New Presidential Scholars Arrive

  Front row from the left, Presidential Scholarship recipients Ariadna Castellanos-Pliego Rivas and Sierra Hull, back row, Spencer Stewart, Mike Bono, Matthew Halpin, and Raul Hernandez (not pictured are scholars Kush Abadey and Justin Faulkner).
  Photo by Phil Farnsworth



Eight entering students embarked on their studies as Berklee presidential scholars this fall. Established by President Roger Brown in 2005, the Presidential Scholarship Program brings top young talent to Berklee with a full scholarship that covers all expenses.

Ariadna Castellanos-Pliego Rivas of Madrid, Spain, is a pianist versed in classical, jazz, and flamenco music. Prior to enrolling at Berklee, she earned a bachelor of music degree from Guildhall School of Music & Drama in London. Rivas has earned top honors in piano competitions in Europe and performed extensively.

Sierra Hull of Byrdstown, TN, has a formidable reputation as a singer and champion bluegrass mandolinist. Several top bluegrass musicians back her on her debut album, Secrets. Hull has appeared at festivals across America and in Japan and shared the stage with Alison Krauss, Bobby McFerrin, Edgar Meyer, and others.

Spencer Stewart, an upright bass player from Vancouver, WA, was the bassist for the Washington All-State honors jazz program and participated in the American Music Program and Young Composers Project in Portland, OR. Stewart is a regular in the Portland jazz scene and has played at numerous jazz festivals.

Guitarist Mike Bono of Howell, NJ, has played professionally for several years in jazz clubs, theater pit orchestras, and restaurants. He's received numerous awards and attended the Governor's School of the Arts jazz program at the College of New Jersey. One of his career highlights was opening for jazz guitarist Martin Taylor.

Raul Hernandez of Carpinteria, CA, was a finalist in the Music Center Spotlight Awards and played as an opening act for Kenny Loggins and Dave Koz and recorded with Loggins. In addition to playing all instruments in the saxophone family, Hernandez plays cello, piano, trumpet, and flute.

Tenor saxophonist Matthew Halpin of Dublin, Ireland, studied at the Royal Irish Academy of Music and has won numerous music competitions. He has played alongside some of Ireland's top jazz musicians and participated in Ireland's Sligo Jazz Project summer school and Canada's Banff International Workshop in Jazz and Creative Music.

Drummer Kush Abadey of Cheverly, MD, has played with numerous jazz luminaries and led his own jazz bands. At 16, he was a member of trumpeter Wallace Roney's quintet and played at the White House with Paquito D'Rivera and Wynton Marsalis. He aims for a career as a composer, producer, and educator.

Justin Faulkner of Philadelphia, PA, studied classical and jazz percussion extensively. Since playing his first gig with bassist Jamaaladeen Tacuma, he has worked with many top jazz musicians and been a member of the Mingus Big Band. Currently, he is the drummer for the Branford Marsalis Quartet.

"We interviewed and auditioned 4,700 students for fall admission," says Dean of Admissions Damien Bracken. "All were potential candidates for the Presidential Scholarship. Just being among the 20 finalists is a remarkable achievement. The eight who were chosen are among the finest young musicians I've had the privilege to meet."