Green Jams

  Participants in the April Berklee in Dublin workshops gather in front of the Dublin Institute of Technology.
  Photo by Nick Balkin

From April 13 to 17, Berklee faculty members and admissions department representatives crossed the Atlantic to hold a series of improvisation workshops and scholarship auditions in Dublin, Ireland. While Berklee is known for its large international community, Irish musicians are a small minority at the college. As an addition to Berklee's international outreach programs, Berklee in Dublin is an important first step toward remedying the dearth of Irish musicians at Berklee and establishes more formal links with the Emerald Isle.

The Dublin Institute of Technology's classrooms in which these workshops took place were abuzz each day with the sounds of fiddles, flutes, cellos, harps, guitars, drums, piano, and lots of laughs too, as students bonded instantly with their teachers. Though most participants were Irish, many came from elsewhere in Europe and from parts of North and South America to attend.

The Berklee faculty members making the journey included Greg Badolato, the assistant vice president for international programs and program director for Berklee in Dublin; Michael Farquharson, a professor of contemporary writing and production; Matt Glaser, the chair of the String Department; Jim Kelly, a professor of guitar; and John McGann, an associate professor of strings.

Prior to the launch of Berklee in Dublin, the college already had important connections with Ireland. Riverdance composer Bill Whelan is a member of the Berklee Board of Trustees and U2 guitarist The Edge received an honorary doctor of music degree at the college's 2007 commencement.

After attending a Berklee graduation and seeing only one Irish student walk across the dais, Whelan approached Berklee President Roger Brown about creating a program modeled after the Berklee on the Road jazz clinics to help recruitment efforts in Ireland. Subsequently, Berklee staff members traveled to Ireland to meet with musicians and educators. In consultation with Newpark Music Centre, a Berklee International Network school, the decision was made to design a program that focuses on improvisation for musicians of all disciplines, including the classical and traditional genres. The program's long-term goal is to create a flow of students and musical ideas between Ireland and Boston.

At the week's closing event, four students won full-tuition scholarships to Berklee's Five-Week Summer Performance Program, and three received scholarships for a course. That night, the program participants celebrated, all but taking over downtown club Shebeen Chic, where students and faculty held dual jam sessions. In the basement, jazz and blues sessions lured many renowned Irish musicians to sit in, and the jam upstairs featured traditional music.

Students had so much fun showing off their new skills that they barely noticed the club's proprietor locking up and turning off the lights to signal that the party was over. It was a fitting end to the Berklee in Dublin inaugural effort, which by all accounts was a rousing success.


Nick Balkin is a publicist in Berklee's Office of Public Information.