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Being underage and in a city that abounds with musical talent, the band Bron Don struggled to get gigs in Boston.
“A lot of places just turn their heads at you if you’re not 21, and they’ll see that they can’t make the most money because you don’t have fans that are 21,” says the band’s vocalist, Mitchell Cardoza, a third-semester Berklee student from New Bedford, Massachusetts.
But in Valencia, Spain, where the group decided to go for a semester abroad, and where they aren’t considered underage, the band landed several performance opportunities this past semester.
“It’s really convenient just because there are a lot of places that we can play, whereas in Boston we might not be able to, specifically because of (age),” adds drummer Colin Mohr, a third-semester professional music major from Chicago, Illinois. (Students may need special work permits for paid, off-campus opportunities and should check with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs regarding their right to work in Spain.) In fact, says guitarist John Cattini, a third-semester performance major from London, England, “cool opportunities in Europe” was a major reason they came to Spain.
Opportunities, Access, and Collaboration
When four members of Bron Don talk about their semester at Berklee's campus in Valencia, they often say the word “opportunity,” whether it’s about off-campus performances, on-campus access to recording studios and rehearsal space, the friends and collaborators they’ve met, or the availability of the faculty.
“Everybody wants to help you here,” Cardoza says of the faculty. “There aren’t a lot of bands...so they listen to us.” Just the previous day, in fact, Bron Don had a recording session with Stephen Webber, the director of the Music Technology, Production, and Innovation graduate program in Valencia, and Rob Jaczko, the chair of Berklee’s Music Production and Engineering Department in Boston. This kind of access, band members say, might be harder to come by in Boston.
In Valencia, all Study Abroad program students have access to the recording studios to work on their projects or to collaborate with others, including master’s degree students on campus and visiting artists, says Tracey Mellor, director of the Study Abroad program. “That’s huge, and it’s probably one of the things the students appreciate the most,” she says.
And because the classes are smaller than they are in Boston, students get more attention, says bassist Michael Cangemi, a third-semester performance major from Scituate, Massachusetts. Students quickly form not only one-on-one relationships with faculty but also friendships with others in the program, which includes students from Emerson College.
“I think we broke out of our shell a little bit as people, socially,” Cardoza says. “We kind of hung out with our respective group in Boston. We didn’t really stray much. But here we made like 50 new friends.”
Watch members of Bron Don discuss their Study Abroad program experience:
A Growing Program
This past semester, 94 students took advantage of Berklee’s Study Abroad program, which is open to students who will be in their third semester or beyond and have approval from their major's department chair. Because fewer classes are available in Valencia than in Boston, students in some majors need to carefully plan the best time to go abroad. All classes are taught in English.
Brian Cole, dean of Academic Affairs for the Valencia campus, says that Berklee would like to see the program grow to 150 students, and the campus is looking to expand its course offerings to complement, not just duplicate, what’s offered in Boston. For example, the campus now offers a music technology minor that is not available stateside, and Cole says his team is looking into expanding guitar and musical theater classes, leveraging Mediterranean styles of music.
But as much as the Study Abroad experience is about stretching musically and growing socially, it’s also about expanding one’s worldview, says Mellor. “One of the best things that you can take advantage of in Valencia is that opportunity to just experience what it’s like to live in another culture and to live with people who do things differently than you, and think differently than you.”
Mohr says the semester abroad gave him more perspective in many areas of his life. “And that goes from Berklee to home to America. I think that living here has just got me a lot more inspired, in many different ways.” He’s excited to take this energy back to Boston.
“We’re in an industry were you need to just dive in, so dive in for this,” he says. “Get used to that feeling.”
For spring 2016 semester travel, the deadline to apply for the Study Abroad program is October 1, 2015.
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