Berklee Launches Global Jazz Institute

  BGJI Artistic Director Danilo Perez
  Photos by Phil Farnsworth
  Terri Lyne Carrington
  Jamey Haddad
  Joe Lovano
  From left: Members of the Berklee Global Jazz Institute Septet Matthew Halpin, Greg Chaplin, Mark Whitfield, Jr., Paulo Stagnaro, Hailey Niswanger, Christian Li, and Andrew Burglass
  From the left: Joey Lefitz, Paulo Stagnaro, Takeshi Ohbayashi, Kenji Herbert, Jeonglim Yang, Jesse Scheinin, Eyal Shmuel Hai, and Jahaziel Arrocha, consitute the Berklee Global Jazz Institute Octet

President Roger H. Brown chose the Panama Jazz Festival's January 13 Gala Night as the setting to announce the launch of the Berklee Global Jazz Institute (BGJI). Brown announced to the crowd that Panamanian jazz pianist Danilo Perez has been named the artistic director of the program. Brown expressed his hope that through the institute, we may challenge Perez and his students "to live and grow together to become the future voices of creativity, generosity, and compassion."

The inaugural class that began the program this semester was drawn from five states and six countries and includes saxophonists Jahaziel Arrocha (Panama), Eyal Shmuel Hai (Israel), Matthew Halpin (Ireland), Hailey Niswanger (Oregon), Jesse Scheinin (California); guitarists Kenji Herbert (Japan) and Andrew Burglass (Louisiana); pianists Christian Li (Canada) and Takeshi Ohbayashi (Japan); drummers Joey Lefitz (California) and Mark Whitfield Jr. (New York); bassists Jeonglim Yang (South Korea) and Greg Chaplin (Massachusetts); and percussionist Paulo Stagnaro (Massachusetts).

The BGJI has three main goals: to provide an interdisciplinary music program where students can explore their creativity at the highest level, to examine the social power of music as a tool to better society, and to connect creative musical thinking with nature.

The BGJI curriculum is taught by a select group of Berklee faculty including Perez, saxophonists Joe Lovano, George Garzone, Bill Pierce, and Allan Chase, drummer Terri Lyne Carrington, and hand percussionist Jamey Haddad.

Directed study classes and seminars have been designed to help the students build a community of creativity. Courses include "Introduction to Global Jazz," which focuses on the development of jazz from Africa to Europe and the Americas; "Global Jazz Workshop Assembly," a forum for artists in residence and presentations from the Liberal Arts, Music Therapy, and Composition departments; and "Creative Improvisation through Interdisciplinary Collaboration," an exploration of the creative process and the connection between jazz performance and the visual arts.

Experiential learning and service are also integral to the program. Marco Pignataro, the managing director for the BGJI, says, "[The students] have been given this great musical talent. We'll teach that as artists, they are responsible to positively affect their communities." In addition to their studies, the students will travel together to play at jazz festivals, and record original material. They will give public service in Boston and in other cities and develop the skills needed to become role models for a new generation of musicians and inspire leadership. According to Perez, "The program will provide interactive experiences in uncommon settings, such as the jungle or the forest, where music is used to promote interaction with indigenous cultures and is used to create awareness about the importance of the restoration of ecology."

While the institute seeks advanced players, selection is not solely based on musical proficiency. Participants must also possess a social awareness and openness to other disciplines. "We're looking to foster multifaceted, creative students that will be also open to artistic interests other than music," says Pignataro. "We're looking to develop the whole artist, not just the musician."