Fostering Creativity at Berklee's Summer String Program
May 25, 2016
As someone who attended multiple fiddle and classical camps during his upbringing, David “Doc” Wallace is working hard to make Berklee’s Global String Intensive a different kind of animal. “Everything’s geared toward empowering people’s musical creativity, not only as performers, but in their ability to be their own composer, or arranger, or producer,” says Wallace, who became chair of Berklee's String Department in 2014 after teaching for 14 years at the Juilliard School.
Open to students 15 and older, the program (June 27–July 1, 2016) provides participants with daily mentorship from Berklee faculty, training in a variety of styles, professional-level experiences, and individualized guidance toward meeting musical goals. The following is an edited transcript of a conversation with Wallace about the Global String Intensive.
Tell us about the stylistic diversity of the program.
We cover so many different styles, and we have faculty members on the cutting edge in each style. We’ll have some bluegrass and old-time and some progressive 21st century string band groups. There are ensembles that are more oriented toward popular contemporary music and world music. Ones that focus on R&B, rock, and funk—or Celtic. Brazilian choro. And also Arabic and near-Eastern music.
We’ve got depth as well as breadth. If your interest is in gypsy jazz or chamber music or microtonality, you can study those deeply, but you can also get exposed to a wide range of styles.
Clearly, the Berklee String Department faculty are the key to this program.
Yes. The faculty for this summer program brings together everyone who teaches Berklee’s undergraduate program throughout the year. So you can immerse yourself and be a member of the Berklee String Department for a week. Because the faculty work together all year, they come together, already knowing how to work as a team, and provide what is a very intense, immersive, and joyful experience for students.
Who are some of the former Berklee string students who have gone on to forge great careers?
One student who came to the summer program a few years back and then attended Berklee is Alex Hargreaves '13. He’s toured with a lot of great musicians—David Grisman, Béla Fleck, Danilo Pérez '88, Sarah Jarosz. And the list of string players who were Berklee undergraduate students with this same faculty is really impressive—people like Carrie Rodriguez '00, Casey Driessen '00, Hanneke Cassel '00, Evan Price 96, Rushad Eggleston 03.
What is the schedule of a typical day in the Global String Intensive?
A typical schedule for a student would start with the morning block where you’ll rehearse for two hours in a small ensemble. There’s usually a panel or lecture around lunchtime—that’s everything from the faculty discussing career topics to Matt Glaser (who is a violinist and artist director of Berklee's American Roots Music Program) doing one of his listening sessions where he’ll take an artist like Bessie Smith or Charlie Parker, play a variety of their recordings, and break down their improvisation strategies and other aspects of their work.
In the afternoon block, that student would have a lab where you’re doing theory in action on your instrument and a style lab where you’d be working with a different professor. Then there’s the large ensemble—90 minute-rehearsal with either Darol Anger or Simon Shaheen.
After orchestra there’s dinner break and practice breaks and in the evenings there’s concerts and after that, jam sessions every night for a good hour and a half, so people are pretty much engaged from 10:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. with full musical experiences.
On Friday morning, we’ll have master classes, where people are grouped by instrument. Last year we had so many faculty members involved that nearly every single student who wanted to play at a master class did and got feedback. And then small ensemble concerts in the afternoon.
What will students take away from this program?
They would leave with some ideas about next steps for their career, with very clear goals for their own progress and development. They’ll have a deeper appreciation and respect for the creative string world. And people will also walk away with indelible musical experiences in working with like-minded musicians, in some cases starting collaborative relationships that will continue for years down the road.