Lizz Wright workshop

This week we had Lizz Wright visiting the vocal department of Berklee. Amazing.

2014-04-16 13.16.39Lizz Wright (1980) is an American Jazz/R&B singer and composer, originally from Georgia. She is mainly self taught and she signed a contract with Verve in 2002 and her first album, salt was released in 2003 and reached number two on the Billboard Jazzchart. You could compare her voice with Norah Jones, but you will find a lot of gospel influences. She is an very spiritual person, and the way she answered all our questions was touching. I am a fan 🙂

Here some short tips she gave us that I like to share.

* Try to “sit in the bass” when there is a nice blues shuffle

* When you improvise in a swinging tune, focus on the hi-hat.

* LIsten to Shirley Horn when you wanna learn the perfect spacing.

* Always for technique focus on your hips and shoulders when you do your exercises.

* Watch Dianne Reeves for microphone technique, but also for everything else she does.

A short video:

Denver / Tempe trip with Berklee

This semester I’ve been selected to be a student ambassador for Berklee, supercool!

“The Admissions Student Ambassadors give a first-hand account of what it means to be a Berklee student. Student Ambassadors represent the college and share their Berklee experiences through formal presentations and casual conversations with prospective students and families during various college events such as the Audition and Interview (A&I) days for Berklee, the High School Jazz Festival, and other events. The Admissions Student Ambassador program is an honor and volunteer program.”

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So, this semester I traveled to Denver and Tempe to help Berklee with their auditions. All over the world Berklee organizes audition days so applicants don’t have travel so much and therefore have an easier application process. I think what Berklee does is quite exceptional, reaching out for the market, instead of letting the market come to them. Berklee wants to select the best people, but even more the people with the most potential, and that will fit well in an environment as Berklee.

As Roger Brown once said: “We want innovators people who are gonna be creative, not people that are just gonna recapitulate the past, we want people with deep musical aptitude and people with huge motivation. … our hope is that some Brazilian guitar player and some Chinese percussionist hook up with some Icelandic vocalist and they create something that didn’t exist before”

It was amazing to travel with three teachers and one Berklee fellow. We worked long days, auditioning and interviewing 30 people a day. It was super fun guiding the applicants to the interview and audition rooms, and telling them about Berklee and answer all the questions they have.

Luckily we did have some time in the evenings to check out the city’s we went. Denver is a very nice city, and we ate nice tex-mex food, as well as Bizon steak. In Tempe/Phoenix I went to the botanical garden that had the largest cactus collection ever and a recent exhibition from Dale Chihuly (

Here some pictures 🙂

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Ed Saindon’s new book

Ed Saindon en ik

Ed Saindon en ik

One of my well respected private instructors in Berklee, Ed Saindon – vibraphone – has just released the first volume of his book-series. Its worth checking out. Its called the complete guide to improvisation and it codifies and explains the principal concepts and techniques used by leading improvisors from now and then. The book will be released in four volumes, containing 21 chapters total. You’ll find theory, with hands on examples and practical routines to expand and refine your skills in the art of improvisation. Topics that will be discussed in volume 1 are; chord tone soloing / tension resolution / chord scales / harmonic applications for improvisation. In the other 3 volumes it will go deeper in to different applications of approaches like using upper structure triads, four note groupings, major 7#5 superimposition, pentatonics, side slipping, symmetrical diminished super imposition, symmetrical augmented techniques.

The books are easy to work with but contain material you can work with for ever. I’ve been using the books and his material for a while now and its amazing to discover all the possibilities of his techniques. On Ed Saindons website you can find more information about his book, but also study material, and related articles.. So check it out!

More info:

See here a video of Ed performing:

Taking a breath with Danilo Perez and Joe Lovano

What I’ve been working on these days? – Air 🙂

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A while ago I had class – with Danilo Perez and Joe Lovano (!!!). And I had to sing a song with the band. After the song Joe commented that the sound could be deeper. I needed more air…And one of the exercises they made me do in class was lying on the floor with a computer on my belly, sing and take air… Of course is singing for these two big jazz peeps slightly nerve wrecking and in those moments you’ll always loose more air than you want to. That said, its very important for a singer to have a well trained breath support system.

Here a couple of exercises I work on to strengthen my abdominal muscles, support my diaphragm and posture while singing.

First of all, I work with the Gayam Ball – as you see it on the picture. When you sit on it, there is no way of bad posture because you have to keep your balance on the bal. Also its an easy way to do simple workouts. The dvd’s you can find online are actually quite funny too! Screen Shot 2014-02-07 at 11.26.09 AM

Another way to control breathing and posture is by doing Yoga or Tai-chi. Meditation and focus on long and deep breaths will

The third way of training breath support is in the pictures below, the exercise consists of three steps that are build up from another three steps. Combining inhaling, exhaling, singing, hissing and sipping air will result in a more controlled way of taking and giving air. Strengthening the diaphragm and the muscles around your core.

