Berklee Global Jazz Institute Septet Plays Monterey

By
Rob Hayes
September 10, 2010
The Berklee Global Jazz Institute Septet, performing at the Monterey Jazz Festival, September 17 and 18, 2010. From left: Andrew Burglass, Guitar; Christian Li, piano; Matthew Halpin, tenor saxophone; Mark Whitfield, Jr., drums; Hailey Niswanger, alto & soprano saxophones; Jorge Pérez, percussion; and Greg Chaplin, bass.
Photo Phil Farnsworth

The Berklee Global Jazz Institute Septet—seven top scholarship students—will perform at the 53rd annual Monterey Jazz Festival, in Monterey, California. Artists appearing at the festival include Harry Connick Jr., Chick Corea, Ahmad Jamal, Angelique Kidjo, the Septeto Nacional de Cuba, and more.

The Monterey Jazz Festival takes place September 17, 18, and 19. The BGJI Septet will play on Friday, September 17, at 8:00 p.m. on the Garden Stage, and again Saturday, September 18, at 5:00 p.m., in the intimate Coffee House Gallery. For festival tickets and information, visit montereyjazzfestival.org/2010/info/tickets.php.

The Berklee Global Jazz Institute (BGJI), directed by world-renowned pianist Danilo Perez, is a unique focused area of study at the college designed to foster creativity and musicianship through various musical disciplines. Perez serves as its artistic director. Students may pursue a performance degree, diploma, or two-year certificate through the institute.

The BGJI has three main goals: to provide an interdisciplinary music program where students may explore their creativity to the highest level; to explore the social power of music as a tool for the betterment of society; and to connect musical creative thinking with the restoration of nature. For more, visit berklee.edu/focused/global-jazz.

Some of the finest young jazz players in the world today, the members of the BGJI Septet come from Brooklyn, Dublin, Madrid, Massachsetts, New Orleans, New York state, and Portland, Oregon.  The group can be heard in an August concert in Newport on NPRmusic.org

The Berklee Global Jazz Institute Septet

Andrew Burglass is a guitarist from New Orleans. Originally inspired by the likes of Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and Steve Vai, his musical world was blown up when he discovered jazz as a student at the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts (NOCCA). Burglass graduated from NOCCA and Mandeville High School in 2008, and is currently attending Berklee on scholarship. Some of his career highlights include performances at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival; the Park City Jazz Festival in Utah; and the Jazz in Marciac Festival in France.

Greg Chaplin, 19, is an acoustic bassist from Hopedale, Massachusetts. He has worked with Patti Austin, David Baker, Chris Botti, Billy Childs, Jimmy Cobb, James Moody, McCoy Tyner, and Phil Woods, to name a few. He has also been active on the festival circuit, performing at the Monterey, Newport, and Tri-C Jazz Festivals, and at the Mary Lou Williams Festival at the Kennedy Center. In high school, he participated in the Gibson/Baldwin Grammy Jazz Combo, the Clifford Brown/Stan Getz All-Stars, Betty Carter's Jazz Ahead at the Kennedy Center, and the Steans Institute for Young Artists at Ravinia Park. Chaplin has a deep commitment to public service and is a volunteer at several local charities.

Matthew Halpin is a tenor saxophonist from Dublin, Ireland, pursuing a degree in performance and jazz composition at Berklee. In 2009, he was one of only two international recipients of Berklee's full Presidential Scholarship. He has played in many bands as a leader and as a member of renowned large ensembles like RTE National Concert Orchestra, the Dublin City Big Band, and the Riam Big Band. He was a headlining performer at the 2009 Sligo Jazz Project, a festival at which he'd been a student for the two previous years. Halpin has studied with George Garzone, Rudresh Mahanthappa, Branford Marsalis, and Jamie Oehlers. Before coming to Berklee, he studied classical music at the Royal Irish Academy of Music.

Pianist Christian Li, 19, was born in Montreal, Canada and raised in Horseheads, New York. The recipient of several DownBeat Student Music Awards, he has performed with Geri Allen, Jack DeJohnette, Fred Hersch, Frank Morgan, Renee Rosnes, and Dave Santoro, among others. He was chosen for the New York State Band Directors Association Honors Jazz Band in 2006, and for New York's All-State Instrumental Jazz Band in 2006 and 2007. Li has studied at the Skidmore Jazz Institute, the Brubeck Institute Summer Jazz Colony, and the Vail Jazz Workshop. He is currently attending Berklee on a full-tuition scholarship, where he is majoring in jazz composition and music synthesis, and taking private lessons with professor JoAnne Brackeen.

Hailey Niswanger has an impressive list of accomplishments that reach far past the borders of her home in Portland, Oregon, and well beyond her years. She has shared stages with Dee Dee Bridgewater, George Duke, Red Holloway, Terri Lyne Carrington, Wynton Marsalis, Christian McBride, James Moody, Maceo Parker, McCoy Tyner, Mark Whitfield, Phil Woods, and other jazz greats. Her 2009 debut album Confeddie has been covered in the Wall Street Journal, Jazz Times, and Jazziz, and was on the CMJ Jazz Top 40 chart for 11 consecutive weeks. Last year, Niswanger was selected as the new alto saxophonist in the internationally acclaimed big band the Either/Orchestra, occupying the chair previously held by Miguel Zenón. Niswanger is currently attending Berklee on a full scholarship, where she is majoring in performance.

Though he has played music since the age of 4, Spanish percussionist Jorge Perez was a track star and aspiring architect before he began pursuing music as a career. After enrolling at Escuela de Musica Creativa, a top jazz school in Spain, he started performing regularly in Madrid. He met several Cuban musicians at gigs, which led him to Cuba to study Afro-Cuban percussion with Jose Luis Quintana "Changuito." After his second visit to Cuba in 2008, Perez recorded his debut album, Patax, and leaned flamenco singing and dancing from Brazilian vocalist Mario Toledo. The following year, he released his second studio album, Forced Emancipation. Since enrolling at Berklee, he has collaborated with Mariano Martos, Oscar Stagnaro, Nando Michelin, Rebecca Cline, and many others.

Mark Whitfield Jr. is a drummer from Brooklyn. He made his first concert appearance at age 2 as a guest drummer with his father, guitarist Mark Whitfield, and clarinet legend Alvin Batiste, at the Varsity Theater at Louisiana State University. At 4, he appeared with his father's quartet on the Good Morning America 1994 Thanksgiving broadcast, and he would continue to perform with his father throughout his early years. Whitfield has opened shows for the likes of Peter Cincotti and Chris Botti, and performed at the Newport, Duke Ellington, and Monterey Jazz festivals. He is currently on full scholarship at Berklee, where he studies with Hal Crook, Joe Lovano, Terri Lyne Carrington, and Ralph Peterson.