2006–2007 Presidential Scholars

Photo by Lucy Cobos

Berklee College of Music's 2006–2007 Presidential Scholars are:
Emile Martinez, a trumpeter from Los Angeles, is the recipient of the Gary Burton Presidential Scholarship. A graduate of the Los Angeles County High School for the Arts (LACHSA), Martinez started playing the trumpet at the age of 9, and has studied with trumpeters Clay Jenkins, Oscar Brashear, and James Ford III. He received honors at the Reno Jazz Festival, the Berklee in L.A. summer program, Jazz at Lincoln Center's Essentially Ellington competition, the NAACP/ACT-SO competition, and the National Association of Negro Musicians. He has played with the Colburn School of Performing Arts Monday Night Jazz Band, as well as the LACHSA orchestra, big band, combo, and chamber ensembles. Martinez will double major in performance and jazz composition at Berklee College of Music.

Composer and pianist Neara Russell, of Spring Green, Wisconsin, was homeschooled but participated in local bands and choirs. She found her way into the Wisconsin School Music Association and competed at state music festivals, placing first for solo performances in piano, voice, bass clarinet, and xylophone. Her first-ever composition won Best Vocal Solo in a statewide writing contest, the first of many for her original song cycles and and rock music. In 2006, Russell was invited to perform her original work "Lemonade Pie" on the weekly National Public Radio program From the Top. She was also asked to write and and perform a country tune about her birth, which she named "Born in a Pickup Truck." As an honoree of the series' Young Composer Project, she was granted a mentoring session with Academy Award-winning composer John Corigliano, and was made a cultural leader and role model for the arts, performing and discussing composition for schoolchildren in New York, Boston, and Wisconsin. She recently released a debut CD with original art songs, Food for the Gods, recorded with soprano Wendy Rowe.

Alex Han, a saxophonist from Scottsdale, Arizona, is the recipient of the Michel Camilo Presidential Scholarship. He was 12 when he was invited to play with Paquito D'Rivera for a Jazz at Lincoln Center Performance. Since then, he has performed alongside jazz greats like Joe Lovano, Slide Hampton, Nicholas Payton, George Benson, and James Moody at various festivals, including the Montreux Jazz Festival, in Switzerland; the North Sea Festival, in Holland; La Festival de Jazz en Lapataia, in Uruguay; and several others in the United States. He was the recipient of the 17th Annual Yamaha Young Performing Artists Competition in 2005. Han was also selected to join the 2005 Monterey Jazz Festival Next Generation Orchestra and the 2006 Gibson/Baldwin GRAMMY Jazz Ensemble. He won a 2006 ASCAP Foundation Young Jazz Composer Award and is the youngest artist endorsee for Rico Reeds, a division of J.D'Addario & Co.

Katie Thiroux, a bassist and vocalist from Los Angeles, California, is the recipient of the Phil Ramone Presidential Scholarship. She began her musical studies on the violin at the age of 3, switching to string bass while in elementary school. She is a 2006 graduate of Los Angeles Hamilton High School Music Academy, where she performed with two acclaimed vocal jazz ensembles. She performed at the 2004 and 2005 IAJE conferences, and was a featured vocalist at the past three Monterey Jazz festivals. For four years in a row, Thiroux was selected to be a member of the elite Gibson/Baldwin Grammy National Honor Jazz Ensemble. She has also received fellowships to the prestigious Brubeck Institute Summer Jazz Colony, and the Vail Jazz Festival. In 2005, Thiroux received the Downbeat Magazine Student Music Award for Outstanding Vocal Performance. Thiroux is considering pursuing music education as a major.

Nadia Washington, a vocalist from Dallas, Texas, and the recipient of the Bill Cosby Presidential Scholarship, is a graduate of the Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts. She was featured in a documentary that aired on BET Jazz in 2005 detailing the audition process to enter the Gibson/Baldwin Grammy Jazz Choir. An accomplished vocalist, her many awards include Best Jazz Vocalist 2004 and 2005 in the National DownbeatAward for the Performing Arts High School Division; NAACP/ACT-SO bronze medal in 2004 and silver medal in 2005; and Best Jazz Vocalist for the Dallas Jazz Orchestra Big Band in 2004 and 2005. She attended the Brubeck Institute Summer Jazz Colony in 2005 and 2006, and has also worked with Herb Alpert, Destiny's Child, and Terence Blanchard, among others. Washington is considering pursuing a major in music performance and engineering or performance.

Casimir Liberski, a gifted young pianist and composer from Belgium will begin his studies at the college this September. A graduate of the International School of Brussels, Liberski has had the privilege of being mentored by Ornette Coleman, Brad Meldau, and Masabumi Kikuchi. He has performed extensively with his Liberski Trio and has composed music for three films. He is currently working on a fourth. His trio has made three studio recordings featuring his original compositions.