Kennedy Center Welcomes Liz Longley, May 21

Follow along as the singer/songwriter that John Mayer praised on a recent visit performs at the Kennedy Center's Conservatory Project.
May 21, 2009

Berklee College of Music singer/songwriter Liz Longley will play a concert as part of the Kennedy Center's Conservatory Project on Thursday, May 21, at 6:00 pm. The performance is part of the sixth season of the Conservatory Project, the Kennedy Center's program showcasing students from America's finest music colleges and conservatories. Admission to the Kennedy Center's Terrace Theater is free, and early arrival is encouraged.

Liz and her bandmates are sharing the experience on Berklee on Tour, the college's new blog. Fans can also follow along on a live webcast.

One can easily imagine that the college with the world's first baccalaureate program in songwriting has a more than a few supremely talented tunesmiths walking its halls. And you'd be right. Outside of Music Row in Nashville, there probably isn't another place on the planet where you can hear more knowing, catchy, and just plain musical popular songwriting than at Berklee.

Recently, when Grammy-winning alumnus John Mayer returned to campus for a week of intense work with some the college's best writers, the Berklee Songwriting Department faculty had to choose just five for this remarkable opportunity. Berklee is proud to bring one of these, songwriter and vocalist Liz Longley, and her close-knit band, to the Conservatory Project and the Kennedy Center.

Liz Longley, voice and guitar
From Philadelphia, Longley has been fortunate to share the stage with Nanci Griffith, Kenny Rankin, Lucy Kaplansky, Livingston Taylor, and Jonathan Edwards. "Longley's songs swell with honesty and genuine emotion that most of us are unable to admit to, but recognize all the same," declared the Telegraph of New Hampshire. Even John Mayer, who surprised Longley and fellow Berklee students when he broke into an impromptu rendition of her song "Queen," has described her music as "gorgeous . . . just gorgeous!"

Longley was voted the number-one all-time female vocalist on in both acoustic and folk categories. She and W.C. Handy Blues Award winner Jim Tullio cowrote the Internet hit, "Naked Trees," which in 2006 was chosen number one all-time (topping 3,400 other songs) in's acoustic singer/songwriter category.

Longley's skills earned her the Berklee College of Music Songwriting Division Achievement Award in 2008. Moreover, her song "Whatever Goes Up" was ranked number two overall in the college's songwriting contest that year. The song also garnered the all-time number one spot on's folk chart for best melody and lyrics. In 2009, Liz's abilities were again acknowledged when her song "Rush" took first place in Berklee's annual songwriting competition. Most recently, she was awarded Berklee's top songwriting honor, the Scott Benson Scholarship for outstanding achievement in songwriting.

Jake Cohen, drums
Jake Cohen was born in Philadelphia, and has been playing drums since age four, absorbing all styles of music, from rock, to old school soul, to fusion, and everything in between. In 2007 he moved to Boston to study performance at Berklee, and has since become one of the most sought-after drummers in the school. He currently studies with drumming icon Terri Lyne Carrington and is constantly gigging and recording in the Boston area.

Some of Cohen's favorite bands/musicians include Steely Dan, Frank Zappa, John Mayer, Tower of Power, the Band, the Beatles, Wilco, Andrew Bird, Jeff Porcaro, Steve Jordan, Al Jackson Jr., Jim Gordon, Jim Keltner, and Brian Blade.

Johnny Duke, guitar

Johnny Duke Lippincott was born in Knoxville, Tennessee in 1988. By the age of eight, he was frequently traveling back and forth between his father's home in the Mississippi Delta and Wilmington, Delaware, where he lived with his mother and went to school. By the time he was 14, Duke was sitting in on guitar with local blues musicians (such as Willie King and Terry "Harmonica" Bean) at festivals and small clubs around the Mississippi Delta. During his time spent in Delaware, Duke got to know David Bromberg, and began sitting in with him frequently. Bromberg has said, "There is a depth and maturity in John, and that's the thing you don't find in musicians his age, the ability to tap into that feeling."

With Bromberg's guidance, Duke has had the opportunity to play alongside Jorma Kaukonen, South Side Johnny and the Asbury Jukes, Laurie Lewis, Larry Campbell, and John Payne. Duke's band, Johnny Duke and the Aces, has played Johnny's original music throughout Delaware and the surrounding states. The band's album Taillights won the Best-Recorded Album in Delaware's Out & About Magazine Music Awards, and has been played on Electric Blues Radio, WSTW in Delaware, and WXPN in Philadelphia, among other radio stations.

In the winter of 2007, the band was asked to join B.B. King for a three-date tour. Later that year, Duke's guitar and background vocals were featured on Angel Band's CD Roots with Wings, produced by Lloyd Maines, who has also produced the Dixie Chicks, and Wilco. Since Duke arrived at Berklee in the fall of 2006, where he's a professional music major, he has been chosen to play in both the college's Jazz/Blues and Pop/Rock Guitar concerts. In addition, he earned a scholarship from D'Addario Strings for outstanding achievement, and his original song "Skin Me Alive" was chosen to be performed on Berklee's Storyteller's Night. Duke is currently performing and recording with several groups around Boston, as well as his own blues band.

Derek McWilliams, bass
Derek McWilliams, from Peterborough, England, began playing the piano at age six, and picked up guitar and bass in his early teens. After working a day job in the U.K. for a few years, he moved to Boston to study at Berklee. While he spends much of his time in the college's state-of-the-art recording studios as a music production and engineering major, the multi-instrumentalist also gigs with five different bands around the Boston area as a bassist, pianist, and vocalist. Recruited most often as bassist, McWilliams is widely sought for his varied abilities with a funky groove, a walking upright line, or a pop rock riff, all with an authentic feel, and all in service of the band's sound.