Student Profile: Ana Barreiro
Growing up in Brazil, Ana Barreiro loved playing the drums, learning pop songs and playing in church, though she planned to follow the career path of her parents, both doctors. But on the verge of taking her final exam to get into medical school, she realized her dream had changed.
So Barreiro went to the Conservatório Musical Souza Lima in São Paulo, part of the Berklee International Network. There she discovered jazz improvisation, transferring to Berklee as a fifth-semester student. Now she plays with lots of bands—and when she visits her family, her dad wants her to play drums for his friends. The following is a condensed and edited account of our conversation.
Are you still focused on jazz?
Not as much. Before I came here I was like, "I want to be a jazz musician." Berklee opened my mind to the idea that I can do more than one thing at the same time. Which I think is the best thing about Berklee—how it opens your mind.
Do Souza Lima students at Berklee have a special bond?
That's the first support you have when you come here. It definitely helps. Once we get here we contact those people from the school that we knew before, and it's all good—we talk about what we need to do. But after like three weeks we're all doing separate things.
Tell us about a teacher you've really liked.
I had drum labs with Terri Lyne Carrington. That was definitely a highlight, because I'm a big fan. She's awesome. She shows a lot of support for everyone. It's incredible just to be there. We did a lot of chart-reading in the class; we tried our best, and then when she sat at the kit just doing it, it was like "Oh, that's how I want to be able to play."
Latin American hand percussion is very popular now at Berklee. Did you learn that in Brazil?
My instrument is definitely the drum set. In my part of Brazil, people mostly play drum set. But when I got here, there were all these people playing percussion. I've got a lot of people asking me to play congas. So I'm taking the Brazilian percussion lab here and I've been learning a lot, which is funny—that in Berklee I'm learning Brazilian percussion.
How do you find gigs?
My first week I came to Berklee I started jamming with these people and then I got their numbers. And then there's a different jam, and then you put on a jam. . . . A lot of people have your number after like three weeks at Berklee and everyone's calling. And then all those people start putting a band together and playing a lot in the school and then a lot outside the school, too.
Gigs at Berklee just pop up. Like three weeks ago, my roommate got this gig at the Prudential Center. So we rehearsed and we went. I'm experiencing a bit of being a session musician. Sometimes to keep up with one band, if you're the leader of the band, then you have a lot of work to do. But if you have a gig you can just get musicians that are really good. If you don't have a band going on you still can play.
As a drummer, people call you for a lot of things, and it's hard to say no because you want to do everything. So I just put my own projects aside and started playing with everyone I could. It's good. After I graduate I definitely want to put my project together and call those people I've met here, but right now there's all these things going on—I just want to make sure I'm part of them. I play every single day. There's not a day that I don't play, with different groups and different people and sometimes just jams.
What else do you do at Berklee?
The student clubs, they're a big part of my life. There's the BraMA [Brazilian Music Association], which I cofounded. It's a way of connecting with alumni that are in Brazil. Yesterday we had an alumnus on Skype. And Christian Fellowship, they're always doing stuff—tonight we have a caf show, and it's going to be awesome. I work, too; I'm a Berklee tour guide. So that's keeping me busy.
Have you gotten any negative reactions being a female drummer?
Well, there's definitely more guys playing drums than girls. But when I got to Berklee I was actually surprised. Everyone loves a girl that can play drums. They're like, "Oh, that's so cool." I have three close friends who play drums. I gave a tour today, and in my group there was a girl drummer. And girls can really do it. I mean, Terri Lyne's a good example of that. She's one of my favorite teachers, and it's not because she's a woman. It's because she's really good at what she does.
I will do my OPT [optional practical training] here. I'm definitely going to go to New York for that. And then I'll probably go back to Brazil unless something really good comes up. In Brazil I have a lot of good connections, especially in São Paulo. And it's good to be near family.
Can you make it as a musician in São Paulo?
It's definitely harder than New York. But I have really good family support there, and I think with everything I've learned here in Berklee I could work as a teacher there, which is something I really want to do. I want to teach drums, and I want to have my own group. I want to have a family. I want to make sure I give back to society. And I want to be an artist. I'm just going to go for it and see what happens.