AMLA

This past fall our Network site, AMLA (Artístas y Músicos Latino Americanos) had its highest enrollment ever (about 140 students). They also have seven sections using Berklee PULSE, and have begun to “beta test” PULSE with some of their adult students.  Keep up the good work!

Is this an upward trend that we will see at our other Network sites?  Share your thoughts!

amla