The string department offers a broad array of diverse courses.
21st-Century String Band
Using influential acoustic innovators like David Grisman, Béla Fleck, and Crooked Still as inspirations, this ensemble will explore the ever growing trend of using traditional string instruments in nontraditional ways. While straight-ahead bluegrass and old-time bands are alive and thriving today, many string bands with similar instrumentation have taken a more omnivorous approach to crafting a sound, blending musical ideas from rock, jazz, soul, and beyond with more traditional musical approaches, incorporating material from a wide array of sources, and generally breaking down the walls between genres while redefining what a string band can sound like today.
Acoustic Strings Workshop
This ensemble specializes in original and progressive acoustic string music, drawing from bluegrass, jazz, and rock roots. Students should have a firm foundation in memorized repertoire. Course will include study of arranging and instrumentation as well as idiomatic improvisational techniques.
Harp Improvisation Ensemble
This ensemble is designed to strengthen the basic skills needed for improvisation, including jazz harmony, phrasing, melodic development, reading chord charts, and technical aspects of improvisation on the harp.
Banjo Improvisation Ensemble
Banjo students will study chords and scales, and the ways in which they relate. This will then be used as the basis for improvisation, comping, and composing original tunes.
Funk String Ensemble
This course will introduce string players to performance techniques useful for playing popular music.Using music by James Brown, Wilson Picket, Stevie Wonder, the Meters, and others, students will explore riffing, playing in different parts of the beat, playing without vibrato, soloing and other techniques that will help them play convincingly in several styles of dance music.
Free Improvisation for Strings
This ensemble provides students with the opportunity to develop improvisational skills through free improvisation. Players are encouraged to create dynamic and rhythmic pieces using existing musical skills. Skills are expanded through the study of the musical elements, complex time signatures, form, and musical roles. Students learn to trust their instincts for the ebb and flow of music as they create satisfying ensemble pieces with no prior plan or discussion.
Berklee Contemporary String Orchestra
Classic and contemporary approaches to string ensemble performance, including groove-based playing and improvisation in addition to more traditional repertoire. Students will be required to attend and participate in one 2-hour class meeting, and one 1-hour additional class meeting per week.
String Master Class
This ensemble is a contemporary version of the traditional conservatory master class. It provides students with the opportunity to perform weekly in a setting less public than a concert hall, to give and get feedback on performing, and to hear many points of view on string playing.
Acoustic Roots Improvisation Ensemble
This ensemble is a hands-on tour of two great American improvisational music forms, bluegrass and swing, focusing on melodic variation as well as chord-based jazz improvisational strategies, with an emphasis on standard repertoire and transcription projects.
Wayfaring Strangers Ensemble
This ensemble uses traditional folk, country, and blues repertoire as a means to develop higher level improvisational, compositional, and arranging skills in a band setting.
Rhythmic Explorations for Strings
This ensemble will explore grooves, rhythms, and textures for string group using traditional, international, jazz, and other modern material, some of which will be improvised, some written. Participants will learn how to form a coherent and powerful ensemble sound on varied musical frameworks.
Classical String Chamber Music Ensemble
Study and performance of string quartets and trios from the repertoire of the baroque period through the 21st century.