Berklee Riffs: Five-Week Ensemble Showcase

Danielle Dreilinger
August 16, 2010
Five-Week Summer Performance Program student Onya O'Doherty sings with the Unzipped ensemble August 10.
Forrest Durell of Davis, California and Andrew D. Wang of Scarsdale, New York split vocal duties with the Italian Job ensemble.
Benjamin M. Matlack of Arlington, Massachusetts joins in the groove with Sawa Tamezane of Kobe Hyogo, Japan.
Photo by Jennifer Shanley
Photo by Jennifer Shanley
Photo by Jennifer Shanley

At 3:30 p.m. on August 10, the 1A recital hall entryway is standing-room-only. Everyone's watching a group called the Italian Job play "My Funky Valentine." As soon as Francesco Morelli finishes his hot guitar solo and Sawa Tamezane gives a final squawk on the bari sax, everything becomes even more of a blur. Musicians move in and move out, easing their guitar and sax cases by each other. "Let the next band in, please!" someone calls out.

It may look like rush hour at Grand Central, but it is in fact the ensemble showcase week that closes out Berklee's 2010 Five-Week Summer Performance Program. The college has four days to showcase 275 bands: Four ensembles are performing from three to four o'clock alone today, with another batch of bands down the hall. Each hour of the afternoon has its own printed program.

In the mayhem, parents can barely congratulate their kids. "I thought it was terrific," says Anne Meltzer Wang with pride. "It was such an innovative, wonderful arrangement." Her high-school-aged son Andrew D. Wang has spent the summer learning scat singing and working with two ensembles and the Five-Week chorus. "I was just glad he was going somewhere he could immerse himself in music," she says.

Back in the recital hall, the Unzipped ensemble is already nearly done with the first of its two songs—an upbeat pop tune written by band member Onya O'Doherty, 29, of Bundoran, Ireland. Ensembles are "a good way to shine. Everybody gets their 30 seconds," she says afterwards.

30 seconds is right. Faculty member Berke McKelvey is already passing out the four o'clock programs. The show goes by, like the summer itself, in a flash.

Berklee Riffs offer snapshots of day-to-day life at the college.