From Classrooms to Top Festival Stages, Internships Call Global Jazz Graduates
When Lee Seung-Ha ‘15 ‘16G was invited to improvise with Danilo Pérez ‘88, he says the experience changed his life. Lee had already displayed considerable talent as a bassist prior to the encounter with Pérez in 2012. Pérez, the Grammy-winning pianist, composer, bandleader and founding artistic director of the Berklee Global Jazz Institute (BGJI), was performing in Lee’s native South Korea when Lee was a student at the Seoul Jazz Academy, a Berklee International Network (BIN) partner school.
“Danilo knew how to connect with another person,” says Lee, pointing not only to the connection Pérez demonstrates through musical collaboration and listening but also to the connection of interpersonal relationships that music can facilitate beyond the stage.
In July, after graduating from Berklee with a Master of Music in contemporary performance with a concentration in global jazz, Lee headed to Panama, where he has taken on an internship with the Danilo Pérez Foundation—a months-long assignment that makes him one of the first participants in the post–master’s degree internship program to take part in this new offering from the BGJI.
Lee’s internship includes teaching daily classes with gifted students and working behind the scenes to help organize the 14th annual Panama Jazz Festival, which will take place in January 2017 and which Pérez founded in 2003. This year’s lineup includes Grammy winners such as alumna and bassist Esperanza Spalding ’05, vocalist Dianne Reeves ’03H, Terri Lyne Carrington ’83 ‘03H, BGJI's Zildjian chair in performance, and Pérez himself as well as Berklee artist in residence John Patitucci.
When his internship ends, Lee says, he might return to Boston or move on to Europe. For now, though, he says of Panama, “This culture is quite good for me,” noting that he has been studying folkloric song and absorbing the practical lessons of his mentor, Pérez.
Graduate Education in Action
Another participant, Marta Roma ’15 ‘16G, says the BGJI internship program has shown her and her fellow graduates not just a way to study music but “a way to live your life.”
“The faculty has been amazing,” Roma says. “They’re so involved, and they push you out of your comfort zone—a lot.”
Roma, a cellist, arrived at Berklee from her native Barcelona, Spain, in 2012. She was thrilled when the opportunity arose to remain in Boston for the new master’s degree program on the college’s flagship campus.
Watch Marta Roma perform "Ain't Misbehavin'" at Berklee:
Energized by an outreach trip to the Dominican Republic during her graduate studies, she arranged to undertake her post-graduate internship program there. Roma has been teaching music to students from underserved communities and working on the recent Dominican Republic Jazz Festival. This year marked the 20th anniversary of the festival and featured a special emphasis on women in jazz, including a headlining appearance by Spalding and performances by Carrington; Tia Fuller, a Berklee professor in the Ensemble Department; Geri Allen ‘14H; Ingrid Jensen ‘89; and Joanne Brackeen, Berklee piano professor. Brackeen performed with the Berklee Global Jazz Institute Ambassadors.
While the festival was surely a thrill, Roma says, “I love teaching with kids,” adding that many of them come from extreme hardship. “One of our goals for this foundation is to create a curriculum for them. They need a little structure.”
Meanwhile, the internship program has given Roma some structure of her own. In addition to teaching and behind-the-scenes work for the festival, she has promoted—and performed in—a series of Friday night concerts leading up to it. She says “all these logistics” have added up to “a really good learning experience.”
Camille Colatosti, Berklee’s dean of Institutional Assessment and Graduate Studies, says that both Roma and Lee are “wonderful, hard-working, talented students” who are “always seeking new opportunities and experiences” while being “very serious about their career development.” Colatosti says that professional experiences like those of Roma and Lee are central to the college’s mission not just on the undergraduate level, where internship opportunities have long existed, but for graduate students as well.
“We’re always looking at the broadest definition of what it means to be a performer,” Colatosti says, “not only on stage but in communities, in outreach, in working with children, really making a difference in the world through one’s music.”