Danilo Perez Heads Berklee Global Jazz Institute

New center for musical creativity selects 14 students for its inaugural class, starting in January 2010.

January 13, 2010

Berklee announces the inaugural class for the Berklee Global Jazz Institute (BGJI), a unique focused area of study at the college designed to foster creativity and musicianship through various musical disciplines. World-renowned pianist Danilo Perez serves as its artistic director. Students may pursue a performance degree, diploma, or two-year certificate through the institute.

BGJI has three main goals: to provide an interdisciplinary music program where students may explore their creativity to the highest level; to explore the social power of music as a tool for the betterment of society; and to connect musical creative thinking with the restoration of nature.

The BGJI students will benefit from an innovative curriculum taught by a select group of prestigious Berklee faculty, including Danilo Perez, Joe Lovano, Terri Lyne Carrington, George Garzone, Bill Pierce, Jamey Haddad, and Allan Chase. Students will also be mentored by world-renowned visiting artists and artists-in-residence, including John Patitucci and Ben Street.

Listen to Berklee's announcement at the Panama Jazz Festival on NPR.

The program's directed study classes and seminars are designed to help the students build a community of creativity. Classes include Introduction to Global Jazz, focusing on the development of jazz from Africa to Europe and the Americas; Global Jazz Workshop Assembly, offering a forum for artists-in-residence and presentations from the Liberal Arts, Music Therapy, and Composition departments; and Creative Improvisation Through Interdisciplinary Collaboration, exploring the creative process and the connection between jazz and performing and visual arts, including painting and dance.

Experiential and service learning will also be integral to the program. Explained Marco Pignataro, managing director for the BGJI, "They've been given this great musical talent. We'll teach that as artists, they are responsible to positively affect their communities." In addition to playing with and being mentored by jazz masters, the students will travel together to play at festivals in Panama, Puerto Rico, and other places, and record original material in the studio. They will give back to the community by working with children, teaching music locally through Berklee's City Music program and in other cities during institute performance trips. Students will develop the skills needed to become role models for a new generation of musicians and inspire leadership in others.

Said Perez, with regards to the third goal, "The program will provide interactive experiences in uncommon settings, such as the jungle or the forest, where music is used to promote interaction with indigenous cultures and is used to create awareness about the importance of the restoration of ecology."

Berklee has selected 14 students to enter the inaugural BGJI class in January 2010. Finalists were chosen based on a live audition and interview to determine the best fit. While the institute is looking to attract advanced players that are musically gifted, selection for the BGJI will not be solely based on musical proficiency.

In addition to demonstrating creativity and instrumental proficiency, applicants should have a social awareness and be open to other disciplines. Applicants are encouraged to submit personal work in other artistic disciplines, along with original music. Said Pignataro, "We're looking to foster multifaceted, creative students that will be also open to artistic interests other than music. We're looking to develop the whole artist, not just the musician."

The BGJI students were chosen in mid-November. Details of the program were officially announced at the Panama Jazz Festival's Gala Night on January 13, 2010.


Berklee Global Jazz Institute Inaugural Class

Jahaziel Arrocha started playing the saxophone at 14 in the public high school system of Panama City. He studied privately with Carlos Garnett, Danilo Perez, and Patricia Zarate, and attended Panama Jazz Festival master classes with jazz greats Jack DeJohnette, Charlie Hunter, Joe Lovano, John Patitucci, and David Sanchez. Arrocha is the recipient of the Danilo Perez Foundation's Instrument and Musical Studies scholarships, and is the first Panamanian to receive Berklee's full-ride Presidential Scholarship.

Andrew Burglass is a guitarist from New Orleans. Originally inspired by the likes of Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and Steve Vai, his musical world was blown up when he discovered jazz as a student at the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts (NOCCA). Burglass graduated from NOCCA and Mandeville High School in 2008, and is currently attending Berklee College of Music on scholarship. Some of his career highlights include performances at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival; the Park City Jazz Festival, in Utah; and the Jazz in Marciac festival, in France.

