Berklee today

OCT 2015

Berklee today is the official alumni publication of Berklee College of Music in Boston, Massachusetts. It is a forum for contemporary music and musicians.

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faculty profle Assistant professor Annette Philip completed two tours with award-win- ning Indian composer, A.R. Rahman, including an 18-city tour of North America, and a sold-out concert at the O2 Arena in London. Earlier this year, she completed a 16-city tour in Japan and China with the a cappella ensem- ble Women of the World. The group has released a new album, Makana. Associate professor Tim Ray was a featured artist at the recent Brandeis University Improvisation Festival. Ray also appeared on the new recordings Imaginario (John Finbury), Motif (the Phil Woods / Greg Abate Quintet), and Scott Hamilton Plays Jules Styne. Professor Kathryn Wright presented a master class at the annual Classical Singer magazine convention and at- tended the Wesley Balk Opera/Music Theater Summer Institute as an ap- prentice stage director. Professor Peter Cokkinias directs Berklee's Musical Theater Orchestra, which performed fve classic Broadway shows last summer. Cokkinias recently played with the touring companies of Kinky Boots, Beautiful, Cinderella, and Motown: The Musical. In October, associate professor David Gilmore will release Energies of Change, his fourth recording as a leader, featuring Marcus Strickland, Luis Perdomo, Ben Williams, and Antonio Sanchez. Professor Nancy Zeltsman directed the 13th Zeltsman Marimba Festival at Rutgers University. Recognized as a premiere annual marimba event, it educates performers and highlights marimba repertoire. Professor Bruce Gertz's quintet fea- turing Jerry Bergonzi, Phil Grenadier, Gilson Schachnik, and Luther Gray, is featured on Gertz's new album Eepin and Beepin. Gertz also on played Steve Hunt's recording Sphere of Infuence. Professor Hal Crook recently per- formed with the Leo Genovese quintet at the Village Vanguard in New York City. Crook is planning to release an al- bum of his pop-jazz songs sung by Deb Pierre '13 in November. Watching assistant professor Vessela Stoyanova '00 perform live with her band Bury Me Standing, one re- alizes that she is probably the only faculty member whose style blends elements of traditional Balkan vocal music, punk, and odd meters. Oh, and she plays it all on a MIDI-controlled marimba that emits sounds rang- ing from vibraphone to accordion to distorted guitar. Stoyanova has de- veloped a truly unique musical voice. Growing up behind the Iron Curtain in Bulgaria, Stoyanova studied classical piano in an orthodox conservatory tradition, but even- tually emerged as a prolifc, multi- faceted musical artist. Berklee frst attracted the future faculty member as a student. "When I was 16, the Berlin Wall came down and everything changed dramatically," Stoyanova recalls. "But prior to that, my music was the product of a strict Eastern European classical aesthetic. My mom was a pianist and all of my piano teachers eschewed improvisation. Even the government frowned upon it because they considered it too 'Western' a concept." When Stoyanova's was in her early teens, her parents let her choose a dif- ferent instrument. She became enam- ored of the sounds of percussion, and they bought her a drum set. "Though I was offcially studying orchestral percussion—like timpani and snare drum—I began getting into heavy metal through underground bootleg tapes," she says. As part of her per- cussion studies, Stoyanova was ex- posed to marimba. "I just fell in love with it. Its sound, feel, and raw mu- sicality were almost overwhelming." She found a professor willing to give her free lessons for a year, after which she was accepted to the National Academy of Music in Sofa to study or- chestral percussion. "At that time, I began listening to the music of Dave Samuels and Gary Burton," she remembers, "but there were no marimba teachers at the conservatory. A classmate showed me a Berklee catalog and [the col- lege] looked like another planet— plus there was rock music there! I knew that had to be my next step." Stoyanova's parents sold their car to be able to send her to Berklee's Five-Week Summer Performance Program. With a scholarship and help from a friend, she enrolled as an un- dergraduate. Once in Boston, she worked at a variety of jobs to make ends meet, including a coveted po- sition at the American Repertory Theater. Although she's played a tradi- tional marimba for years, Stoyanova is frequently at the helm of the Marimba Lumina, a MIDI mallet con- troller that lets the user play music via a control surface based on a ma- rimba's layout. "It has amazing ex- pressive capabilities that other mallet controllers don't," she says. "When I frst played it, I knew it was the per- fect way to reconnect with my roots. Balkan music has a lot of microtones, vibrato, and breath control— ele- ments that can't be reproduced on a standard marimba. The MIDI instrument allowed her to start a progressive rock band called Fluttr Effect, which blended all her infuences. "I got my hands dirty learning how to help a band sur- vive," Stoyanova says. "I learned about booking, management, putting out CDs, buying our own van, and the like." Around this time, Stoyanova dis- covered Pan 9 in Allston, a live-in artist's collective whose members cu- rated wildly innovative monthly shows with multimedia. Fluttr Effect became the house band and developed friend- ships with Amanda Palmer and the Dresden Dolls. "Our frst show sold out within a few minutes. Later on we won a contest to appear at a big fes- tival in Germany." The group plateaued after a few more years, and Stoyanova formed the duo Goli with the band's cellist, Valerie Thompson '02. They successfully completed a Kickstarter funding campaign to make an album that is due out this fall. Stoyanova's current project, Bury Me Standing, began as a residency at the Lizard Lounge in Cambridge. "It turned out to be a great way to audi- tion players for the band," she says. Stoyanova and drummer (now hus- band) Nate Greenslit joined forces with a bassist and a rotating cast of talented singers including Burcu Guleç '13. The group will play at the Berklee Performance Center on October 19 with support from a fac- ulty grant. Since her Pan 9 experience, Stoyanova has maintained connec- tions with musicians, dancers, acro- bats, and other performance artists. The outcome was the formation of the Elephant Tango Ensemble. Stoyanova and cellist Thompson wrote a score for the Aesop's fable the Elephant's Child, and hired pup- peteers to produce a show. She has since worked her music into Vaudeville- and cabaret-style shows. During the second year of her master's program at New England Conservatory, Stoyanova accepted a position at Berklee. She currently teaches harmony and private ma- rimba lessons. "During the summer I teach a unique Balkan ensemble," she says. "Elements of Bulgarian music are touched on in Berklee's vocal and Middle Eastern ensembles, but my summer class lets students dive deeper into odd meters that lean to- ward progressive rock." One of Stoyanova's accomplish- ments at Berklee has been to work successfully with students who have to repeat a class after having trouble with it the frst time. "I've converted a lot of those students into harmony af- cionados," she asserts. "It's a huge vic- tory convincing skeptical students that their course material can make them better musicians—even if they're Music Business or MP&E majors. "From day one," Stoyanova ex- plains, "I always tell students 'You are my colleagues. Forget about the teacher-student dynamic, let's just all be musicians together. After all, to- morrow we may be on the same gig at a rock club.'" Ryan Fleming '03, a guitarist and recording artist, is the assistant director of the Berklee Fund. Vessela Stoyanova by Ryan Fleming Vessela Stoyanova Marimba Luminary Gonzalo Plaza Fall 2015 9

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