Berklee Flamenco Plays a Free Concert at the Kennedy Center

By 
Liz Burg
February 11, 2011
Pianist and composer Ariadna Castellanos Rivas of Madrid, Spain
Qanunist and vocalist Ali Amr of Ramallah, West Bank
Double and electric bassist Tamir Shmerling of Tel Aviv, Israel
Flutist Enrique "Kalani" Trinidad of Puerto Rico
Percussionist Sergio Martinez of Madrid, Spain

Berklee Flamenco, a five-piece student group directed by five-time Latin Grammy Award–winner and Berklee artist-in-residence Javier Limón, will perform a concert as part of the Kennedy Center's Conservatory Project, in Washington, D.C., Saturday, February 26. The group will perform a vibrant program that includes original works by flamenco guitar virtuoso Paco de Lucía, Limón, and the group's pianist, Ariadna Castellanos Rivas.

Berklee Flamenco reflects the spirit of the college's future campus in Valencia, Spain. Berklee Valencia will feature a curriculum paying particular focus to the diverse musical traditions of Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East that converge in and around Valencia, attracting musicians from around the world to study contemporary music at a high level in the Mediterranean.

Audiences can catch Berklee Flamenco's free performance on February 26 at 6:00 p.m. in the Kennedy Center's Terrace Theater, located at 2700 F Street NW, Washington, D.C. Because admission is free, early arrival is encouraged. The performance will be webcast live at Kennedy-Center.org, where past Berklee performances are also archived.

This is the eighth season of the Conservatory Project, the Kennedy Center's initiative to showcase students from America's finest music colleges and conservatories. Since the Conservatory Project's inception in 2004, Berklee students have presented jazz, country, salsa, bluegrass, folk/rock, an improvising string orchestra, and now flamenco.

A graduate of the Madrid Royal Conservatory, where he studied piano and guitar, Javier Limón is an active composer and teacher. Limón began composing for flamenco artists but has since expanded his reach to compose music for Latin jazz musicians and Cuban artists. His many composition and production credits include major albums by renowned artists such as Paco de Lucía, Bebo Valdés, El Cigala, Enrique Morente, and the acclaimed Spanish singer Buika.

Berklee Flamenco includes:

Pianist Ariadna Castellanos Rivas was born in Madrid, Spain in 1983, and began her music studies at age six. When she was 17 she won a full scholarship to study classical piano at the Guildhall School of Music in London, where she graduated after four years. Throughout her education she has been close to flamenco music, so after graduation she returned to Spain to work with famous flamenco figures such as Jorge Pardo, Jesus Del Rosario, and Agustin Carbonell ("El Bola") and toured the world with flamenco dance companies like Los Vivancos 7.

After four years of work exploring new paths for piano in flamenco, she was signed by the production company Casa Limón for her first album, due this year. In 2009, after an impromptu audition in Madrid with Berklee faculty, she won a full Presidential Scholarship to Berklee, where she is concentrating on skills specific to improvisation and jazz. In May of 2010, at the college's commencement exercises, she was chosen to lead the tribute performance for flamenco legend Paco de Lucía, who was in attendance. She is a dual major at Berklee, in both professional music and rerformance.

Qanunist and vocalist Ali Amr was born in 1991 in Morocco; he moved to Ramallah, in the West Bank, at the age of six. The following year he began to play the qanun. He is a three-time first-prize winner for best Arabic Music Performer in the Marcel Khalifé Music Competition and has performed frequently at various cultural sites in cities in and around the Middle East. He studied at the Edward Said Conservatory in Ramallah and has toured widely with Maqamat, the conservatory's performing ensemble, and Yalalan, an independent, privately formed music ensemble.

Amr has performed with Maqamat in Sweden, Norway, Dubai, Germany, Holland, and the United States. In 2006, he completed a three-month tour of the United States with ensembles from his school, performing at the United Nations in New York, at San Antonio's Alamodome, and in 13 other states. In 2007 he performed for the president of the Palestinian Authority and the princess of Jordan. He is a professional music major at Berklee, studying on a scholarship he won in audition in Tel Aviv.

Flutist Enrique "Kalani" Trinidad was born in Dallas, Texas in 1987 and moved to San Juan, Puerto Rico at the age of four. He began his musical path by listening to his father, pianist Richard Trinidad; the recordings of Chick Corea; and the compositions of Antonio Carlos Jobim.

Trinidad has won the Yamaha Young Performing Artist Award, the National Flute Association Jazz Master Class Award, and special artistic recognition from the government of Puerto Rico. He has had the good fortune to work with jazz musicians like Mario Rivera, Justo Almario, John Benitez, Nestor Torres, Dave Valentin, Humberto Ramirez, Cachao, Paquito D'Rivera, Alex Acuña, Eddie Palmieri, and Julito Alvarado, among others. In 2007, after an audition at Berklee's annual program in San Juan, he was awarded the full Presidential Scholarship to Berklee, where he is a dual major in music business/management and professional music.

Tamir Shmerling is a double and electric bass player from Tel Aviv, Israel. He served as the bassist in the Israeli Defense Forces Orchestra from 2005 to 2008. After his service, he performed with the Tel Aviv and Holon Big Bands, directed by Amikam Kimelman and Guri Agmon, respectively. Studies followed, on scholarship, at the Rimon School of Jazz and Contemporary Music, a Berklee International Network partner school, with Guri Agmon, Ilan Mochiach, Mamelo Gaitanopoulos, Yorai Oron, Yuval Cohen, Rami Levin, Avi Lebovich, and Daniel Zamir. He also studied privately with Eli Magen during this period. 

After a 2008 audition with faculty on their annual visit to Israel, Shmerling was awarded a scholarship to attend Berklee. He has studied there with Terri Lyne Carrington, Greg Osby, Jamey Haddad, Alain Mallet, John Lockwood, Oscar Stagnaro, Whit Browne, Dave Samuels, Ed Tomassi, Dave Santoro, Dennis Montgomery III, and many other great teachers. During his time at the college, he has also had the honor to perform with artists such as Kevin Eubanks and Ignacio Berroa.

Percussionist Sergio Martinez was born in Madrid, Spain in 1977. He began his Afro-Latin percussion studies at age 15 with Rubem Dantas of the Paco de Lucía Sextet, Luis Dulzaides, and Rogério de Souza. Soon he added courses in Hindu percussion with Ramesh Shotham and embraced Latin jazz, playing in the Taller de Músicos Big Band in Madrid. He later developed an interest in flamenco and began to accompany top flamenco and jazz artists in such venues as Teatro Real de Madrid, the Liceu in Barcelona, the Sydney Opera House, and the Paris Opera, to name a few.  

In a diverse career, Martinez has worked with artists and ensembles as varied as the National Orchestra of Spain, in classical; Jeff Ballard, Dave Liebman, and Antonio Sanchez, in jazz; and Enrique Morente, Diego el Cigala, and Jorge Pardo, in flamenco. He decided to audition for, and won, a scholarship at Berklee's annual visit to the Panama Jazz Festival. In January 2011 he began studies in the Berklee Global Jazz Institute, the college's international jazz academy, whose artistic director is the celebrated Panamanian jazz pianist and composer Danilo Pérez.