Five All-Stars from Berklee’s Five-Week Summer Program

By 
Mike Keefe-Feldman
December 2, 2016
Betty Who '13
Former Five-Week Summer Performance Program student Betty Who went on to attend college at Berklee, graduating in 2013, before landing her record deal with RCA.

Tourists have long been drawn to enjoy breezy seaside summers in Boston and, increasingly, the same is true of musically talented teenagers (15 and up) who come to Berklee’s Five-Week Summer Performance Program to sharpen their skills. Many of those who have attended “Five-Week” at Berklee have gone on to attend the college and advance impressive careers in music. Chances are you are familiar with some of the performers who first sought out the Berklee boost in their teenaged years, such as those below.

Jon Batiste

Jon BatisteIf you’ve tuned in to The Late Show with Stephen Colbert and enjoyed the New Orleans jazz and soul sounds of the house band, Stay Human, thank bandleader Jon Batiste. Batiste is a multi-instrumentalist from Louisiana who generally plays piano on Colbert’s show (often alongside talented musicians such as Berklee alumna saxophonist and singer-songwriter Grace Kelly ’11). Back in 2003, a then-16-year-old Batiste was furthering his path in music at the Five-Week program. Today, Batiste’s career includes occasional acting work (see HBO’s Treme or Spike Lee’s Red Hook Summer), and he serves as co-artistic director for the National Jazz Museum in Harlem, New York.

Watch Jon Batiste deliver a “piano lesson” on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert:

Meghan Trainor

Meghan TrainorEarlier this year, Meghan Trainor won the Grammy for Best New Artist after achieving one of the best-selling digital singles of all time with “All About That Bass,” but in the summer of 2009, she was gearing up for her career as a singer-songwriter at Berklee’s Five-Week Summer Performance Program, where she studied pop and R&B vocal styles. Trainor returned the following summer, at age 16, to study jazz vocals. Recalling Trainor’s audition for placement during the Five-Week program, Berklee songwriting professor Melissa Ferrick says this queen of catchy pop hooks was “exceptional”—a perspective that tens of millions of Trainor’s loyal fans undoubtedly share.

Watch a video for Meghan Trainor’s single “Me Too:”

Betty Who '13

Betty Who '13Betty Who’s music migrated from the dorm rooms of Berklee to more than 13 million YouTube viewers when one of her songs, “Somebody Loves You,” was used in a marriage proposal video staged inside a Home Depot, and her debut album for RCA, Take Me When You Go, proves that her knack for pop greatness extends far beyond one track. Speaking to Five-Week students following in her footsteps, Who, originally from Australia, recalls, “I came to Berklee's Five-Week program the summer after my junior year of high school” in 2009. “That was my first time doing singing ever, anywhere.” She liked it so much that she applied for and was accepted to attend college at Berklee. Before graduating in 2013, Who met her manager and backing band members at the college.

Watch a music video for Betty Who’s “All of You”:

Daniela Villarreal of the Warning

Daniela, guitarist for the WarningWhat do you do when a YouTube video of you and your sisters playing Metallica’s “Enter Sandman” is generating millions and millions of views and you’re still in high school? For Daniela Villarreal of Monterrey, Mexico, the answer, last year, was to attend the Five-Week program, at which she learned the value of playing with and learning from others. In addition, her younger sisters, Paulina and Alejandra, were also able to study at Berklee over the summer; the college offers a summer Day Sessions program for younger musicians. The sisters funded their rocking Berklee summer via an online crowdfunding campaign.

Watch an excerpt from the Warning’s TEDx 2016 talk/performance:

Daniel Platzman '09 of Imagine Dragons

Daniel Platzman '09Three of the four members of the Grammy-winning rock band Imagine Dragons went to Berklee, where they first played together. The band’s drummer, Daniel Platzman, made his way from Atlanta, Georgia, to Berklee’s Boston campus even before his undergraduate days, studying in the Five-Week Summer Performance Program in 2003. Platzman says that “to be able to perform music at this level is a dream come true,” and he and his bandmates credit several Berklee professors for aiding in their musical growth. The band has also reached out to Berklee students when in the area. This past summer, Platzman shared his percussion knowledge as an instructor for the Berklee in Los Angeles, program, one of several available Berklee summer programs.

See more individuals who have attended Berklee summer programs.