Slideshow: Ensemble Students Ride Merger’s Wave in Mash-Up Concert
After Berklee College of Music and Boston Conservatory officially merged this past June, it was only a matter of time before new and innovative musical collaborations started popping up around campus. So, when the Conservatory's Judith Eissenberg and the college's Ron Savage and David Wallace met for an informal lunch, they quickly realized that exploring each institution’s respective ensemble cultures would be an obvious place to begin in terms of collaboration.
The result was the first Berklee College of Music and Boston Conservatory at Berklee Mash-Up Concert, featuring performances by bands and chamber ensembles playing four back-to-back sets. "My hope going forward is that all students will invest more time in listening to and learning from each others' musicianship and repertoire," Wallace, chair of Berklee’s String Department, says.
Eissenberg, a violinist and chamber music coordinator at the Conservatory, emphatically agreed. “In the spirit of inviting people to a party, David, Ron, and I created an opportunity for our students to share their music so we could begin introductions, ride the wave of the merger, and explore possibilities,” she says. Eissenberg adds that she had “no expectations beyond hearing good music; we wanted to keep it open and let the sounds lead the way.”
Experimentation, Growth, and Development
The set featured four acts—two from each respective part of the merged campus—playing a range of musical styles, including jazz (Neal Smith Jazz Ahead Ensemble), indie rock (student band Self Portraits, directed by Marty Walsh), and chamber music (No Strings Attached Brass Quintet and the Lithe Piano Trio).
“Each act was just so different,” Eissenberg said of the performances. “It is really interesting to take music out of the familiar contexts and see what happens.” For Savage, chair of the Ensemble Department, the performances highlighted the benefits of the merger. "I think collaboration is the essence of music making," he says. "Doing such so quickly after the merger puts the emphasis on our shared potential for experimentation, growth, and development."
Based on the inspiring musical intersections that came out of the concert, the organizers already have their eyes on another event, to be held in the spring semester at the Conservatory’s Seully Hall. The venue is known for its wonderful acoustic qualities, and Eissenberg mentioned that bands will be chosen to fit that sonic aesthetic. As the plans develop, Wallace looks forward to seeing more and more students inspired and engaged in this swirling of musical ideas. “Come to the mash-up to hear your friends, yes, but come with curiosity because the music that is less familiar has great riches for you, too,” he says.