Prins Bernhard Cultuurfonds

This week I received the news that the Prins Bernhard Cultuurfonds has awarded me with a scholarship, in order to finish my studies in Berklee! I’m very happy and honored and I would like to thank the Cultuurfonds and the Chris Devries Fund for the Arts that made this donation possible, for their generosity.

Prins Bernhard Cultuurfonds

Prins Bernhard Cultuurfonds


Berklee’s Gagaku workshop

Gagaku drumsToday (Tuesday 15 October) there was a special event in Berklee. They brought the Gagaku ensemble from Japan. They would perform in the evening in the Berklee Performance Centre, and, during the lunch break they would do a clinic to present their instruments to the students. Gagaku is the oldest extant orchestral art music and dance in the world, and very rarely heard outside of Japan. Also those instruments they are using are very special and not common in western music. The music seems to happen without a time, and creates this hypnotic, spiritual experience. I made a couple of short video’s of the different instrument. Enjoy!

“In the summer of 752, the great Buddha at Todaiji in Nara was finally completed … eloquent speeches were read by state ministers, hymns of praise were sung by large choruses of priests, and the full company of court musicians and dancers … provided regal spectacles suitable for the rulers of heaven and earth.” -William P. Malm

Gagaku (雅楽, literally “elegant music”) is a type of Japanese classical music that has been performed at the Imperial court for several centuries.

Kitanodai Gagaku Ensemble presents traditional Japanese gagaku music, which was born in the fourth century as imperial court music. The music and dancing has remained unchanged and is still performed in its original form. The instrumentation of this ensemble is comprised of three wind instruments, three percussion instruments, two string instruments, and two to four dancers. Berklee Brass department professor Tiger Okoshi will perform with the ensemble for the “Etenraku” piece. The concept of blending traditional sounds with the modern tones of the trumpet will be a premier in the history of this ancient style. For many listeners, the gagaku experience is one of spirituality, purity, and a tranquility unlike anything they have previously known.

The Kitanodai Gagaku orchestra and dance ensemble will appear as visiting artists at the BPC on Tuesday 15 October at 8:15pm. Berklee Brass department professor Tiger Okoshi will join the gagaku ensemble for one special piece, blending modern trumpet colors with ancient traditional sounds. Earlier the same day, members of Kitanodai Gagaku will offer a demonstration-workshop on the unusual wind, string, and percussion instruments of gagaku. The workshop will take place in Cafe 939 at 1:00pm. This event is made possible from with support by the consulate general of Japan in Boston, Japan Society of Boston, and Japanese Association of Greater Boston.

Berklee Concert – Celebrating Blakey: A Jazz Messenger Reunion

October 10th there was a concert by the Messenger Legacy. This band is an elite lineup of former members of one of jazz’s most influential bands, Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers. This configuration features bassist Reggie Workman, alto saxophonist Donald Harrison, trumpeter Brian Lynch, tenor saxophonist Billy Pierce, pianist Donald Brown, and drummer Ralph Peterson. They wish to preserve, protect, and honor the legacy of a man who was much more than a bandleader to all of them.

Since Berklee is so busy and there is a lot of concerts going on all the time, I didn’t have a chance to get a ticket, but I really wanted to go. I met my teacher Marco Pignataro in front of the BPC (Berklee Performance centre) and he told me he had a spare ticket!!

After the show I went backstage with Danilo Perez and Marco Pignataro and two of my fellow students Milena Jancuric en Angi Santos. Danilo was talking to Donald Brown, who was his first piano teacher. Here some pictures from that meeting.

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The concert was amazing, I’ve been listening to a lot of the Jazz messengers, and it was really fun to see them perform in the spirit of Art Blakey. Ralph Peterson is a drum teacher at Berklee, and he played with Art Blakey and the Jazz messenger orchestra. The oldest member of the group was Reggie Workman on bass. I found a really old recording of him playing with Art Blakey in 1963…

More about the group;

About forming the group, Peterson said, “Every time I play the drums it is in tribute to Art, but I wanted to do something that goes beyond me, beyond any individual. I wanted to pay tribute in a way that was authentic, genuine, and meaningful not just to a few, but to every person he touched through his music.” In an age when cover bands and tribute acts are commonplace and contrived, this band proves to be the exception. “Having multiple generations of Messengers represented in this band, this is the closest you can get to the source,” Peterson said through his raspy chuckle. “This is the real deal.”