Berklee City Music Launches Ambassador Program
Berklee City Music, an organization that enables youth from underserved communities to develop musically, academically, socially, and emotionally through the study of contemporary music and the performing arts, has announced its inaugural ambassador program with nine professionals representing various aspects of the music industry.
Founded over 25 years ago by Berklee College of Music, Berklee City Music reaches more than 55,000 students annually through a variety of programs and initiatives including the Berklee City Music Network®, Berklee City Music Boston, and the innovative, online Berklee PULSE® Music Method. By using culturally relevant music as a vehicle for holistic youth development, City Music helps young people flourish as students, musicians, performing artists, and—perhaps most importantly—confident and well-rounded individuals ready to shape the world. The nine Berklee City Music Ambassadors, which includes faculty, alumni, and professionals affiliated with Berklee, will serve as mentors, advisors, and collaborators for Berklee City Music students throughout the academic year. Berklee City Music will publish monthly profiles on each ambassador on Berklee Pulse.
Several ambassadors made their collaborative debut at Berklee’s Encore Gala earlier this fall, where they performed alongside Berklee City Music Scholarship recipients throughout the event. The Gala also served as the premiere of the ambassadors’ original anthem, "That Feeling," which was collaboratively written by ambassadors Theron Feemster '00 and Niu Raza B.M. '18, guest artist Badger, and Misael Martinez, senior director for Berklee City Music.
Berklee’s 2021–2022 City Music Ambassadors
Madison Calley is a classically trained harpist, social entrepreneur, and acclaimed performer based in Los Angeles. Calley gained recognition for her soulful performances of pop and R&B songs, amassing over half a million views on her Instagram profile. She played the harp as part of Roddy Ricch’s 2021 Grammys performance of “Heartless/The Box”; she has also been featured in performances at the BET Awards and the Latin Grammy Awards. Calley developed a love for the harp as a child, first learning piano at age six and pursuing the harp at age eight. She performed as a part of the D.C. Youth Orchestra and studied music at Carnegie Mellon University. Calley built a path of entrepreneurship following her studies when she moved to Los Angeles to establish a swimwear line. Her entrepreneurial spirit led her to collaborate with Willow Smith as a featured harpist for a social media video, which eventually led her back to the harp. Calley recently released a debut album, Ethereal, featuring eight covers that showcase the connection between classical and contemporary music. Calley is also passionate about making music, particularly the harp, accessible and affordable for the next generation of young musicians.
Theron Feemster '00
Theron Feemster, also known as Neff-U, is an acclaimed songwriter, producer, and composer who has worked with Michael Jackson, Dr. Dre, Eminem, Kendrick Lamar, Justin Bieber, and Sia, among countless others. Feemster has composed for movies and programs on Lifetime, Disney, Fox, and other multimedia entities. Born in Grover, North Carolina, he started playing the piano at two years old. Growing up in his father’s non-denominational church, he learned to freely express himself and his musical talent. After graduating high school, Feemster went on to study at Berklee College of Music. It was there in his dorm that he wrote a musical composition that made its way into the hands of Will Smith, which became the theme song for Men In Black II. In 2001, Feemster moved to Los Angeles to dive into his never-ending journey of musical growth. He is signed to Universal Music Publishing.
A Grammy nominated artist and accomplished educator, Fuller has been the featured saxophonist with pop diva Beyoncé, on the I Am… Sasha Fierce, The Beyoncé Experience, and Live at the Wynn Theatre worldwide tours. She has been involved with Berklee City Music for years, serving as the artistic director of the Berklee City Music Boston High School Academy program. Fuller has also served as assistant musical director for Esperanza Spalding’s Radio Music Society tour, and she performed on Terri Lyne Carrington’s Mosaic Project and Money Jungle tours. Fuller has recorded five albums: Healing Space, Decisive Steps, Angelic Warrior, Pillar of Strength, and Diamond Cut, which received a Grammy nomination for Best Jazz Instrumental Album in 2019. Fuller was a featured performer in the Academy Award–winning animated Pixar film Soul, in which she performed saxophone for the lead character, Dorothea Williams. Her quartet has performed at festivals all over the world, including in Panama, the Netherlands, Italy, Angola, and South Africa. Fuller has been featured on the cover of DownBeat and JazzTimes, and in a national J.Jill campaign celebrating dynamic women in the arts. She has received numerous awards and marks of distinction, winning the JazzTimes Critics’ Poll for best alto saxophonist, and the DownBeat International Critics’ Poll Rising Star award in 2013 and 2014. She received the Benny Golson Award from Howard University in 2018. A devoted educator, Fuller directs Berklee’s Beyoncé, Bruno Mars, Ariana Grande, and Micki Miller ensembles. While balancing the worlds of education and performance, she is instrumental in facilitating master classes, clinics, and lectures worldwide. Fuller holds a bachelor’s degree in music from Spelman College and master’s degree in music from the University of Colorado, Boulder.
