Berklee Announces Spring 2018 Signature Series

Margot Edwards
December 20, 2017
Press release
Clockwise from top left: Jetro Da Silva, Dennis Montgomery, Ron Savage, George Russell Jr.
Jazz vocalist Kurt Elling
A past Great American Songbook concert
Image courtesy of the artists
Image by Anna Webber

The Signature Series at Berklee presents a new season of diverse performances by students, faculty, alumni, and world-renowned musicians. The spring half of the 2018 series features the Berklee Keys: Jetro Da Silva, Dennis Montgomery III, George Russell Jr., and Ron Savage; the Bruno Mars Tribute Show, directed by Tia Fuller, a former member of Beyoncé’s band; Great American Songbook: The Music of Paul Simon; Berklee Middle Eastern Festival: Celebrating 10 Years; and Kurt Elling Meets Berklee.

All concerts take place at the Berklee Performance Center (BPC). Tickets for the BPC, located at 136 Massachusetts Avenue, Boston, are available at or at the BPC box office. Call 617-747-2261 for more information. The venue is wheelchair accessible.

The Berklee Keys

Monday, January 29, 8:00 p.m.

This once-in-a-lifetime musical experience features three of Berklee’s best keyboardists—Jetro da Silva, Dennis Montgomery III, and George Russell Jr.—accompanied by drum virtuoso Ron Savage, performing a concert improvised from beginning to end. The group will perform music from the gospel, R&B, and jazz traditions in solo, duo, trio, and quartet configurations. The concert is produced by Rob Rose, vice president for special programs.

The Bruno Mars Tribute Show

Thursday, February 8, 8:00 p.m.

Bruno Mars is influenced by the showmanship of Elvis, Prince, and Michael Jackson, and the music of Stevie Wonder, Amy Winehouse, and the Roots. These artists have paved the way for Mars to become one of the most influential musicians today, winning Grammys and Brit Awards, and a place on the Forbes 30 Under 30 list. Berklee pays tribute to Mars with a full production of his music with choreography.

The Bruno Mars Ensemble, composed of outstanding student singers, musicians, and dancers, will perform popular hits by Mars, including "Uptown Funk," "Runaway Baby," and "24K Magic." The ensemble is handpicked and directed by Professor Tia Fuller, a former member of Beyoncé’s band.

Great American Songbook: The Music of Paul Simon

Sunday, February 25, 7:30 p.m.

Berklee’s Great American Songbook pays tribute to Paul Simon '86H, a music icon who has been writing and performing indelible songs since he and Art Garfunkel formed their duo in 1964. Songs such as “Sounds of Silence,” “Bridge over Troubled Water,” “Graceland,” “Still Crazy After All These Years,” “Late in the Evening,” and many others have helped define American popular culture for more than 50 years. He has performed on Broadway and in film and television, won 12 Grammy Awards, and received an honorary doctorate from Berklee.

The Great American Songbook concert adds Simon’s name to the list of those it has celebrated in the past, including Duke Ellington '71H, Cole Porter, Bob Dylan, Burt Bacharach '09H, Quincy Jones '83H, and Stevie Wonder.

Berklee Middle Eastern Festival: Celebrating 10 Years

Thursday, March 1, 8:00 p.m.

The acclaimed Berklee Middle Eastern Festival, founded by Associate Professor Christiane Karam as a platform for multicultural exchange, celebrates its 10th anniversary with a stellar lineup of guest artists from around the globe, including the Vadim Neselovskyi Trio, Tigran Hamasyan, Amar Murkus, the Pletenitsa Balkan Choir, Women of the World, the Berklee World Strings, directed by Grammy-winning professor Eugene Friesen, and more.

New York-based Ukrainian pianist and composer Vadim Neselovskyi, assistant professor of piano, joined six-time Grammy-winner Gary Burton’s Generations Quintet—a group that also featured Julian Lage, Luques Curtis, and James Williams—in 2004 and has been Burton’s pianist and arranger for more than a decade, touring the U.S., Europe, and Japan. “More than just a strong pianist, Vadim Neselovskyi is a composer who blends form and freedom in new ways,” wrote All About Jazz. He performs with Ronen Itzik on drums and Dan Loomis on bass. Neselovskyi will premiere a work he wrote especially for the occasion, a composition for trio, choir, and strings, to be conducted by renowned conductor and Berklee professor Julius Williams.

Armenian pianist and composer Tigran Hamasyan, known for melding jazz, folk, progressive rock, and classical forms, has established himself as one of the most innovative artists of his age. His career has included an impressive number of accolades, including top piano award at the 2013 Montreux Jazz Festival, and the grand prize at the 2006 Thelonious Monk Jazz Piano Competition. In 2015, Hamasyan garnered the Paul Acket Award at the North Sea Jazz Festival and, in 2016, he earned the Echo Jazz Award (the German Grammy) for International Instrumentalist of the Year, Piano, for his album Mockroot. An Ancient Observer is his second solo album for Nonesuch Records, and his eighth overall as a leader.

Watch Hamasyan perform "Drip" with the Berklee Middle Eastern Fusion Ensemble:

Amal Murkus is an internationally recognized Palestinian singer, actress, and television host. She has released five albums of her own, spanning an eclectic mix of musical genres both traditional and contemporary, and collaborated with artists including Joan Baez, Mercedes Sosa, Robert Wyatt, Peter Yarrow, and the Liverpool Royal Philharmonic.

The ​Pletenitsa Balkan Choir has shared the stage with artists such as Zulal, Juliana Svetlichnaya, Mario Frangoulis, the Paul Winter Consort, José Mercé, Javier Limón, Gary Burton, Tigran Hamasyan, and Binka Dobreva, a revered soloist with renowned Bulgarian folk ensemble Le Mystère des Voix Bulgares. Upon hearing and singing with the group​, Dobreva gave them the name “Pletenitsa” (“braid”), saying she​ ​was​ ​inspired​ ​by​ ​the​ ​intricate​ ​melding​ ​of​ ​cultures​ ​and​ ​the​ ​tight​ ​bond​ ​she​ ​felt​ ​among​ ​the​ ​singers.

Women of the World have performed in Africa, South America, Asia, and Europe, and collaborated with American singer Nona Hendryx, African vocal icon Angelique Kidjo, Greek classical artist Mario Frangoulis, and the Boston Pops Orchestra led by Keith Lockhart.

The concert is produced and directed by Karam.


Kurt Elling Meets Berklee

Thursday, March 8, 
8:00 p.m.

Grammy Award-winner Kurt Elling is among the world’s foremost jazz vocalists. He won the DownBeat Critics Poll 14 consecutive years and was named Male Singer of the Year by the Jazz Journalists Association eight times. Elling has also been nominated for 12 Grammy Awards. The natural heir to jazz pioneers Eddie Jefferson, King Pleasure, and Jon Hendricks, Elling is a renowned artist of vocalese, the writing and performing of words over recorded improvised jazz solos.

In this concert, Elling will perform with an all-star Berklee faculty quartet featuring Tim Ray, John Lockwood, Yoron Israel, and Sean Jones, and will collaborate with the Berklee Concert Jazz Orchestra (BCJO), directed by Professor Greg Hopkins, professor of jazz composition. The program also includes a special feature with Berklee student vocalists and acclaimed singer, pianist, and composer Peter Eldridge, a Berklee professor and founding member of vocal group New York Voices.

Eldridge serves as musical director; Cassandre McKinley, assistant professor of voice, is vocal coordinator; and Maureen McMullan, assistant chair of the Voice Department, will produce the concert.