Meet Seven Students from Berklee’s Class of 2019

Berklee will celebrate its newest class of innovative artists and music professionals.

May 9, 2019

On Saturday, Berklee will celebrate its newest class of innovative artists and music professionals. More than a thousand students will receive their degrees in disciplines ranging from music business to dance to education.

At Agganis Arena, Berklee College of Music will present 1,054 people with a bachelor's or master's degree, or a professional diploma. Later that day, at the Berklee Performance Center, Boston Conservatory at Berklee will present 264 people with undergraduate or graduate degrees.

The class of 2019 is highly international, with 68 nationalities represented, and includes residents from 47 U.S. states and Puerto Rico.

Here are a few of their stories, in brief.

Rose Banuelos, B.P.S.

Songwriting, Berklee Online

Rose Banuelos of San Pedro Sula, Honduras, will graduate with a Bachelor of Professional Studies degree in songwriting from Berklee Online. She dreams of a world where music is accessible to all, and she founded the organization Music for Purpose to achieve her goal. Music for Purpose provides music lessons to orphans and at-risk children in Honduras, one of the poorest nations in the world. The flexibility of online learning gave Banuelos the ability to balance her nonprofit work while continuing to learn about the songwriting process.

Banuelos says, “My favorite thing about Berklee Online is that I’m able to give the gift of music and study online at the same time. Many have asked why I’m furthering my education if no one will ever pay me for teaching these children…there’s more to life than money!” Following her graduation, she plans to pursue graduate studies in film composition.

Eri Chichibu, B.M.

Film Scoring and Jazz Composition, Berklee College of Music

Eri Chichibu is a composer, arranger, and pianist from Miyagi, Japan. She recently received the ASCAP Foundation Herb Alpert Young Jazz Composers Award, and will be featured at the International Jazz Composers Symposium in Greeley, Colorado, in May 2019. Her works have been selected for the Maria Schneider workshop and George Lewis master class, and for performances by ensembles including the Women in Jazz Collective and Women Musicians Network. She has also composed for the Berklee Silent Film Orchestra.

Chichibu’s broad interests inform her distinctive sound and compositional approach. She has composed and arranged for ensembles, bands, short films, and video games. Tiger Okoshi, professor of brass at Berklee, has likened her compositions to impressionist art and lyrical poetry, possessing a natural flow and organic sound. Her music is influenced by jazz, classical, rock, and other styles. She also draws inspiration from varied disciplines, such as visual arts, astrophysics, geometry, and the culinary arts.

After graduation, Chichibu plans to work as a composer, scoring for films and video games, and collaborating with other arts. “I have always been fascinated by performances where music is combined with different arts, which is why I am very interested in working on fusing music with visual arts, storytelling, technology, dance, and literature,” she said. “By combining elements from each field, I would like to create experiences that can deliver something meaningful, emotional, and impactful to the audience.”

Oliver Jordan, B.M.

Music Business/Management, Berklee College of Music

Oliver Jordan began playing the guitar at the age of 6, performed in a jazz band in middle school, and later attended New World School of the Arts, a public magnet high school and college in his hometown of Miami, Florida. He set his sights on Berklee when he found out that John Mayer attended the college. “I figured: if he could do it, I could do it,” says the graduating senior.

After completing his freshman year in the spring of 2015, Jordan took a gap year to combine his education with real-world experience. He performed his original music in Athens, Georgia, and interned at Move Concerts, where he coordinated tour logistics and worked on the field for stadium tours in South America. While away from campus, his focus shifted from being on stage to “integrating artistry with business,” says Jordan. In the spring of 2018, he returned to Berklee with a newfound appreciation for the logistics behind touring, performance, and management.

Since then, he has interned with Columbia Records’ Big Red program, and has taken on management and A&R roles at Berklee, both on his own and through the Berklee Popular Music Institute and the A&R Club. In the fall, Jordan will be working for one of the major talent and sports agencies in Los Angeles.

Taylor Pollock, B.M.

Music Production and Engineering, Berklee College of Music

Taylor Pollock, a resident of Sharpsville, Pennsylvania, wrapped up her Berklee career in a nontraditional way. She received one of three inaugural EQL Studio Residencies from Berklee, Spotify, and Electric Lady Studios. The residency was created to help open the door for emerging female producers and engineers while shining a light on the work of women in the music industry.