Greg Chaplin, 19, is an acoustic bassist from Hopedale, Massachusetts. He has worked with Patti Austin, David Baker, Chris Botti, Billy Childs, Jimmy Cobb, James Moody, McCoy Tyner, and Phil Woods, to name a few, and has also been active on the festival circuit, performing at the Newport, Monterey, and Tri-C jazz festivals, and at the Mary Lou Williams festival at the Kennedy Center. In high school, he participated in the Gibson/Baldwin Grammy Jazz Combo, the Clifford Brown/Stan Getz All-Stars, Betty Carter's Jazz Ahead at the Kennedy Center, and the Steans Institute for Young Artists at Ravinia Park. Chaplin has a deep commitment to public service and is a volunteer at several local charities.

Holon, Israel native Eyal Shmuel Hai is currently majoring in performance at Berklee College of Music. After completing his military service as lead alto saxophonist for the Israel Defense Forces Orchestra, Hai studied at the Jerusalem Academy of Music and the Rimon School of Jazz and Contemporary Music. In 2007, he won second place in Israel's prestigious Jazz Player competition and was selected to attend IASA in Siena, Italy. The event yielded a live album that included one of Hai's original compositions.

Matthew Halpin is a tenor saxophonist from Dublin currently pursuing a degree in performance and jazz composition at Berklee. In 2009, he was one of only two international recipients of Berklee's full-ride Presidential Scholarship. He has played in many bands as a leader and as a member of renowned large ensembles like RTE National Concert Orchestra, the Dublin City Big Band, and the Riam Big Band. He was a headlining performer at the 2009 Sligo Jazz Project, a festival which he'd been a student for the two previous years. Halpin has studied with George Garzone, Rudresh Mahanthappa, Branford Marsalis, and Jamie Oehlers. Before coming to Berklee, he studied classical music at the Royal Irish Academy of Music.

Guitarist Kenji Herbert, whose mother is Japanese and father Austrian, was born in Vienna but grew up in Osaka and Kobe. In 2004, he attended Jazz and Improvised Music Salzburg, where he studied with renowned musicians Jim Black, Mark Dresser, George Garzone, Ingrid Jensen, Nguyen Le, Huw Warren, and his uncle Peter Herbert. From 2006–2008 he was a student of Wolfgang Muthspiel at the City of Basel Music Academy in Switzerland, and in 2009, he began attending Berklee on scholarship. Herbert has toured Japan and Europe as a leader and sideman of various bands, and has performed at Offbeat Jazz Festival Basel and JazzWerkstatt Wien in Vienna.

Joey Lefitz is a drummer and composer from Los Angeles. Although his main instrument is drums, he also plays bass, keys, and guitar in various side projects. In 2009, he played the Costa Rica Jazz Festival as a member of the Jordan Seigel Trio. He has performed throughout the country at such venues as the Lincoln Center in New York; the Jazz Bakery and Whiskey a Go Go in Los Angeles; and Wally's Jazz Café, the Berklee Performance Center, and Cafe 939 in Boston.

Pianist Christian Li, 19, was born in Montreal, Canada and raised in Horseheads, New York. The recipient of several Down Beat Student Music Awards, he has performed with Geri Allen, Jack DeJohnette, Fred Hersch, Frank Morgan, Renee Rosnes, and Dave Santoro, among others. He was chosen for the New York State Band Directors Association Honors Jazz Band in 2006, and for New York's All-State Instrumental Jazz Band in 2006 and 2007. Li has studied at the Skidmore Jazz Institute, the Brubeck Institute Summer Jazz Colony, and the Vail Jazz Workshop. He is currently attending Berklee on a full-tuition scholarship, where he is majoring in jazz composition and music synthesis, and taking private lessons with professor JoAnne Brackeen.

