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Rene Pfister

Assistant Professor
Affiliated Departments
Faculty Bio E-Mail

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As a performer, director, pianist, violinist, and children’s theater writer, Rene Pfister has produced over 300 original songs and 32 musicals and cabarets in his 30 years of work. Since coming to Berklee, Pfister has created a number of new musical theater initiatives in addition to strengthening existing programs. In 2015, he created the Musical Theater for Young Audiences Program, which reaches out to Boston Public Schools and family audiences with a new, original musical each year. In 2016, Pfister directed three sold-out performances of In the Heights, a first for the Berklee musical theater community. In 2017, he helped to create the musical theater performance minor, with classes from the musical theater programs at both Berklee College of Music and Boston Conservatory at Berklee.

Pfister studied nonviolence in India and on the Lakota reservations in South Dakota. In addition to being a member of the diversity council, he has worked on a number of initiatives for increasing diversity awareness at Berklee. He has also performed and taught internationally in Europe, China, Africa, and India. Pfister is currently working on a new global program called Broadway around the World, which will have partners in China and Africa. In fall of 2017, he was an ambassador for Berklee and adjudicator for the Valeria Lynch 2017 Music Congress in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Career Highlights
  • Founder and president, Make Your Life a Musical
  • Artistic director of the Berklee Theater Arts Collaborative (BTAC)
  • Cofounder and director of the BTAC 48-Hour Theater Project
  • Founder and director of the Cabaret at Cafe 939 series
  • Producer of the Musical Theater Ensemble at Berklee
  • 2018 ETUDE faculty scholar (the Enhancing Teaching through an Understanding of Diversity and Equity program is a collaboration between Berklee faculty development and Diversity and Inclusion)
  • Produced four original works in the last five years, including his adaptations of Pinocchio, Alice in Wonderland, The Emperor’s New Clothes, and Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream
  • Composer in residence and director of musical theater at Summer Fenn Musical Theater Program
  • Volunteered with Gracenotes Habitat for Humanity trip to New Mexico, 2018
  • Composer in residence at the Concord Youth Theater
  • Guilford Sound Recording Residency, 2015
  • B.M., Berklee College of Music
In Their Own Words

"My approach to voice is holistic, exploring body mechanics, breath control, timbre, pitch, emotion and personality all together. The first day I meet new students, I listen to their voices from a technical perspective and interview them, figuring out the best teaching strategies to engage them where they are and to move them to where they need to be. I use a unique combination of teaching modalities that include traditional vocal training, theater voice work, and elements of the Alexander Technique and Feldenkrais models, and I have a particular interest in issues around performance anxiety. For each individual, I look at the factors that enhance and hinder vocal sound. The first step is helping the student understand their personal mind-body connection and then creating a series of individualized exercises to support what works well and to change what doesn't."

"It's critical for me that students are engaged, aware of their own minds and bodies in relationship to their singing, aware of music. A singer is a singer every moment of the day, not just when singing, and every way we move and everything we choose to do affects how we sing. When we're aware of this, singing becomes effortless. It's another reason why vocal exercises are so important-scales and arpeggios are the building blocks to improvising and riffing, to feeling completely in control vocally."

"I'm also big on repertoire. The song is the medium through which singers express their talent. I encourage my students to listen to vocalists of all genres, analyze what is happening vocally, both technically and stylistically. It's critical that a singer learn to choose the right songs. All of my students create a book of songs in the proper keys so that they are prepared when someone says, 'Can you do this gig?' Yes, and I'm ready to sing 50 songs to prove it."