For Two Students, Summer Rock Workshop Launches College Careers

Izzy Lamberti and Ethan Surman found their path to Berklee through the Aspire: Five-Week Music Performance Intensive.

March 23, 2022

Growing up, Izzy Lamberti’s two older brothers played electric guitar and bass. But Izzy decided early on that she wanted a louder and bigger instrument, and she also wanted an audience; so, at the age of 5, she chose the drum set and practiced in her kitchen instead of the basement.

She got more serious about drums a few years later, leading to lots of gigs and six years at Lakehouse Music Academy in Asbury Park, New Jersey. Fast forward to the summer of 2019. Just having finished her junior year at Holmdel High School in New Jersey, Lamberti brought her passion to Berklee’s Aspire: Five-Week Music Summer Performance Intensive. She was so taken with the program that she auditioned for the following summer’s Rock Workshop at Aspire, and set her sights on Berklee for her undergraduate experience. “As soon as I arrived at Berklee, it felt like home,” she recalls.

"I got so much fundamental knowledge, from ear training to harmony. I became an exponentially better singer and was pushed so far musically.”

— Ethan Surman

Guitarist Ethan Surman’s introduction to Berklee, meanwhile, began virtually. He’d been accepted to Aspire’s Rock Workshop, but after COVID-19 hit, the program moved online for 2020 (it has since reverted to an on-campus program). That shift didn’t dissuade Surman, whose musical ambition was stoked at a young age—he recalls his parents playing greats such as Stevie Wonder, the Clash, Bob Marley, and the Beatles and considers his first listen to David Bowie’s 1972 album, The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, transformative. Before beginning the Berklee summer program, he was already in a rock band writing original music and performing in and around his home city of Toronto, and recording music in his attic. But he knew he still had a lot to learn.

Well-Prepared for Berklee

Lamberti and Surman, who connected via the 2020 online Rock Workshop, are now both second-semester students at Berklee and grateful for the preparation Aspire provided.

Ethan Surman

Ethan Surman came to Berklee via the Aspire: Five-Week Music Summer Performance Intensive.

For Lamberti, the production training was invaluable and Marty Walsh, who leads the Rock Workshop, was inspirational. “It wasn’t just about performance. It was a different side of music I didn’t know. I learned how to mic up a drum set and record,” she recalls. “Marty was so good with making everyone sound great.”

Surman chose to apply to the Rock Workshop as a vocalist, and that made all the difference. “It was a huge eye-opening experience,” he says. “I got so much fundamental knowledge, from ear training to harmony. I became an exponentially better singer and was pushed so far musically. Five-Week started me on that path.”

While attending the Rock Workshop, Surman was also able to connect what he was learning to real life, since he was simultaneously recording an album with his band. “I was in charge of overdubs and production and arrangement of the album. I remember using a lot of what I was learning in Five-Week, as it was immediately applicable to my own trade.” And after he finished the program, he embarked on a gap year during which he recorded music and demos and ultimately connected with a producer who invited him to his L.A. studio to record. His first song, "C'est la vie," was recently released.

Forming Lasting Connections

In addition to honing their performance and production skills during the summer program, both Lamberti and Surman were also able to stay connected not only to each other, but to some of the faculty they worked with, even after the program ended.

Lamberti studied musicianship with Mark Shilansky, and now studies ear training with him. “He’s so genuine and fun, and it’s been great to be able to continue the connection,” she says.

And in her first semester as an undergraduate, Lamberti received a text from Walsh, who said he needed a drummer for an ensemble he was leading. “It’s nice that he looks after you,” she says. “He wants you to get better and succeed.”

Similarly, Walsh invited Surman to be featured as a guest vocalist in his L.A. Studio Ensemble class his first semester. “His attention to detail is great. He’s analytical in a way that’s really effective. Plus, we got to hear cool stories about his time playing with Supertramp.”

For each, Five-Week provided them a launching pad for Berklee, where they are continuing to build their musicianship.

“It’s so inspiring to be around all these insanely talented creators and instrumentalists and singers,” says Surman, who has applied to be a music production and engineering major. “Being around this kind of talent pool is amazing. It’s a really great place to be and learn. It feels like a microcosm of the music industry.”

Lamberti, a music/business management major, is also appreciative of the community Berklee provides. “I’m absorbing all the talent, all the knowledge,” she says.

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