Israeli saxophonist, composer, and educator Lihi Haruvi was awarded a full scholarship to Berklee while in high school. Two years after completing her mandatory military service, she pursued her studies and started her impressive career.
What made you decide to attend Berklee?
When I was in high school, I came to the U.S. from Israel for the five-week jazz workshop program led by Terri Lyne Carrington. At the end of the program, I received a full scholarship to attend Berklee. By that time, I already understood that I would pursue music, and I had such a wonderful experience at Berklee that I knew it was the school of my choice, to the point [that] I didn’t even bother to audition anywhere else. I knew that Berklee was where I wanted to be; the only thing was that I had to do my mandatory military service right after high school, so I waited for two years to actually start school after that, and Berklee was kind enough to keep the scholarship for me. A week after I was released, I was on the plane to Boston.
How did you find out about the BGJI, and why did you decide to apply?
When I started at Berklee, there was no BGJI. About a year into my studies, people were talking about this new program that was about to start. We didn’t know anything about it, we only knew some amazing artists would be teaching there, that Danilo Pérez was the founder and artistic director, and whatever we could understand from the description of the mission. We really didn’t know what it was about. As jazz students, of course we all immediately wanted to apply, and when my roommate Eyal Hai became the first saxophonist in the program, I started to really learn what the program was about. There was no doubt in my mind that this was where I wanted to be, and I joined as part of the second class of the program in 2010.
How has your personal voice as an artist and musician changed through your experience with the BGJI?
The institute had a crucial part in my growth as a musician. I think up to that point I had been told that jazz has a very specific aesthetic, and I had a limited idea of what jazz was. When I arrived, the institute welcomed my cultural background and the wholeness of who I am. I started to understand that jazz is a spirit, not a style, and that the possibilities are endless. There was a lot of emphasis on composition as well, and I loved writing. I was getting a dual degree in film scoring at Berklee, and this was all really helpful for the development of my personal aesthetic and my musical voice. The idea that music, and jazz music specifically, has a greater role in our society was liberating. For me, I always felt there was something more in music, and at the institute they were able to point it out: here it was, the thing I was looking for, it’s real. Music can change the world.
How has the BGJI impacted your personal life?
As they say, life is music, music is life. I don’t know if I can tell where one ends and the other begins. My musical journey is an image of the changes within me. So as large as the musical change was, so was the personal impact on my life. In addition, at the BGJI I found a community of like-minded thinkers; some became like family members with whom I share music and life experiences to this day, almost a decade after.
What are you doing now?
Today I am following my passions as a performer and an educator. I perform regularly in the Boston area as well as internationally. Since graduating in 2015 with my master's degree from New England Conservatory, I have performed and taught in Chile por la Paz, at the Dominican Republic Jazz Festival, at the Eilat Red Sea Jazz Festival, and at the Panama Jazz Festival, to name a few. As an educator, I have been serving as an assistant professor in Berklee’s wonderful Harmony Department led by George Russell Jr. since the fall of 2016. I also became the first BGJI alumna to teach at the program, coaching undergraduate and graduate ensembles, and teaching classes for Berklee’s Professional Performance Division. Last year I joined New England Conservatory’s prep program as faculty, teaching private lessons and ensembles. I feel challenged and excited to be in such an inspiring environment in our city of Boston.
Anything else you would like to add?
The BGJI experience is beautiful but can be challenging because you often find yourself re-evaluating your life, facing your fears, and making big changes going out of your comfort zone. Transformation is not easy most of the time, but if you believe in the process and the philosophy, and give it a chance, you will find more discovery and more opportunity than imagined before. I hope future generations can adopt the practice of jumping without a net to the unknown, as I keep practicing those very principles myself, believing it is a key to our success and our survival as human beings. I hope we continue to set this example as musicians and help lead the world in this new millennium.