Ensemble Faculty

Dennis Montgomery

Associate Professor, Ensemble

"When I was young I had to learn European musical styles. So when foreign students come to Berklee, I think it is important to educate them in a true form of American music. The Bible says, 'Go ye therefore and teach all nations.' I take that in a musical sense. The whole world has become my classroom, and I like that."

Nancy Morris

Professor, Ensemble
nmorris@berklee.edu | 617 747-8427

"Music is something that's as individual as each student, and my goal is to bring that out in my students. Whether it's their songwriting skills or their singing skills, or just trying to put everything together, I try to bring out their individuality. If students sing at all, or they would like to, I encourage that. My experience has taught me that's it's very important to do as many things in the music business as possible; if you're a singer who plays, or a player who sings, you're going to have many more opportunities to find work."

Bruce Nifong

Professor, Ensemble
bnifong@berklee.edu | 617 747-2491

"Every student has this gift within them, but they may have difficulty expressing their gift. So, starting with the idea that students need help finding that mode of expression, we help them connect with teachers who really have a passion for helping the students find their inner voice."

Jason Palmer

Assistant Professor, Ensemble
jrpalmer@berklee.edu | 617 747-6164

"I'm really into serial composition, improvisation based on numbers. We play songs based on sudoku games, just to get students to be able to recognize a chord structure. If they see a seven, then that means it's a seven in the scale. So it kind of connects their minds. The rules are, you can play one note, let's say the nine, as many times as you want, but you can't go to any other note except for, say, the six. So then they have to figure out what kind of rhythm they can add to the notes in order to make them sound like music instead of a robot. I did a commission about four or five years ago in New York, and I wrote a suite—two hours' worth of music-based on a sudoku game. It was great! It's fun. It's another way of thinking about music."

Marcello Pellitteri

Professor, Ensemble

"What I find exciting about teaching is the challenge of having people in class with different individual cultures, personalities, backgrounds, needs, and aspirations speak the same language in an ensemble. I stress to my students the importance of developing an awareness of their relationship with the rest of the band. I also help them develop strong rhythmic articulation and interpretation, depending on the style of music they are playing. At any level, they should be able to groove just by playing a few notes in the right way and putting them in the right place. My goal is to broaden their knowledge of diverse styles and to enhance their listening skills so that they can adapt their playing and react accordingly to any kind of musical situation."

Annette Philip

Assistant Professor, Voice
Also affiliated with: Berklee India Exchange, Ensemble
aphilip@berklee.edu | 617 747-6152

"My first love is working with multiple voices, and in India I have a group, over 250 members now, called Artists Unlimited. The whole concept of circle singing is something that is so very powerful. Circle singing is a concept that as far as I know Bobby McFerrin introduced to the world. It's very organic. He assigns a part to the bass singers, and another interlocking part to the sopranos, and something else for the altos, and something else for the tenors, and maybe he would improvise over it. It's a very dynamic form of composition; it's always improvised. One of the students started a circle singing group at Berklee. You have to really surrender to the moment. I think in all music that's what we're trying to encourage our students to do, to surrender and be totally present in the moment. And I feel that circle singing is a very noncompetitive, nonhostile, supportive, healing, and liberating space to just give yourself to and then see what happens."

John Pierce

Professor, Ensemble
jpierce@berklee.edu | 617 747-8319

"I continually point out the way that ear training relates to other classes. I feel that those correlations are an integral part of the education at Berklee—that the classes all fit together and complement each other. Success in an ear training class will make them far more successful as harmony students, as arranging students, and as performers. In general, ear training will make them a more a literate musician. It will enable them to hear what they see, write what they hear, and play what they hear."

Nedelka Prescod

Assistant Professor, Ensemble
nprescod@berklee.edu | 617 747-6380

"Your art and your talent are what you see life through, and are ultimately how you feel life. The most important thing is self-acceptance and ownership of that life, acknowledging the blessings along the way."

Bruno Raberg

Professor, Ensemble
braberg@berklee.edu | 617 747-8430

"The hallmark of a good bassist is knowing the foundation of both your own instrument and the music—understanding your own playing but also the role of your instrument within a group, how to interact and listen. In my teaching I make sure to cover all those aspects."

Dave Samuels

Associate Professor, Ensemble
dsamuels@berklee.edu | 617 747-8283

"My teaching style is based on the needs of the students. It covers more than just the obvious. In private instruction, I'm not just talking about how to play vibes or marimba. I'm talking about how to compose and improvise and express feelings through the music. A musician who doesn't know how to write and arrange doesn't have the scope of a musician who does have those attributes."

David Santoro

Professor, Ensemble
dsantoro@berklee.edu | 617 747-8440
  • Bassist and pianist
  • Leader of Dave Santoro's Standard Band featuring Jerry Bergonzi and the Dick Oatts/Dave Santoro Quartet
  • Member of the Dick Oatts Trio and Quartet and the Jerry Bergonzi Quartet

Ron Savage

Chair, Ensemble
rsavage@berklee.edu | 617 747-8416

"To prepare for the current music scene, where boundaries are constantly being crossed and new music created, it is important that we expose our students to as many different musical perspectives as possible. That's why the Ensemble Department is so stylistically diverse."