Pollock worked out of the Spotify Secret Genius Studios in Nashville, Tennessee, from October through April. “The education I received at Berklee has put me at an advantage with my career,” she said. “Having teachers that have been and are in the industry helped prepare me for challenges I faced during Spotify and Berklee’s EQL residency. After working at Secret Genius Studios in Nashville, I am more confident in my skills, and am excited to continue working in a studio environment.”

Image by Timothy Avery

S. Arthur Sicilia, B.F.A.

Contemporary Dance, Boston Conservatory at Berklee

Born and raised in Syracuse, New York, S. Arthur Sicilia began his dance training at age 12 at the Ballet and Dance Center and continued through high school at Manlius Pebble Hill School on a performing arts scholarship.

During his high school years, Sicilia created eight original works and served as dance director for several productions, including Cabaret, which received an award for best choreography from the Syracuse Landmark High School Theatre Awards in 2015. He also participated in residencies with Paul Taylor 2 Dance Company, Buglisi Dance Theatre, and Diavolo Dance Theater.

Referred by a friend as well as an alumna of his high school, Sicilia auditioned for the Conservatory during a snowstorm in early 2015. He has earned his B.F.A. in contemporary dance performance with an emphasis in modern dance. He also holds a registered teacher status for the Royal Academy of Dance in London, completing the program in 2018.

Reflecting on his four years at the Conservatory, Sicilia felt he had an empowering experience. “I was supported in my classes by faculty, as well as personally,” he said. “And I was pushed to be the best that I could be.”

This fall, Sicilia is moving to Freiburg, Germany, to begin teaching at DanceEmotion Academy and performing at NeoDance Company.

Gaia Leone, B.M.

Contemporary Writing and Production and Performance, Berklee College of Music

Gaia Leone, an arranger, producer, and electric bassist, is used to moving around. She was born and raised in southern Italy, and upon graduation from Berklee, she is moving to Los Angeles for a paid internship at Sparks and Shadows, a boutique label founded by Emmy Award–winning composer Bear McCreary. There, she will focus on scoring for film and TV. She will work with music libraries and establish connections within the industry and the Berklee alumni community. Leone also has an indie rock band, the electronic, post-punk-influenced Boston SKD, that she will export to Los Angeles from Boston.

Leone was the recipient of a full-tuition scholarship, and is graduating with a dual major in contemporary writing and production and performance. She played classical guitar from the age of 11 before picking up the bass. She taught herself to play both electric and upright bass, and her versatility established her as a working musician throughout Italy at clubs, festivals, theaters, studio sessions, and performances on live TV and radio.

Tareq Rantisi, M.M.

Contemporary Performance (Global Jazz Concentration), Berklee College of Music

Tareq Rantisi is a world percussionist, composer, and educator. Initially self-taught in Arabic percussion, he received a Bachelor of Music in performance at Berklee in 2011, specializing in hand percussion. His studies then brought him to a deep exploration into jazz, Afro-Cuban, Indian, West African, Brazilian, and other traditions that continue to transform his approach to music and performing.

After graduating during a master's degree ceremony on June 27, Rantisi will tour with Danilo Pérez and the Global Messengers to the Detroit and London jazz festivals, Toronto’s Royal Conservatory, the Jazztopad Festival in Wroclaw, Poland, and nights in New York, and Washington, D.C. A big break for any world musician, the Global Messengers is different than any other project Rantisi has experienced.

“Everyone in the group believes there is something that music can do other than simply entertain,” says Rantisi. “You can create a positive impact that heals and brings people together. I am still learning about this, but when you play with this intention, and in synchronicity with other musicians, you can feel the difference in the room at an emotional and visceral level.”

Through the Berklee Global Jazz Institute, Rantisi has been mentored by internationally renowned jazz musicians, including Terri Lyne Carrington, John Patitucci, George Garzone, and Joe Lovano. He has developed a wide body of pedagogical work in collaboration with Brandeis University’s Arabic Music Retreat, one of the premier Arabic music programs in the U.S.

He’s also got another project on the immediate horizon—his first child is due on the day Rantisi graduates.