Resonant Tones: City Music Bassist Receives the Gift of Groove

City Music student Muñeca Diaz is the beneficiary of a handmade bass, thanks to a donor's generosity at this year's Encore Gala.

December 16, 2015

When 18-year-old Muñeca Diaz, a senior at Boston Arts Academy and longtime student in the Berklee City Music® program, met Eileen McDonagh at this year’s Encore Gala, she thought she was just helping McDonagh figure out how to bid on items in the silent auction, which was conducted via mobile devices. Diaz, a bassist, has been involved with City Music since the summer after her freshman year, and was excited to volunteer at this year’s gala to meet and assist patrons in any way she could.

So, when McDonagh asked Diaz, “What would you bid on?” she said all of the items were very high quality, but in particular, she was impressed with a pristine, candy apple red bass, handmade locally in Cambridge by Dudacus Custom Basses. “She had a wistful tone in her voice when she mentioned that the bass was a very good one,” McDonagh later recalled, prompting her to ask Diaz how it compared to her own bass. Diaz admitted that she actually didn’t own one of her own, and was currently borrowing a friend’s.

Diaz continued chatting with McDonagh, assuming it was just a bit of small talk, and could never have predicted what happened next.

“I’m bidding on the bass for you,” McDonagh told Diaz. “What? I barely know you!” Diaz thought as she tried to process this near-stranger’s sudden burst of unprompted generosity. To her further surprise, McDonagh handed Diaz her iPhone, instructing her to keep bidding, even up to the maximum bid, to ensure that Diaz ended up owning the instrument. “It was clear that she really cared about music,” McDonagh said, reflecting on the experience, “and it was an easy step to secure the bass as an auction item to support Berklee as well as a very deserving young student.”

The Gift That Keeps on Grooving

To further round out the story, the man who built and donated the bass, Steve Baxter, studied bass at Berklee for a summer back in 1975, and has valued the connection with Berklee, saying that it keeps him current with innovations in the music world. “The silent auction at the Berklee Gala was actually a gift in more ways than one,” he said. “The fact that a generous patron gave the bass to a young girl who didn't have one but had such a desire to play that she would borrow one…well, what could be a better outcome than that!”

Diaz has felt the difference in having such a high-quality instrument at her disposal, and has started writing compositions meant solo for the bass—something she typically hasn’t been inspired to do. “There’s so much control,” she said of the bass, Baxter’s Apollo model. “There are all these switches for me to get the specific sound I want.”

Making Beautiful Music Together

The bass made its official debut at the Boston Arts Academy’s Winterfest 2015 performance, held appropriately at the Berklee Performance Center, with Diaz thumping out slick grooves as part of the R&B ensemble. And even though she can pull the bass out and admire it whenever she wants, she’s still humbled and dumbfounded, even two months after the event. “There are no words that I can begin to think of on how grateful I am,” she said, knowing this experience is a game-changer in terms of how she thinks about the role of music in her future. “I tell the story to people all the time and I still don’t believe it.”