Robert Schlink

Associate Professor, Ensemble
rschlink@berklee.edu | 617 747-8343

"I tell my students that the best thing to say when somebody asks you if you play this kind of music is yes, because then you can get the gig. So when you’re at Berklee you should learn as many different things as you can. Matt Garstka is a guy I use as an example. He was the drummer in the first heavy metal ensemble, and he plays with the band Animals as Leaders. They’re one of the top progressive bands in the world. He was rated all sevens. You don’t get all sevens just knowing how to play heavy metal; you have to know all the different styles."

Sean K. Skeete

Assistant Chair, Ensemble
sskeete@berklee.edu | 617 747-2994

"I've been mentoring with City Music since I started teaching here, five years ago. It really just lines up with my life philosophy, which is engaging and inspiring the next generation. Whether or not I'm doing it at Berklee I'm doing it somewhere, because it's part of the way I was raised. I was one of those City Music students at one point, involved in the five-week program. Now I go back and help out the students that are coming behind me and help the program to expand and grow."

Skip Smith

Associate Professor, Ensemble
ssmith@berklee.edu | 617 747-8535

"I didn't have a special teaching style when I came to Berklee. Goodness, no. I think what I had was a lot of ability to learn and adapt very quickly. I was on the road for 30 years or more. And being on the road, you're used to change. In a classroom situation, things change all the time. The attitude I have is that I don't know everything, especially teaching contemporary music. In a sense, I'm learning from the students, too, because they bring in tunes by groups that I've never heard of."

Lenny Stallworth

Associate Professor, Ensemble
Also affiliated with: Berklee Online (available courses)

"We all have a destiny, and I try to make students realize that each of them is an individual unique unto itself and you don't have to run anyone else's race. Sometimes I get students that are overwhelmed because there are so many great players at Berklee. So I just try to connect the fact that if we can find the one unique part abut us, that's what's gonna make you separate from the masses. The upside is that we all have something to contribute. No matter what. I think each student has something that the world can only get from that particular student. It's up to that student to, with integrity, work and develop that skill to bring it to fruition."

Ed Tomassi

Professor, Ensemble
Also affiliated with: Berklee Online (available courses)
etomassi@berklee.edu | 617 747-8383

"I teach a lot of things by ear—improvisation concepts, balancing solos, different harmonic and melodic concepts. There is a key to teaching improvisation. There are five elements: melody, harmony, form, rhythm, and color. Out of those five elements, I teach different concepts, so the students get a well-balanced diet of solos, so it doesn't sound like they're just concentrating on one element. Some students are more crafted in certain areas, in form or harmony. They may need more melody or more color. It all depends on the individual."

Marty Walsh

Assistant Professor, Ensemble
Also affiliated with: Berklee Online (available courses)
mwalsh1@berklee.edu | 617 747-8688

"In my MP&E classes, I try to look at many of the small details of production that otherwise would have a tendency to go unnoticed. In my ensembles, I like to be 'part specific.' I look at how the drums and bass are interacting. I look at how the harmonic instruments are interacting. Are they playing in appropriate registers? Are the parts complementing or fighting each other? Once we get the tune up and running, the players have more liberty to embellish their parts—within the framework of the tune. The song comes first. All improvisational ideas are drawn from the song."

Larry Watson

Professor, Ensemble
lwatson@berklee.edu | 617 747-8478

"As a veteran performer, I am able to simulate for students what is expected of them as professional musicians. My success, and the success of those I have taught, is based more on strong organizational skills, effective conflict resolution skills, and prudence and intelligence about the manner in which you display your musical and creative talents."

Dave Weigert

Professor, Ensemble
dweigert@berklee.edu | 617 747-2347

"Attitudes can have a huge impact on the speed at which we learn. A dangerous attitude is when a student labels and oversimplifies a musical concept and dismisses it too easily because the term might not sound impressive. In a recent ensemble, a good bass player was having trouble improvising over a tune in G minor. He didn't have a focus in his approach, so I recommended he try G minor pentatonic. He said he didn't want to play 'autopilot pentatonic.' That stopped everything for me. 'You can't discount pentatonic,' I said. 'It's probably 85 percent of the language of this music that we're playing. Learn the language of pentatonic first, innovate later.' A mindset like that is a trap I want to help students avoid."

Diane Wernick

Associate Professor, Ensemble
dwernick@berklee.edu | 617 747-2995

"While I work to create a supportive atmosphere, I also focus on getting the most out of my students. Newer students are often overwhelmed and maybe even intimidated by their surroundings here at Berklee, and it can be really hard for them to open up and play. Even if they play a lot of wrong notes at first, I want them to realize that they have a voice. The more developed player should take advantage of the musical talent that floods this campus. I urge students to play as much as they can, keep an open mind, and learn from every situation."

Carolyn Wilkins

Professor, Ensemble
cwilkins@berklee.edu | 617 747-8333

"In a Berklee ensemble, you get to play with the same group of people for 15 weeks in a guided situation in which you're continually being monitored and mentored. We all go out and play gigs on our own. I do that myself, and that's one level of learning. But the kind of feedback that you get from being in the ensemble can help you see the things that you do well, don't do well, and how you can improve them. It's an educational experience, not just jamming and getting together."

Ken Zambello

Professor, Ensemble
kzambello@berklee.edu | 617 747-2256

"In our ensembles, I have two hours to work with students, then meet with them again one week later. One of the things I've tried to stress with them is, 'Are we retaining what we learned last week, and improving upon it, or are we relearning it?' In the real world, somebody may give you something to learn in a day. So I work on being able to learn things fast, retain them, and present them in a professional manner in any performance situation."