Hailey Niswanger has an impressive list of accomplishments that reach far beyond the borders of her home in Portland, Oregon, and well beyond her years. She has shared stages with Dee Dee Bridgewater, George Duke, Red Holloway, Terri Lyne Carrington, Wynton Marsalis, Christian McBride, James Moody, Maceo Parker, McCoy Tyner, Mark Whitfield, Phil Woods, and other jazz greats. Her 2009 debut album Confeddie received coverage in the Wall Street Journal, Jazz Times, and Jazziz, and was on the CMJ Jazz Top 40 chart for 11 consecutive weeks. Last year, Niswanger was selected as the new alto saxophonist in the internationally acclaimed big band the Either/Orchestra, occupying the chair previously held by Miguel Zenón. Niswanger is currently attending Berklee on a full scholarship, where she is majoring in performance.

Hiroshima-born Takeshi Ohbayashi is a pianist-turned-trumpeter who recently came back to the piano to pursue his love for jazz. After establishing himself in Hiroshima and Tokyo, Ohbayashi won a scholarship to attend Berklee, where he currently studies with JoAnne Brackeen, Hal Crook, Terri Lyne Carrington, Danilo Perez, Ralph Peterson, and Dave Santoro. In 2007, he was one of only 16 finalists chosen out of hundreds of applicants worldwide to compete in the Montreux Jazz Solo Piano Competition.

Tenor saxophonist and composer Jesse Scheinin grew up in Santa Cruz, California. Coming from a musical family—his brothers are musicians, his mother an amateur pianist, and his father a music journalist and jazz radio DJ—he began clarinet lessons at 9 and saxophone lessons at 13. As a member of the SFJAZZ All-Star High School Ensemble, Scheinin performed and studied with SFJAZZ Collective members Dave Douglas, Stefon Harris, Bobby Hutcherson, Nicholas Payton, Joshua Redman, and Miguel Zenón. He was also selected for the Monterey Jazz Festival's Next Generation Orchestra, which allowed him to tour New York, Croatia, and Italy. Scheinin is the recipient of several Down Beat Student Music Awards, as well as a Merit Award from the National Foundation for Advancement in the Arts. He now attends Berklee on a full-tuition scholarship, where he studies with Hal Crook, Joe Lovano, and Terri Lyne Carrington.

Boston native Paulo Stagnaro is a percussionist and composer who has performed with Paquito D'Rivera, Gloria Estefan, Greg Hopkins, Israel "Cachao" Lopez, Marcus Miller, Danilo Perez, Mark Turner, Diego Urcola, and others. In 2008, his band La Timbistica won the Down Beat Student Music Award. Stagnaro has played prominent festivals and venues across the globe, including the Newport Jazz Festival, the BeanTown Jazz Festival, IAJE, the Lincoln Center, the Kennedy Center, Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola, the Kimmel Center, and the Blue Note Jazz Club.

Mark Whitfield Jr. is a drummer from Brooklyn. He made his first concert appearance at age 2 as a guest drummer with his father, guitarist Mark Whitfield, and clarinet legend Alvin Batiste, at the Varsity Theater at Louisiana State University. At 4, he appeared with his father's quartet on the Good Morning America 1994 Thanksgiving Day broadcast, and he would continue to perform with his father throughout his early years. Whitfield has opened shows for the likes of Peter Cincotti and Chris Botti, and performed at the Newport, Duke Ellington, and Monterey jazz festivals. He is currently on full scholarship at Berklee, where he studies with Hal Crook, Joe Lovano, Terri Lyne Carrington, and Ralph Peterson.

Jeonglim Yang is an electric and acoustic bassist from Jeju, South Korea. After graduating from high school in 2002, she began playing with many of South Korea's finest jazz musicians and building her own reputation as a top-level player. She enrolled at Berklee in 2007, and has since performed at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival and at New York's Blue Note Jazz Club in a scholarship ensemble led by Bill Pierce, Berklee's chair of woodwinds. Yang now performs regularly at Boston's iconic Wally's Jazz Café, where she is house bassist, as well as at other venues around the city.

Learn more about the Berklee Global Jazz Institute.