Student Spotlight: Yağmur Soydemir

The Berklee graduate student discusses her greatest inspirations, her love of ultimate frisbee, and the process of reworking a traditional Turkish folk song for a humanitarian relief project.

December 18, 2023

What’s it like to study at Berklee? Our Student Spotlight series asks current students all about their Berklee experience—what they’re learning in class, what kinds of projects they’re involved in onstage or behind the scenes, how they recharge, and of course, what they’re listening to. This week, meet Yağmur Soydemir, a flutist from Ankara, Türkiye (historically anglicized as "Turkey"). Yağmur earned her bachelor's degree in performance and contemporary writing and production (CWP) at Berklee, and is now a student in the Berklee Global Jazz Institute's Master of Music in global jazz program.

Follow Yağmur on Instagram, LinkedIn, and YouTube.

Tell us about your path to Berklee. What made you decide to come here?

A heartfelt thank you, dear Berklee Now, for interviewing me; it is an honor. Let us commence!

I began my music education and flute studies at the age of 11 at Hacettepe Conservatory in my hometown Ankara, Türkiye. In addition to my classical music studies, I developed a deep interest in pop, jazz, and other genres of music. During middle school, I was already arranging well-known pop and jazz tunes for an ensemble of eight flutes, which we then performed with our flute class in concerts held throughout Türkiye.

After completing high school, I pursued a bachelor's degree in classical flute performance at the Nice Conservatory in France. Throughout my studies, I participated in several solo flute and chamber music competitions in France and Europe, winning first and second place awards. At the same time, I began accompanying various jazz bands on European tours. Subsequently, during my master's degree studies at Lugano Conservatory in Switzerland, I founded and led my own jazz ensemble.

Motivated by a growing passion for jazz and a strong desire for further exploration, I applied to Berklee College of Music. After the evaluation process and receiving a full-tuition scholarship, I relocated to Boston, which marked a transformative moment in my career. Notably, I also received the Jazz Talent of the Year Scholarship from the Jazz Society of Türkiye during the same year.

At Berklee, I pursued a double major in contemporary writing and production and jazz performance. And this year, I am very grateful for being accepted to the Berklee Global Jazz Institute’s one-year master’s degree program with a full-tuition scholarship. Currently, my artistic pursuits include composing original music, arranging for both small and large ensembles, and providing flute instruction in both in-person and remote settings. I am currently exploring collaborations and looking to establish my own band.

What's been your favorite class so far, and what has it taught you?

Choosing only one class from Berklee is impossible for me! However, I can list some of my favorite and most impactful courses! I highly recommend future students to take a look at these incredible professors:

Performance Pedagogy with Marco Pignataro; Effortless Mastery with Kenny Werner; Directed Study with Danilo Pérez, John Patitucci, and Ben Street; Original Fusion Ensemble with Tiger Okoshi; Intensive Introduction to Film Scoring with Sheldon Mirowitz; DAW Writing and Mixing Concepts with Danny McIntyre; the Berklee Indian Ensemble; Music Business with Eirini Tornesaki; and Small Jazz Band with Ed Tomassi.

What's a project you've worked on since coming to Berklee?

The most recent project I realized at Berklee took place this year, in February 2023. Following the serious earthquakes in Türkiye, we organized a project with the aim of collecting donations from global citizens for the earthquake victims, which was titled Earthquake Relief Project for Türkiye. We coproduced the project with Kemal Oksal, a professor in the Contemporary Writing and Production Department at Berklee. We took a traditional Turkish folk song and arranged and orchestrated it for orchestra, choir, vocal soloists, and ethnic instruments. Later on, we recorded this arrangement with 72 volunteer Berklee musicians from 30 different countries at the Shames [Family Scoring Stage] studio at Berklee, and we released it in collaboration with Berklee Productions. We hope that this project has led to an increase in donations and has made a positive impact on earthquake victims. You may watch the video here:

How do you typically recharge or find new ideas outside of class?

When seeking new ideas for my artistic creations, I find great benefit in examining artworks created in the past. By analyzing the elements that motivate me in those works, focusing on why I appreciate them, I come to know myself better and generate new ideas to pursue. Amidst the constraints of classes, projects, concerts, and responsibilities, like many Berklee students, I have limited time (almost none). However, among my favorite activities in general, I enjoy watching intelligent movies, spending time with my close friends, and exploring the city. However, my most beloved hobby, which I've been engaged in for almost a decade, is playing ultimate frisbee competitively in teams across Türkiye, Europe, and the USA. To those who haven't heard of this intense sport yet, I strongly recommend watching a video of the sport immediately!

When you think towards your own future, who inspires you the most?

Not just one person, but individuals who are dedicated to their work or life purpose, work diligently, put in effort, don't give up on their dreams, persist, and believe in themselves—when I see such individuals, it truly becomes a huge source of inspiration to me. I instantly find the energy I need and start working again!

What are some pieces of advice you would give to your high school self?

I quickly formulated five recent pieces of advice for myself:

  1. Before anything else, take time to understand what you really need.
  2. Treat yourself the way you always kindly treat others.
  3. Wherever you are, always show up 100 percent.
  4. The way you see yourself is what you will become.
  5. Luck does not come from anywhere but hard work.

Yağmur's Five Recent Favorites

We asked Yağmur to share five tracks she's been listening to these days. Here's what she said:

I would gladly share with you the top five songs that I listen to the most these days. I will share a piece from each, but I recommend listening to the entire albums!

1. “Movement I: St. Louis to New Orleans” (from Swing Symphony), Wynton Marsalis

2. “With the Love in My Heart,” Jacob Collier and Metropole Orkest

3. “Tio Macaco,” Snarky Puppy

4. “Levitation 21,” Tigran Hamasyan

5. “April” by Caravan Palace

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