Scholarship Brings Five Dominican Students to Berklee
For years, Dominican guitarist Amaury Cabral Jorge had wanted to attend Berklee and take his skills to the next level. He put in the practice hours and had the talent, but the leap from the DR to Boston seemed a stretch too far.
Thanks to scholarships from energy company AES Dominicana, Jorge and and four other fellow Dominican music students—Génesis Pérez (drums), Santiago Cuadra (piano), Jose Reuel Diaz Vizcaino (guitar), and Esli Durano Jr. Honoré (piano)—were able to attend this year's Aspire: Five-Week Music Performance Intensive. “Sometimes I feel that people like us that are talented and hardworking just need that little push to get what they want, and that’s what I think this opportunity is," Jorge said.
"Two or three years ago, coming to Berklee seemed quite impossible, but here I am!”
—Amaury Cabral Jorge
Reflecting on the experience, the students were surprised to see just how much their abilities deepened in a relatively short amount of time. Honoré, who's trained in classical, gospel, and jazz, said that he saw his improvisation skills increase, and Jorge cited instructor John Babioan for transforming his approach to the guitar in simple but substantial ways. Pérez said her sense of rhythm improved, but more importantly, that she gained the confidence to jump at new performance opportunities, even if they seemed spontaneous. "I learned to not be afraid to go for it [while playing]," she says. "I was so shy in the Dominican Republic, but here I’m not anymore. In a jam session, someone told me: 'Génesis, can you play with me?' And so we practiced for five minutes before a performance and we did it.”
AES has provided full scholarships to Five-Week students for the last few years, opening up new opportunities for a host of talented Dominican musicians who otherwise wouldn't be able to participate in the program. But even more than the financial help, the scholarship gives younger musicians clear examples of people getting from there to here. As Jorge saw people he knew from the Dominican get to Berklee, he said, “But then you think, 'This guy comes from the same place that I come from, he’s from the same surroundings, and he’s there—he got this scholarship. They come from the same environment as me.' Two or three years ago, coming to Berklee seemed quite impossible, but here I am!”