Berklee Flamenco to Perform at the Monterey Jazz Festival

By 
Rob Hayes
September 6, 2011
Berklee Flamenco in performance at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts
Berklee Flamenco pianist and leader, Ariadna Castellanos
Noam Wiesenberg, performing with Berklee Flamenco at the 2011 Monterey Jazz Festival
From left, Tamir Shmerling, Ali Amr, and Sergio Martinez
Berklee Flamenco flutist Enrique Kalani Trinidad
Percussionist Sergio Martinez
Photo by Rob Hayes
Photo by Michael Borgida
Photo by S. Halide
Photo by Michael Borgida
Photo by Michael Borgida
Photo by Michael Borgida

Berklee Flamenco, five of the college's top scholarship students, will perform a compelling program of flamenco, jazz, Middle Eastern, and North African styles at the 54th Annual Monterey Jazz Festival, in Monterey, California. The group is directed by Javier Limón, professor of Mediterranean Music at both Berklee in Boston and Berklee in Valencia, the college's new Spanish campus, which is opening this fall.  

The Monterey Jazz Festival takes place September 16, 17, and 18. Berklee Flamenco will perform on Friday, September 16, at 9:30 p.m. on the Garden Stage, and again on Saturday, September 17, at 5:00 p.m. in the intimate Coffee House Gallery. The group will be joined by the winner of the full-tuition 2011 Jimmy Lyons Scholarship to Berklee, trombonist Calvin Barthel of Albany, California. For festival tickets and information, visit montereyjazzfestival.org/2011/tickets.

Five of the finest young contemporary musicians at Berklee, the members of Berklee Flamenco come from Madrid, Spain; Ramallah, West Bank; Tel Aviv, Israel; and San Juan, Puerto Rico. The group, led by fiery pianist Ariadna Castellanos, was formed in 2010 to perform a tribute to flamenco guitar legend Paco de Lucía on the presentation of his Berklee honorary doctorate. Berklee Flamenco has since performed at the Kennedy Center, the U.S. Embassy in Madrid, and the new Berklee in Valencia campus. The group can be seen in a concert webcast from the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., captured earlier this year.

Grammy and Latin Grammy Award-winner Javier Limón directs the group. Limón's many composition and production credits include major albums with artists including Paco de Lucía, Bebo and Chucho Valdés, El Cigala, Enrique Morente, and acclaimed Spanish singer Buika.  

In January 2012, Berklee will begin full-time instruction at its first campus beyond Boston, in Valencia, Spain. Located in the iconic Santiago Calatrava-designed Palau de les Arts, Berklee in Valencia will attract musicians from around the world for studies in leading-edge music technology and international music business models, and the diverse musical traditions of Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East that have come together in and around Valencia.

The first college to offer studies rooted in jazz and popular styles, Berklee is a place where musicians from around the planet cross-pollinate genre, culture, instrumentation, and vibe to create new, compelling forms and sounds. Now, in the spirit of our new campus on the Mediterranean, the college offers Berklee Flamenco to the audiences of the Monterey Jazz Festival.

Berklee Flamenco

Pianist Ariadna Castellanos Rivas was born in Madrid 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 music education she has been close to flamenco music, so after graduation she returned to Spain to work with famous flamenco figures 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, the production company Casa Limón signed Rivas for her first album, due this year. In 2009, after an impromptu audition in Madrid with Berklee faculty, she won the all-expenses-paid Presidential Scholarship to Berklee, where she is concentrating on her 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 performance.

Ali Amr is a Palestinian musician born in 1991 in Morocco; he moved to Ramallah  at the age of six. The following year he began to play the qanun. Playing qanun and singing, Amr 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. Amr 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 Puerto Rico at the age of four. He began on his musical path by listening to his father, pianist Richard Trinidad, and to the recordings of Chick Corea, and by studying the compositions of Antonio Carlos Jobim.

Kalani 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, Kalani was awarded the all-expenses-paid Presidential Scholarship to Berklee, where he is a dual major in music business/management and professional music.

Growing up in a musical family, Israeli bassist Noam Wiesenberg, was exposed to varied genres of music from an early age. After playing the cello for 10 years, Wiesenberg picked up the double bass, and he soon became an in-demand bassist and arranger across the Israeli music scene. He has performed/recorded with many acclaimed artists, including Billy Hart, Jeff "Tain" Watts, Rodney Green, Francisco Mela, Seamus Blake, Myron Walden, Will Vinson, Avishai Cohen, Daniel Zamir, Eli Degibri, Matisyahu, Julian Lage, Mark O'Connor, Andy Statman, Zohar Fresco, and many more.

Wiesenberg has been a recipient of America-Israel Cultural Foundation scholarships for a full 10 years (1998–2008). By winning second prize in the Israeli Jazz Player of the Year competition, he participated in the annual International Association of Schools of Jazz convention, held in Riga, Latvia. In August 2008, he moved to Boston to study on scholarship at Berklee. While there, he was chosen to represent the college at festivals and venues as varied as the D.C. Jazz Festival, the Blue Note jazz club, and the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival in San Francisco. He graduated magna cum laude in May 2010.

Percussionist Sergio Martinez was born in Madrid in 1977. He began his Afro-Latin percussion studies at age 15 with Rubens Dantas of the Paco de Lucía Sextet, Luis Dulzaides, and Rogerio da Souza. Soon he added courses in Hindu percussion with Ramesh Shotham and embraced Latin jazz, playing in the Taller de Musicos 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 (classical); Jeff Ballard, Dave Liebman, and Antonio Sanchez (jazz); and Enrique Morente, Diego el Cigala, and Jorge Pardo (flamenco), to name a very few. He 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.