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“Thanks to Berklee Valencia, I gained maturity as a producer and a performer.”- Sebastian Laverde M.M. ’15
Colombian-born Sebastian Laverde M.M. ’15 settled down in Valencia after graduating from Berklee’s campus in Spain with two master’s degrees. He published his first album, Alma en Clave, in 2015, and he regularly plays drums or vibraphone with Latin jazz maestros and Berklee faculty and alumni. Last November, he opened his own recording facility, Jazztone Studios, where he serves as artistic director. We recently talked to him about his time at Berklee Valencia and what he’s been up to since graduation.
Why did you decide to pursue both the Contemporary Performance (Production Concentration) and Music Production, Technology, and Innovation programs at Berklee Valencia?
I was working in London as a session musician when I found out that the great vibraphonist Victor Mendoza was directing the contemporary performance program. That lead me to apply to study with him. With regards to the music production program, I decided to apply because I wanted to learn how to produce my own Latin jazz album and to sound exactly like the records from the artists I admire.
Why would you tell other students to come to Berklee’s Valencia campus to study?
It’s not only Berklee and the perfect facilities that allow you to create an amazing portfolio, but also the inspiring surroundings, the city of Valencia, the professors who have the career you aspire to have, and finally the students, who at the time were fellow classmates but today are work colleagues and people who generate work for you.
How has your Berklee experience influenced you as a professional?
Massively. I feel like I gained maturity as a producer and performer. Studying with people such as Victor Mendoza, Alain Perez, or Yoel Páez changes your path without a doubt—or rather, it gives it more clarity.
You remained in Valencia after graduating. What opportunities does the city provide to musicians and producers?
The way I see it is, you’re living in Europe, not just in Valencia. Travelling around Europe is incredibly easy. You play at European festivals and venues, and then come back to a lovely city by the beach with a huge appreciation for culture and music. Valencia is a very inspiring place that breathes culture everyday. The level of musicianship is high and there are big names that play here every year for a reason.
Alma en Clave (2015) is your first album. Have you recorded anything else since or do you plan to in the near future?
I have been busy opening a recording studio in Valencia, Jazztone Studios, over the past year, but once it’s established I plan to record my second album.
You have played as a percussionist in your quintet as well as numerous other bands. How different is to lead your own project versus participating in others?
Playing as a drummer or percussionist in Victor Mendoza’s band is an example of this. This is a very different role, of course. You have to trust the vision of the director and respect it above anything. When it’s you leading your own project you are the one with the vision, and you have to transmit it to the musicians but allow enough freedom for them to bring ideas to the table. You’re working with people; it’s not a one man show. It’s something I am working on and aspire to master.
You have played with some of the most renowned Latin jazz musicians, such as Andrés Cepeda and Maria Isabel Saavedra. What would you highlight from these experiences?
I’ve learned that becoming a better person will somehow help me become a better musician. These artists have no need to show off or feel above anyone else, and that’s the level of maturity I aspire to have one day.
You have also taught at Yamaha Music School Valencia. How would you define your teaching style, and what is the most rewarding aspect of sharing your skills with others?
The most rewarding part is when you see a student surprise him or herself with something they thought they could never do. This is so rewarding—it’s like having a superpower that you’ve given to another person.
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