Keyon Harrold was born and raised in Ferguson, Missouri, the St. Louis suburb that tore into America’s national consciousness in 2014 with the police shooting of Michael Brown and the bitter protests and riots that followed. While Ferguson looms large in Harrold’s album The Mugician, it examines the nation’s troubled times through a far wider lens than any one tragedy. Harrold grew up one of 16 children in a family that prioritized music and community across generations. His grandfather was a police officer who retired from the force to found a drum and bugle corps for local youth, both of his parents were pastors, and nearly all of his siblings sing and perform music today. Culture shock hit Harrold hard at 18, when he left Ferguson for New York City to enroll in the New School. In New York, he landed his first major gig with Common, an experience that broadened his musical horizons beyond jazz to include funk, Afrobeat, R&B, and hip-hop. Harrold also began performing with stars like Snoop Dogg, Jay-Z, Beyoncé, Rihanna, Eminem, Maxwell, and Anthony Hamilton. In 2009, he released his solo debut, Introducing Keyon Harrold, and subsequently won wide acclaim for his trumpet performances in Don Cheadle’s Miles Davis biopic Miles Ahead. His album The Mugician is a portmanteau of “musician” and “magician,” a nod to a nickname Cheadle bestowed upon the young virtuoso, and it’s an apt descriptor for a record that pushes beyond the traditional boundaries of jazz trumpet. The album celebrates the importance of family (ten of his siblings appear on the record) and the absolute necessity of optimism in the face of darkness and doubt. At the moment, Harrold is a parent himself, and he pays tribute to his son with a pair of tracks on the album: “Lullaby” and “Bubba Rides Again.”
Ondrej Pivec, also known as Ondre J, is a Grammy Award–winning keyboardist, composer, recording artist, and bandleader from the Czech Republic. Though based in Brooklyn, he has toured throughout Europe as a member of the live band for the Grammy-winning jazz singer Gregory Porter, with whom he recorded the 2016 album Take Me To The Alley. Pivec has performed at Glastonbury and North Sea Jazz, in addition to an opening act role with Andra Day on tour with Toni Braxton. He has been featured in performances with the legendary hip-hop group Wu-Tang Clan, in addition to a Janet Jackson tribute at the 2018 BMI Hip-Hop awards, and a tour as keyboardist with the French pop singer Ayo. Pivec plays regularly at New York City’s renowned Greater Allen Cathedral. He's also the keyboardist and music director for a swinging, soulful hybrid R&B/jazz-pop band, the Kennedy Administration.
Niu Raza B.M. ‘18
Malagasy artist and Boston-based singer-songwriter Niu Raza is known for her unique sound, featuring an exciting blend of the music of her traditional heritage with modern music. She has been using her craft as a catalyst for change, promoting women’s empowerment on social media, teaching and helping the next generation of musicians, and advocating for children’s rights with nonprofit organizations such as UNICEF Madagascar. A self-made, independent musician who chose to create her own path, Raza has built her own music business journey, working with labels such as Sony Music as well as several Grammy-nominated and -winning artists including multi-instrumentalist Jacob Collier, bassist Victor Wooten, Beyonce’s touring saxophonist Tia Fuller, and producer Javier Limón. As an entrepreneur, she is also an influencer who has worked with several brands within the skincare and fashion industries.
With over 20 years of production experience across multiple disciplines, Michael Refuerzo has produced some of the most iconic brand campaigns, earning recognition globally as a creative leader. His work with artists, athletes, and brands has influenced the visual language of today’s media landscape. Currently, Refuerzo is head of production at Beats by Dr. Dre, overseeing all content production, including global TV campaigns, short films, music videos, and digital and social media content.
Dwight Watson is a multi-hyphenate creative hailing from Los Angeles, whose background spans across songwriting, production, and management. Watson began his career as a songwriter, working with artists such as Timbaland, Flo Rida, Plies, B.O.B, and Far East Movement. In addition to his work in writing and production, he is also an experienced artist manager in the music and gaming industries, representing clients including Trey Smith and Disney Channel actress, singer, and YouTube star Kylie Cantrall.
Kameron Whalum started singing at age four and picked up the trombone in the fifth grade. Among his secondary and high school musical achievements, Whalum excelled in Overton High School’s creative and performing arts program, and made All-West and All-State honors repeatedly. Leaving Memphis for college, he honed his instrumental and vocal talents at Morehouse College. There he sang in the college's world-renowned glee club, and performed with the House Of Funk marching band and the jazz band. While at the University of Memphis, he was a member of the Southern Comfort Jazz Orchestra. Whalum made his national television debut alongside Jessie J on Saturday Night Live in March of 2011. Three weeks later, he joined Bruno Mars as a member of the Hooligans band. Whalum has performed with Mars on the MTV European Music Awards and Video Music Awards, the Billboard Music Awards, Canada’s Much Music Awards, the Grammy Awards, and the halftime shows of NFL Super Bowl XLVIII and Super Bowl 50 alongside Coldplay and Beyoncé, respectively. He played trombone on Bruno Mars' 24k Magic, which won the Grammy for Album of the Year in 2018, and he also performed as a vocalist and trombonist on "Uptown Funk," which took home the Grammy Award for Record of the Year in 2015.