Kathy Mattea Meets Berklee

  Country singer Kathy Mattea and her longtime guitar sideman Bill Cooley, performed with a Berklee student group at the Berklee Performance Center on March 11.
  Phil Farnsworth
  Kathy Mattea (right) and guitarist Bill Cooley (center) rehearse with Berklee students.
  Stephen Webber

As part of Berklee's 2011 Signature Series, country music star Kathy Mattea was on campus from March 7 to 11. Mattea, a two-time Grammy winner with 17 albums to her credit, left the warmth of Nashville to visit Boston as an artist in residence. Her stay culminated in a March 11 concert with 29 student musicians at the Berklee Performance Center.

MP&E Professor Stephen Webber, who played banjo, guitar, and turntables at the concert, also served as the show's music director. "Kathy is a gifted teacher as well as a world-class artist," Webber says. "She was blown away by the talent and work ethic of the students."

The concert featured adventurous adaptations of songs from Mattea's repertoire, including a New Orleans backbeat version of "Come from the Heart," a hip-hop treatment of "Untold Stories," and a reggae rendition of "18 Wheels and a Dozen Roses."

Berklee student mandolin virtuoso Sierra Hull opened the show with her bluegrass band Highway 111 and later joined Mattea onstage.

After the show, Mattea told Webber that the concert took her out of her comfort zone, something she thoroughly enjoyed. Mattea also said she'd like to bring the student band, which included six background vocalists and a 16-piece string section, out on tour.

Past Signature Series artists have included Ron Carter, Jorge Drexler, Rosa Passos, Jack DeJohnette, Mark O'Connor, Burt Bacharach, Philip Bailey, Meshell Ndegeocello, and Marcus Miller.