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The first of July was an unforgettable day for Berklee’s campus in Valencia, Spain. It marked the institution’s debut at the Festival de Jazz de València, which celebrated its 22nd annual performance between June and July 2018. An ensemble named the Berklee Valencia Faculty All-Stars, formed by instructors from the Master of Music in Contemporary Performance (Production Concentration) program, performed together for the first time at Palau de la Música de València’s Sala Joaquín Rodrigo, with a capacity of 417 seats, which completely sold out.
The second reason to celebrate is that the funds raised at the concert were allocated to finance a scholarship to allow a local musician to enroll in the Spain Summer Performance Program, which takes place between July 16 and 27, and costs $2,550. This new scholarship was awarded to Marta Aparisi, a 19-year-old transverse flute player from the Valencia region.
“Both institutions have a great understanding, and we have been collaborating closely in the last year. For this reason, we didn’t hesitate when Berklee Valencia’s academic director proposed this collaboration, which we were very pleased to execute,” says Vicent Ros, director of Palau de la Música. He calls the All-Stars performance one of the highlights of the Festival de Jazz de València: “The formation comprised first-class musicians, both at a national and international level. It was outrageously good.”
Educating Local Talent
The main criteria to be eligible for the scholarship were to be a musician either born or residing in the region of Valencia with at least six months of instrument or voice experience. “We received numerous talented and qualified candidates for the scholarship, making it difficult to select a winner,” says Ana Calvillo, admissions and scholarships manager.
Each candidate submitted their statement about what this opportunity meant for them and how it would benefit them. “Marta’s enthusiasm to continue progressing and improving stood out. She is motivated to learn new styles of music and to collaborate with other students in ensembles. She considers the program to be an incredible opportunity, and we are sure Marta will take full advantage of it,” Calvillo adds.
Aparisi has been playing the flute for 12 years, performs in a charanga and in a quintet, and is currently in the second year of a higher education music degree program at the Conservatorio Superior de Música Salvador Seguí. She is also pursuing a primary education degree at the Universidad Internacional de Valencia and a computational mathematics degree at Universidad Jaume I.
Of being announced as the recipient of the scholarship, Aparisi says, “The possibility to study at Berklee Valencia’s Spain Summer Performance Program is an incredible opportunity for me to come closer to reaching my dreams and goals. The first time I listened to the flute as a little girl, I understood that music would give sense to my life. I think this program will open the doors for me so I can improve as a musician, work on what I love the most, and transmit my emotions to the public.”
Calvillo says, “We are very focused on developing initiatives that benefit local musicians and to educate, train, and develop students to excel in their music careers. It was an easy decision to give back to the community by funding a scholarship for the Spain Summer Performance Program with the ticket sales from the concert.”
An All-Stars Ensemble
The Berklee Valencia Faculty All-Stars was put together by Casey Driessen under the artistic production of Polo Ortí, who also played the piano at the 1.15-hour-long concert. He was joined by voice instructors Olga Román and Viktorija Pilatovic, Javier Vercher on the saxophone, Mariano Steimberg on the drums, Sergio Martínez on flamenco percussion, Israel Sandoval on guitar, Federico Nathan and Driessen on the violin, Victor Mendoza on the vibraphone, and Gary Willis on the bass, among others.
Driessen explains that the idea of gathering faculty members for a project like this one has been on his mind since he joined Berklee Valencia as program director three years ago. “It seems like this is something that would happen naturally, but with faculty living in different cities and teaching on different days, the coordination was quite tricky. While many faculty have collaborated in different musical configurations, we have never been able to gather everyone in one place,” he says.
The ensemble was originally formed to perform at Musaico, Berklee Valencia’s first-ever music festival. “We were looking for a headliner for the festival, and the idea of an all-stars faculty band surfaced. Not only would it be great to share their amazing talents with the Valencia community, the students were eager to see their teachers perform,” Driessen says. Unfortunately, rain hit the festival just as the faculty band was taking the stage, and the concert got cancelled. “Thankfully, the Valencia Jazz Festival offered another opportunity just a month later,” he adds.
The repertoire included original compositions from various band members like Ortí, Sandoval, Driessen, Pilatovic, and Román. “We played a nice range of styles: fusion, contemporary jazz, bossa nova, and bluegrass. It was a really beautiful set, and we had so much fun playing together,” says Vercher.
“All these musicians are top of the top, so it’s amazing to watch and listen to them putting together this great repertoire, exchanging ideas, and sharing their time and music. We are all part of the same faculty team, so it’s very special to do music together outside the campus,” Román adds.
Pilatovic calls the concert “beautiful, colorful, and very powerful. The public could see the educators in their element, playing on stage. I hope this is not the last time the Berklee Valencia Faculty All-Stars has the chance to perform.”
The initiative of using the funds raised for the scholarship was applauded by faculty members. “I think it is very important to give opportunities to upcoming musicians. Anything that can help them have the chance to explore and learn more, and be in touch with other musicians, is absolutely great,” says Román. Vercher says that the Spain Summer Performance Program is “intense” but “truly worth it.” He adds, “I personally think that Berklee is doing a outstanding job by giving a scholarship to a local musician. I hope the institutions keeps growing in Valencia and many Valencian musicians have the opportunity to study at this incredible school of music.”