What made you decide to attend Berklee?
Berklee’s prestige and recognition are worldwide. The list of its alumni is long and impressive, comprised of musicians who shaped the musical world of the past decades and who direct the musical worlds of today and tomorrow. I was made aware of Berklee and its unique reputation by my teachers who studied there: Lester Menezes and Mark Turner. While learning from them, I observed the genuine passion they had for music and their unconstrained willingness to inspire others. Very quickly it became clear to me that the prestige and the essence of the spirit of Berklee lie not only in numbers of prizes and awards but in the community of Berklee’s students and alumni. The teachers from whom I learned in Europe spread Berklee’s spirit relentlessly by inspiring me and others. It was their attitude that made me believe that Berklee and I would be a good match.
How did you find out about BGJI and why did you decide to apply?
I have always felt there must be some kind of higher purpose in music. The world of music surrounding me, however, seemed not to share the same belief. Self-seeking, self-focused, looking for self-realization—the self-concentrated musician was the world’s model for success. I kept on asking myself: What is a success, then? Is it fame and admiration? Or rather, upon receiving a gift from God, are we morally obliged to develop it for the good of others, for a higher purpose? Is the goal of a musician to serve oneself or to serve a community? Following the values I learned from my parents, I trusted there might be a place where people would be asking similar questions. When I came across BGJI’s website it became clear to me that this was the place I was seeking. I was intrigued and excited and didn’t have to think twice about applying.
How is your personal voice as a musician and artist influenced at BGJI?
Everything that my innate feeling was whispering about what might be the essence of music became a reality in BGJI’s circle of teachers, mentors, students, and audiences. Most importantly, I think, it is the community outreach and educational mission—the essential elements of the institute’s curriculum—that are influencing my voice. Through them my musicianship has changed its azimuth: I understood and experienced what it means to serve the others and to direct my music towards them. When you see someone physically open up and flourish after you have played a few notes with the right intention—this is when it transforms you. Such a moment makes you realize what impact you have on people with your music, what power you own, and at the same time what responsibility you carry with it. Such a moment makes the answer to all your previously asked questions obvious: Yes, as musicians we do have a moral and social duty to humanity, and to introduce beauty into a conflicted world.
How is the BGJI impacting your personal life?
The BGJI is impacting my personal life in the most direct and literal way. In fact, the philosophy of the institute does not concern music only—it concerns life in the first place. The BGJI’s ideals are not a certain way of making music—they are rather a certain way of leading one’s own life through and with music. I am a man of faith, I am happily married, and I am a musician. Faith, family, and music are my points of departure and my foremost goals, my ideals and my dailiness, my challenges and my places of shelter. They are my means by which I aim to inspire others, to do good, and to share beauty and hope. “If you strive to be a good person, maybe you might become a great musician,” Charlie Haden once said. BGJI is teaching me how to follow that path.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
BGJI feels like a family. Being a part of it is a blessing—but it is not always easy. There are many challenges and confrontations, there are moments of weakness and doubt. But when they come, instead of asking “what for?” you should start considering “what if?”; then, your humbleness will grow; you will start connecting the common tones, and if you are open enough you will see the bigger picture.