Berklee International Network Schools Prepare Students for Success

By 
Kimberly Ashton
October 9, 2015
Paul Sanchez Pacheco
Noam Israeli '15
Irma Seleman '14

When Paul Sanchez Pacheco was 14 years old and a budding trumpeter, he saw a poster advertising a concert by Berklee faculty in a jazz bar in his hometown of Quito, Ecuador. Sanchez’s father took him to see the concert but when they got to the bar they were denied admission because Sanchez wasn’t old enough to go in. So he sat with his father outside the bar and listened. And a desire took root in him to go to Berklee.

“It was a dream, but it was my impossible dream,” he says, adding that it simply would have been too expensive for him to attend Berklee because of the difference between the Ecuadorian and American economies. Fortunately, however, he lived in a city that has a Berklee International Network partner school.

The Berklee International Network is a collaboration between Berklee and international partner schools that began 22 years ago; it now includes 19 institutions located in 18 countries. On October 12 to 15, Berklee will host a summit with BIN partner institutions and others in which forum members can share goals, explore possibilities for collaboration, discuss members’ roles in Berklee’s global strategy, get updates on Berklee’s curriculum, and more.

Many BIN partner institutions have an agreement with Berklee that allows their students to transfer credits to Berklee, provided the students get accepted here. Those pursuing the BIN path to Berklee save significant money since they can earn credits while studying at a less expensive institution and, often, can live at home.

In his State of the College address this October, President Roger H. Brown said that former BIN students who go on to Berklee save, on average, $53,000 over the course of their college careers. As of October 2015, there are 174 students at Berklee who have transferred from a BIN school or another institution that has a credit-transfer agreement with Berklee. These students, who compose 4 percent of Berklee’s undergraduate population, arrive on campus well-prepared to take full advantage of all the college offers.

Here’s a look at some of these students:

Paul Sanchez Pacheco

Hometown: Quito, Ecuador
BIN partner institution: Universidad San Francisco Quito, Quito, Ecuador
Berklee majors: Performance, film scoring, and contemporary writing and production

Though a future at Berklee seemed impossible to Sanchez when he was 14 and sitting outside that bar in Quito, he quickly found a path to Boston. While still a student in high school, Sanchez began attending a youth program run by the Universidad San Francisco Quito, a BIN school offering music classes that allows for transfer credits at Berklee. By the time he was 18, he had spent three years taking harmony and other core music classes at USFQ.

That year, Berklee held a BIN summit in Quito and the dean of USFQ asked Sanchez to set up a quintet to perform at a lunch for attendees. After the performance, he says, Berklee’s dean of admissions approached him and urged him to apply. He auditioned that day. Six months later he was notified that he was accepted to Berklee on a full scholarship.

But USFQ did more than make Berklee financially feasible for Sanchez, it gave him an excellent education and set him up to thrive at the college. From day one at Berklee, he says, he could focus on playing and making contacts. “To come here and see people the same level as you or better, that makes you grow a lot,” he says of his fellow students. 

He's also been able to study with people he's looked up to for years, such as trumpeter Tiger Okoshi, a professor in the Brass Department. Sanchez remembers being eight years old, never having played the trumpet, and watching videos of Okoshi. Sanchez has also gone to Puerto Rico to perform with associate professor Eguie Castrillo—another name he’s known for years—of the Percussion Department. “To be able to study with your heroes is crazy,” he says with a laugh.

Noam Israeli ‘15

Hometown: Ya’akov Zikhron, Israel
BIN partner institution: Rimon School of Music, Ramat HaSharon, Israel
Berklee majors: Performance and music production and engineering
Current student in Berklee’s graduate program in contemporary performance (global jazz concentration)

Like Sanchez, Noam Israeli began studying at a BIN school, Rimon School of Music, while he was still in high school and had his sights set on Berklee but needed financial help to make coming here a possibility.

Israeli knew about Berklee because he had attended the college’s Five-Week Summer Performance Program on scholarship when he was in high school. He credits the curriculum at Rimon, which he says closely aligns with Berklee’s curriculum, and influential teachers there, with giving him the foundation he needed to succeed at Berklee.

After leaving Rimon, he completed his Israeli military service and later won a scholarship to attend Berklee. On the Boston campus, he says, he is exposed to influences from all over the world. He can study percussion from a Puerto Rican drummer, and learn piano from a teacher from Uruguay. He can also dive deeper into American music.

“We’re studying jazz and now I’m here in the United States, where jazz was invented. It’s a different thing. It’s in the air, it’s in the clubs. The teachers were able to hear the jazz legends week after week while the people in Israel where not necessarily able to do that,” he says. After getting his bachelor's degree from Berklee, Israeli stayed to be part of the first class to enroll in the graduate program in contemporary performance (global jazz concentration), which he began this fall. 

He still keeps in close contact with teachers and staff at Rimon, who not only offer him encouragement and support but who look to him for suggestions as how to improve their own curriculum.

“They always ask me to tell them what it’s like here now so that they can be prepared and let the students that are going to come know exactly what to expect,” he says.

Irma Binti Seleman ‘14

Hometown: Selangor, Malaysia
BIN partner institution: International College of Music, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Berklee majors: Performance and contemporary writing and production

Unlike Sanchez and Israeli, Irma Seleman had no background in music when she entered the International College of Music, Berklee’s BIN partner in Malaysia. She wasn’t sure she wanted to pursue music and felt she needed to be certain before she tried to go to Berklee.

She spent two and a half years at ICOM learning the basics and taking advantage of the many opportunities she had there to perform. “I started at ground zero and climbed my way up with the help of faculty, instructors, and musician friends,” Seleman says.

Financially speaking, spending a couple of years at ICOM benefited her and her family much more than she thought it would, she says.

By the time she got to Berklee, on a scholarship, “I had a clear vision of the things I wanted to learn and I was more focused,” she says, adding, “I knew exactly what I wanted and what I needed to do to pursue my career.”

Seleman is now working in New York City as a freelance songwriter and arranges and produces music for independent artists. 

Watch a video of Seleman performing "The Price" at Berklee in 2013: