Meet Berklee's 2012-2013 Presidential Scholars

February 11, 2013
Samuel Batista
Helen De La Rosa
Tabari Lake
Christian Marrero
Sumaia Martins
David Milazzo
Michael Wang

Seven first-semester students were awarded Berklee's Presidential Scholarship this year, allowing them to attend Berklee for four years at no cost to them or their families—all tuition, housing, and fees provided. This program—the first of its kind at a music school—recognizes young talent all over the world and all over the musical spectrum. Read on to find out more about them. 

Samuel Batista

Panamanian alto saxophonist Samuel Batista is drawn to the honesty of Charlie Parker and Cannonball Adderley. His saxophone helps him express all the things that he can’t with words. Batista was studying at the public arts high school of Panama when previous Berklee Presidential Scholar Jahaziel Arrocha brought him to play at the local jazz big band, There, he met saxophonist Carlos Agrazal, who introduced him to the Danilo Pérez Foundation. Thanks to the foundation, Batista has had the opportunity to study with jazz masters John Patitucci, Wayne Shorter, Ben Street, Brian Blade, Stanley Jordan, Marcos Pignataro, and Tia Fuller, among others. As a volunteer at the foundation he has taught music to children and worked at the Panama Jazz Festival. Before enrolling at Berklee, Batista attended Berklee’s Five-Week Summer Performance Program and the Conservatorio de Música de Puerto Rico.

Helen De La Rosa

Dominican student Helen De La Rosa actually started on her road to drumming at the age of 7—with the guitar. Now at Berklee, she says she feels challenged in every class. De La Rosa was born in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. At the age of 9, she started taking private lessons with well-known Dominican drummer Ezequiel Francisco. She focused on drum studies at the National Conservatory of Music and graduated from the Centro Educativo Los Prados with a diploma in harmony, arrangement, and composition. There, she studied with Socrates Garcia and Corey Allen (Chuck Mangione and Manhattan Transfer). She is a regular drummer at her church.

Tabari Lake

Acoustic bassist Tabari Lake grew up listening to calypso bands on the streets of St. Thomas. He loves how the bass pulls everything together. Lake has always been fascinated with the music of the Virgin Islands, from the small calypso bands to the 200-piece steel orchestras. He began playing in his school’s steel orchestra in the third grade and played the clarinet and steel drums through junior high. When he moved into a FEMA trailer in his grandmother’s backyard in the seventh grade, he taught himself the electric bass in the hopes of joining a calypso band. He was invited to play bass with the Ivanna Eudora Kean High School Jazz Band while still in junior high, then received a scholarship from the Charlotte Amalie High School to attend the Jamey Aebersold Summer Jazz Workshops. He went on to play electric bass in the school’s jazz and symphonic bands, as well as the clarinet in the marching band. He also opened for Tito and Marlon Jackson and performed alongside Ron Blake, Dion Parsons, and Rashawn Ross. He attended the Interlochen Center for the Arts summer jazz program for two years, where he first played the acoustic bass and performed with jazz drummer Peter Erskine, pianist Xavier Davis, and trombonist John Fedchock. He attended the Interlochen Arts Academy for his senior year, touring with the Interlochen Arts Academy Orchestra to Detroit; Washington, D.C.; and New York.

Christian Marrero

Florida native Christian Marrero started playing trumpet in his middle school band to stay out of trouble. He continued because the trumpet perfectly matched the volume of his personality. Marrero began playing trumpet at age 12 and has been very privileged to take lessons with Doug Michels, lead trumpet player of Gloria Estefan’s Miami Sound Machine. Throughout the years he has participated in various Florida state bands, including all state jazz, symphonic, and orchestra. He has also been principal trumpet of the Florida Youth Orchestra for four years in a row and received the prestigious Lois Deicke Award. He toured Europe with the Make a Wish Foundation Charity Band in 2008 and participated in the 2010-2011 Grammy Band Jazz Ensemble, the 2010-2011 Next Generation Jazz Orchestra, and 2011-2012 Jazz Band of America. He performed with Wynton Marsalis and other members of the Jazz at Lincoln Center jazz orchestra at the Essentially Ellington Jazz Competition and worked with Wycliffe Gordon, Marcus Printup, Ted Nash, and Jason Marsalis at the Swing Central Jazz Competition. He attended the Alexander W. Dreyfoos School of the Arts in West Palm Beach, Florida while performing at various weddings, grand openings, and private parties.

Sumaia Martins

Santa Cruz native Sumaia Martins started playing classical violin at the age of 5. Fiddle camp freed her from the classical box. Dual Brazilian and American citizen Martins also has a dual identity as both a violinist and a fiddler. She joined the youth symphony at the age of 11 and sat both principal second violin and concert master during her eight years with the group. During this time she also attended multiple summer fiddle camps, including Celtic Camp, Alasdair Fraser’s fiddle camp on the Isle of Skye in Scotland, Valley of the Moon, Mount Shasta Fiddle Camp, Big Sur Fiddle Camp, and Mark O’Connor’s Fiddle Camp, as well as the Greenwood Chamber Music Camp. Over time, rather than separating, her musical paths have converged. The more she learned to feel rhythm in Scottish, old time, and bluegrass, the easier and more relaxed her classical playing and phrasing was, and her years of work on classical technique has given her the tools to mimic the exact infliction of each phrase she hears.

David Milazzo

Alto saxophonist David Milazzo has always wanted to play fast and clean like Charlie Parker. Now that he’s at Berklee, he’s also trying his hand at writing and arranging. From the moment he discovered his father’s alto saxophone on their Bow, New Hampshire kitchen table, Milazzo has been wowing peers, teachers, and audiences alike. He gained placement in the Windham Swing Band at age 11 on alto while simultaneously excelling in clarinet, attaining first chair clarinet in the NHMEA Middle School Festival in 2006. He studied at the Jamey Aebersold Jazz Camp for two summers with the likes of Lida and David Baker. In the eighth grade, he teamed up with local piano prodigy Michael Sink. He won the Judge’s Choice Award at the 2009 Berklee High School Jazz Festival, as well as the Special Citation for outstanding Musicianship at the 2009 Clark Terry UNH Jazz Festival. He has received two full-tuition scholarships to Berklee’s Five-Week Summer Performance Program and was part of Terri Lyne Carrington’s Jazz Workshop there. He has also performed at several Boston venues, including Slade’s, Ryles, and the Berklee BeanTown Jazz Festival, and with Frank Wilkins, Bobby Tynes, George Garzone, Richie Cole, Cercie Miller, Ted Casher, Greg Abate, and Jeff Harrington.

Michael Wang

The trombone helps Sacramento native Michael Wang express his inner voice. Jazz gives him the chance to use it to speak with other musicians. Wang began classical piano lessons in elementary school. He picked up the trombone when he joined the band in sixth grade because it was the only wind instrument left unattended in the storage room, but soon had the desire to develop his own voice on the instrument. He discovered jazz and improvisation in high school and enjoyed interacting with a rhythm section, playing on and off of a pianist's or guitarist's comping, working through polyrhythms set by the drummer and bassist, and trading choruses with another horn player. After honing his craft in his school jazz ensemble, he began playing at venues and festivals across the country and the world.