Berklee Today

Honors and Insights at Umbria 2003

From the left: Berklee's Ensemble Department Chair Ron Savage with Elvin Jones H '01 and clinic assistant Marco Volpe '84 after Jones's first day of master classes in Perugia.
Photo by Emily Singer

This past July, the Umbria Jazz Festival in Perugia, Italy, marked its 30th anniversary, and Berklee its 18th year of presenting the Berklee Summer School at Umbria Jazz Clinics. The 12-day jazz education program, running alongside the famed festival, has reached an estimated 4,000 students over the years according to Larry Monroe, Berklee's Associate Vice President of International Programs. "This year was the biggest year yet," Monroe said. "We had 289 students attending. Each year we get a strong turnout consisting primarily of European music students, but we had people from 21 countries attend this year."

Berklee brought a dozen faculty members to Perugia to teach this summer. Their efforts coupled with those of the jazz stars performing at the festival created a rich educational experience for students. Among the highlights this year were master classes by drummer Elvin Jones and vocalist/conductor Bobby McFerrin. Monroe said that vocalists were treated to some coaching from McFerrin and Associate Professor Donna McElroy. McElroy and her student vocalists were invited to sing with McFerrin onstage at his evening concert. "The educational side of this program has always been strong," said Monroe. "In the past, we've had such greats as Joe Lovano, Bill Frisell, and Paul Motian giving clinics."

The scholarship program has been fruitful in attracting gifted students to Berklee who have later distinguished themselves in the music world. "We generally award about $60,000 in scholarships to 10 or 12 students who attend the clinics," said Monroe. "From that number, we get four or five each year who end up coming to Berklee to study." Among them have been vocalist/Verve recording artist Chiara Civello '95, bassist Matt Garrison '92 (who has played with Joe Zawinul and Gary Burton), and Italian piano great Salvatore Bonafede '89.

From the left: Giovanni Tommaso, Bobby McFerrin, and Sonny Rollins after receiving Berklee's honorary doctor of music degrees in Perugia, Italy, this past July.
Photo by Giancarlo Belfiore

The presentation of Berklee College of Music honorary doctor of music degrees to McFerrin, legendary tenor saxophonist Sonny Rollins, Italian bassist and composer Giovanni Tommaso—who for the past 18 years has served as codirector of the Berklee Summer School at Umbria Jazz Clinics—was another highlight. Accepting the award, McFerrin stated, "What's important is a deep and profound spiritual reality, the joy of simply making and sharing music with others, and a sense of gratitude for each note that you play." Rollins simply dedicated his award to Benny Carter, Coleman Hawkins, Lester Young, Don Byas, and others whom he referred to as "my teachers."

Tommaso addressed the young musicians saying, "If you think you can make it, do it. Being a jazz musician is a great life—a lot of freedom, a lot of joy. The bank account may not be that big, but I tell you, it's a wonderful life."