Berklee City Music Summit in Partnership with TC Music Ed Engenders Shared Learning and Student Engagement

| March 22, 2016

By Linda Flores for the Music and Music Education Program


Berklee at TC

TC Music Ed launched an exciting new partnership with Berklee College of Music this fall when it hosted their annual Berklee City Music Summit. The College supports the Berklee City Music Network, a consortium of 47 organizations that offers scholarships, individualized mentoring, and a comprehensive curriculum for underserved teens throughout North America. Other Summit partners included organizations Amp Up NYC, Music and Youth Development Alliance, and Boys & Girls Harbor.

This year’s Summit was titled “One Sound, Many Voices: American Popular Music and Creative Youth Development.” From November 9 to 11, 2015, educators, community leaders, and students from around the country gathered to network and learn how to better fulfill their missions and passions to support youth development through music education. The programming had several foci:

  • student engagement and music performance;
  • applications and learning in technology;
  • shared best practices in teaching and administration; and
  • organizational mission advocacy, depth-expansion and sustainability.


Summit Highlights

Each of the three days began with dynamic student performances. Following the first performance, Lee Whitmore, Berklee’s Vice President for Education Outreach and Social Entrepreneurship and a TC Music Ed alumnus, opened the Summit with a “State of the Network” address. He presented a video and graphics detailing the impressive impact and growth of the Network over the past year which includes $615,000 in summer scholarships to 123 students and 584,100 in full-tuition college scholarships to Berklee to 15 students. He also mentioned PULSE (pre-university learning system experience), an online resource for music teachers. Krystal Banfield, Berklee’s Dean for Student Affairs, stated the Summit is intended to motivate and inspire a movement of holistic personal development using popular music of the day.

Arturo O’Farrill brought his youth band Fat Latin Jazz Cats onstage as part of his presentation on “Empowering Youth Through Cultural Legacies.” Arturo is a Grammy Award winning musician, faculty member at Brooklyn College, and founder of the Afro Latin Jazz Alliance. He spoke about his multiethnic background and initially rejecting his Latino culture but later embracing it through music, crediting the source of jazz’s richness to Africa – “Yoruba rhythms filtered through the New World.” When asked about the predominance of male musicians, he emphasized that women bring a vital and different take to jazz.

Kirk Whalum, an ordained minister and 12-time Grammy nominated gospel and jazz saxophonist, presented about “The Role of Cultural Context in Creative Youth Development.” Using an analogy from a childhood experience, he talked about the importance of providing youth with a cultural-musical rearview mirror into their roots while they look to the future. Music educators need to do their homework to get inside of of youth’s current culture in order to better engage youth with their own cultural riches to inform their future.

Chris Emdin, a TC Associate Professor in Math, Science and Technology and Director of Science Education at the Center for Health Equity and Urban Science Education, led a panel with the them of “Flipping the Script: Student on Technology.” He asked the students how technology has changed the way they interact with their instrument and received the refreshing answer that recordings catch all mistakes so it motivates them to perfect their technique and master their instrument. When asked what the artist’s role is to merge their music with activism in this generation, the students responded that music helps take them out of the bad situations they were born into, gives them purpose, and allows them to share a message that is less acceptable in plain words.

20151111_113529David S. Mash led an experienced panel of six professionals from across various industries to talk about preparing music students to utilize and satisfy their passion in creative ways. The panelists included a music producer for a creative advertising agency, the founder of a music publishing company, a radio host at the only jazz station in Canada, and a vice president of a global media company as well as a Berklee alumnus who worked in marketing for Spotify and another who won a Tony for In the Heights and an Emmy for Sesame Street. Besides performance skills, the panelists believed musicians also need skills in computers/software, teaching, communication in various media, leadership, and an outgoing personality with the ability to maintain relationships and follow up. When asked what they would do differently, one panelist said to take academics more seriously to hone his art and another said to follow your passion early instead of just focusing on making money. But given the question of whether they would rather be performing and touring, most said they would choose to do their current jobs, although one added that a musician should tour when s/he is young because it gets much harder with age. Other advice included: find mentors, understand teh muksic industry so you do not lose money on your hard work, do well at boring entry level admin jobs and use that as a foundation for more fun jobs, and follow your passion even if it takes you in a different direction than you expected.

Darla S. Hanley, Berklee’s Dean of Professional Education, gave an interactive presentation about the advantages of live streaming music to enhance instruction not just in music class but also to make subjects like English, History, and Drama more relevant to students. Some people say contemporary music is inappropriate for children in schools but Dr. Hanley argued that children are already listening to this music and developing the soundtrack to their lives. She also spoke about the great value of simply listening to music, such as noticing the musical differences between three covers of the same song, using “Lovefool” as an example and asking the audience to analyze them. Dr. Hanley also played “Runaround Sue” and “Dear Future Husband” to demonstrate how listening to them one after another can teach about similar chord structures and cultural messages on gender roles. The only music platform offers teachers free Prime memberships, which allows educators to quickly access  millions of songs from one device.

Lee Whitmore, the Vice President for Education Outreach and Social Entrepreneurship, hosted a panel of three educators about bringing popular music into the classroom who were asked to share their wisdom and [emotional] scars of their careers. The panelists said teachers need to fill their toolbox with versatile tools for students in different areas, create bands using what students bring in with their skills and interests rather than cookie-cutter curriculum with each student, and let students lead more and learn from their own musical backgrounds and cultures. There was a united conviction in giving students the tools to produce and analyze music on their own. No standardized music curriculum is needed, only creative and passionate music teachers.

20151111_090329Berklee prides itself on being technologically forward, which extends to the way they manage the huge amount of student data. Registrar Andrew Sammut gave a very practical presentation on how to use data to tell an organization’s story and win arguments by showing, not merely telling. He showed an inside look into Berklee’s database, which is stored in a secure cloud system and automatically generates an annual report. This information is especially important to sponsors and donors to show the organization’s efficiency, productivity, and unity. The take-home message was “Measure what you value and people will value what you measure.”

Tavis Linsin, a Berklee alumnus, presented his research as a doctoral candidate at the University of Washington on understanding and supporting youth in their music learning network, driven by the inquiry of “How do youth in the Boston area learn music and how do we support them?” He showed that music learning is lifelong and also lifewide, happening mostly in K-12 formal settings and diminishing as we age. There are stark gaps in music achievement between that of whites and Asians and that of Blacks and Latinos which correlate with gaps in income levels, with some students not having access to private lessons, extracurricular activities, and online resources. Using focus groups of public schools in Boston, Linsin analyzed students’ music learning networks and found that the highest predictors of music performance ability and engagement are when students take control of their own learning and spend devoted time with their instrument. He hopes to expand his research to other sites and use it to develop programs to equalize music learning and explore how music can create ties between social groups.

These were just some of the many sessions offered over the three-day summit.




Linda Flores is the Academic Secretary in Music & Music Education while earning her M.A. in Mental Health Counseling at Teachers College. She has a B.A. in American Studies with a minor in Ballroom Dance from Brigham Young University. She also writes on 3 personal blogs.