The Balance Hangs in the Groove

By
Lee Moretti '10
March 27, 2009
Meshell Ndegeocello performs with students in the David Friend Recital Hall.
Randy Runyon performs with Terri Lyne Carrington's Jazz Ensemble for Meshell Ndegeocello.
Meshell Ndegeocello
Billy Buss performs with Meshell Ndegeocello.
Meshell Ndegeocello
The Women in Rock Ensemble performs for Ndegeocello (including vocalist Shea Rose, bassist Claire Finley, and guitarist Jenna Rycroft).
Nicole Boggs performs for Ndegeocello in the Women in Rock Ensemble.
Meshell Ndegeocello speaks at Berklee clinic while the Neo-Soul Ensemble listens.
Meshell Ndegeocello coaches a student ensemble.
Photo by Phil Farnsworth
Photo by Phil Farnsworth
Photo by Phil Farnsworth
Photo by Phil Farnsworth
Photo by Phil Farnsworth
Photo by Phil Farnsworth
Photo by Phil Farnsworth
Photo by Phil Farnsworth
Photo by Phil Farnsworth

With a staggering career that ranges from soul/rock artist to iconic bassist, Meshell Ndegeocello's mark on the music world is singularly her own. In March, she brought her dynamic energy and leadership to the Berklee Girls Rock event, where in collaboration with students and faculty, Ndegeocello taught master classes, mentored student ensembles, and provided insight into her own musical process. She also performed with students in Berklee's David Friend Recital Hall, presenting eclectic material, including "Cult of Personality" by Living Colour, Gary Thomas's "Exile's Gate," and originals such as "Faithful" and "Mu-Min."

During the master classes, Ndegeocello gave constructive criticism to the students, coaching the group to create a collective experience and a unified voice for the music. 

"How you sound and what you give out really affects people, said Ndegeocello. "Sound, if it's healing, sometimes allows people to get outside of themselves. So just be mindful, even when you're on stage or in music therapy, that what you're putting out affects people."

Ndegeocello's guidance ranged from technical to philosophical. In her clinics she dove into much broader subjects, including confidence, style, and soul. "It's all improvisational music. So even when I'm playing some punk gigs there's an element of freedom for me, freedom in the groove. I improvise on the groove. I may not change the bass line but I improvise on how it feels and so it's always alive to me there."

Berklee is a place where legends often roam the halls and provide guidance for the next generation of musicians. For Berklee Girls Rock, Ndegeocello fostered a dedicated band effort in the music, drawing on the strengths of the students and exploring the meaning of performance for every musician.

Matthew Dolland '10 contributed to this article.