Student Profile: Demmi Garcia

Berklee's Five-Week Summer Performance Program puts a student in touch with her Hispanic roots.
October 6, 2009

Raised in a family steeped in the music industry, playing an instrument was just another part of growing up for Demmi Garcia. Her aunt opened for the late Selena; her grandmother gained notoriety as a singer in Mexico; her father has played guitar for Grammy-nominated bands; and her songwriter mother is a senior executive assistant at a high-profile music label/management company. It's no accident that music is a way of life for Garcia. She started out playing a tiny keyboard, then graduated from guitar to bass to flute, and found her niche with violin. By performing at weddings and birthday parties, Garcia earned the money to come to Berklee's Five-Week Summer Performance Program, where she immersed herself in her craft and expanded the breadth of her musical acumen.


What were some highlights of the Five-Week Summer Performance Program?

I love my musicianship class with [associate professor of ear training] Berke McKelvey. He's an awesome teacher. For the level I'm at, you hear a melody and you have to write it down. And that's hard. I think I like it because it's so challenging.

In my private lessons with [associate professor of strings] Mimi Rabson, I'm learning how to improvise Latin jazz, Latin salsa music, mambo, and funk fusion. I'm learning how to improv on that stuff in blues scales and harmonic scales—all these scales I didn't know existed. All I listen to at home is Latin, salsa, and tropical music, but I've never played it. She helped me out a lot with it. All of my private lessons were improvising over Latin music. That's helping me in my Latin ensemble with [percussion professor] Victor Mendoza. Coming from a Mexican background, seeing Victor here as a professor of music makes me proud of my race and Hispanic background.

How does Berklee compare with your high school experience?

You don't feel judged here at Berklee. Everyone's here for music. Of course people are here to meet other people, but the main focus is music. People from all over the world are here. I've met more people from Italy than from Texas, where I'm from.

My musicianship teacher, Berke McKelvey, told us: "In high school chemistry class you have to be a chemist. In math class you have to be a mathematician. At home you have to homework, take out the dog, take out the trash. But when you're here, you can be you; you can be a musician 100 percent of the time. For a lot of you, that's probably going to be a relief." While I was here, I did all of my homework. I don't do it all at home.

How has the program contributed to your sense of independence?

I love how the five-week program gives you a sense that you are already a student here at Berklee. It really gives you a taste of how being a college student feels like and the independence and responsibility that lies behind that, especially when you're still a high school student like me who's not used to being on their own in an unfamiliar city. The five-week program has definitely boosted my determination for coming to Berklee when I graduate from high school.

Tell me about the visting artist clinics:

Listening to the backgrounds and histories of artists such as Wyclef Jean, Billy Bragg, and Melissa Ferrick helped me realize that you can do anything you set your mind to. Wyclef said he grew up on the streets and the Fugees made their first album in the basement of his uncle's house. That is very inspirational.