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When Grammy-winning Latin pop superstar Alejandro Sanz H'13 kicked off his current Sirope tour at the Plaza de Toros in Córdoba, Spain, two new members of his touring band, Freddy “Fuego” González ’09, ‘15G and Victor Mirallas ‘15, faced a roaring audience of many thousands for the first time.
“It was both terrifying and exhilarating at the same time,” González admits, particularly since he was to take a solo on the opening number, “but once we got the first song out of the way, everything was okay.”
“It was magic for me,” Mirallas says, recalling the raw energy of that moment. Since then, these two Berklee alumni have settled in to life on the road with the chart-topping Sanz—a fantastic embarkation point on what looks to be a promising career for both of these talented multi-instrumentalists and composers.
Watch González and Mirallas performing live with Sanz and Pablo López:
Buddies in the Band with Sanz
Those who catch Sanz live will see González, who hails from New York City, playing trombone and singing background vocals. He first earned the nickname Freddy Fuego for his fiery salsa solos on trombone, and it continues to stick. González also plays flute, trumpet, and piano, the latter being his primary instrument for composition.
González is among the first group of alumni to attend Berklee both as an undergraduate in Boston, where he majored in performance, and as a master’s degree student in Valencia, Spain, where he studied Scoring for Film, Television, and Video Games. While studying at Berklee's campus in Valencia, Spain, González had the opportunity to conduct an original composition for a 51-piece orchestra at London’s Abbey Road Studios, which he considers “the most amazing experience I have ever had.”
In between these two rounds of Berklee education, he led his own band in New York City, the Freddy Fuego X-tet, for five years, and his education in music extends beyond performance and scoring to production, engineering, composition, and music technology.
That diverse array of abilities is no accident. “I’ve tried to learn as many different skills as possible to open up as many possible options for work as I could,” says González, who first connected to Sanz through Berklee’s International Career Center.
Watch González perform with classmates at Berklee’s Innovation ¡En Vivo! in 2014:
Mirallas, a native of Barcelona, Spain, who majored in professional music while at Berklee, has also developed a flexible musical cache. On tour with Sanz (who has previously delivered a clinic at Berklee and performed with students at the Latin Grammys), Mirallas sings and plays tenor saxophone, piano, clarinet, and guitar. He is also a singer-songwriter who some have compared to Sanz, although Mirallas humbly downplays any such analogies.
Watch Mirallas perform an original, “Raices,” with classmates at Berklee in 2014:
Although their respective time studying at Berklee didn’t intersect, Mirallas and González, the two youngest members of Sanz’s band, have become close friends, making the rigors of life on the road that much more worthwhile.
Of González, Mirallas says, “He always has good advice and we help each other out when we need to.”
González expresses similar sentiments. “Victor learns from everyone in the band,” he says, “and we all definitely learn something from him as well.”
Foundations of Musical Growth
An openness to learning, both at Berklee and now on the road, is crucial for both Gonzalez, who began playing trombone in middle school, and Mirallas, who was raised in a musical family. There is no education that can really prepare one to play frequent tour dates for arenas seating 20,000 to 40,000 people, but the two bandmates point to Berklee as an important component in their respective growth as musicians.
Mirallas cites Berklee faculty members Mitch Haupers, Shannon LeClaire, Scott deOgburn, Jeremy Ragsdale, and Alison Wedding as particularly influential. González points to helpful master’s degree program faculty in Valencia such as Lucio Godoy, Vanessa Garde, Pablo Schuller, Alfons Conde, Victor Mendoza, and Clara Barberá, in addition to many faculty members in Boston.
“All of the technique, theory, and improvisation that I know comes from what I learned as an undergrad at Berklee,” says González, who honed his chops in Berklee ensembles focused on classical orchestral music, salsa, and the music of Bob Marley and Parliament Funkadelic.
Beyond the skills, however, Gonzales says that what stuck with him the most from his Berklee days was “learning how to interact with people from all types of backgrounds,” a life lesson now serving him well on tour with Sanz.
Focusing on the Journey
The nerves surrounding that first show in Córdoba have since subsided in favor of a more manageable day-to-day schedule, but Mirallas says “you never stop valuing” performing in front of appreciative audiences. The long-term challenge is finding balance in an environment that he says is “all about extremes.”
Visiting new countries and people while playing with top-caliber musicians is a joy, but at times, loneliness and exhaustion can set in. What keeps you going, González says, is focusing on the journey rather than the destination, being mindful not to waste energy on matters beyond one’s control, and remaining inquisitive.
“I can’t control who is going to call me for a gig,” González says, “but I can control how much work and preparation I put in, as well as who I decide to surround myself with” in order to “keep growing as an artist and a professional.”
For González and Mirallas, surrounding themselves with Alejandro Sanz and his team will likely prove a key step in that ongoing growth.
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