The making of world class musicians at Berklee

Saturday July 17 2010


They came in huge numbers. Musical instruments hanging on their back.. Their mission: to impress the judges and get the dream opportunity of getting a scholarships to attend Berklee College of Music – one of the best music schools in the world.

Among the hopefuls is Winnie Wanjiku, a student at the Music Conservatoire. She had a starling performance and is hoping that the panel will pick her for the great opportunity to further her interest in music.

“I have a burning desire to be a professional musician and I believe I have enough raw talent to me moulded. That’s why I auditioned,” she told Buzz later.

Collins Wekesa and Abdalla Saidi from Youth 2 Youth Network, which is part of Shangilia Youth Network, also came with great dreams of transforming their life and artistic abilities. They performed an acapella and hope that they did enough to guarantee entry into the school.

The week-long auditions were held at Brookhouse School and conducted by professors from the college based in Boston, USA. They all agree that there was potential in abundance from all the budding musicians they auditioned.

“We are looking for people with all the things that Berklee would not be able to teach and we found a lot of passion, motivation and dedication amongst these young musicians,” Michael Shaver who is in charge of admissions at Berklee and who was in the panel told Buzz.

Ron Reid, Associate Professor of Continued Writing, said that he was very impressed with the way the candidates were able to infuse contemporary music with traditional African music.

“Even us as professionals had a lot to learn from the candidates we have auditioned here,” he added.

Tusker Project Fame vocal coach Kavutha and Eric Wainaina are just two of Kenya’s alumni of Berklee College and the success of their career is testimony that studying music at the school can impact on your music career.

Apart from being one of Kenya’s top musician, Eric Wainaina is also the artistic director of Brookhouse International School‘s Academy of Performing Arts.

Soon to be joining that list to become a professional musician is one Wambura Mitaru. The Daystar University student impressed the judges with her voice last year and was the recipient of the full scholarship.

“I sang for the judges and they loved it. I am just very grateful to get the dream opportunity to go to Berkley. My dream is to teach music rather than perform,” she told Buzz.

Only one of the over a hundred hopefuls will get the full scholarship but there are several other particle scholarships on offer. However, the hopefuls will have to wait for a few months before they know who the panel has picked for the dream opportunity.

The Africa Scholarship Program was founded by the Institutions president Roger Brown and his wife Linda Mason to create opportunities for gifted African musicians who lack the financial means to further their education.

The other countries that participate in the Africa Scholarship Program are Tanzania, Uganda, Ghana and South Africa. Senegal, Morocco and Egypt also participate.

Apart from going for the dream opportunity, they also benefited a lot from the training and workshops conducted by the team from Berklee College.

“This is an amazing opportunity for Kenya’s music. Can you imagine if one of our budding musicians gets the scholarship each year for the next 10 year? We will have made 10 Eric Wainainas,” is the opinion of Sam Kinuthia, a music teacher.