It was the summer of 2009 and I was at the final night of a jazz festival in Avignon, called le Tremplin de Jazz, a ‘diving board’ for up-and-coming jazz groups in Europe. It was a diving board for me, too because on that night I decided to pursue a career in music. I was at the festival all evening, soaking in the rich, ethereal, European approach to jazz performed in an old cloister converted into an ampitheater. It was inspiring to see different groups of younger jazz musicians from across Europe, virtuosic and mostly in their twenties, creating music that definitely was jazz but sounded like nothing I’d ever heard before—it mixed carefully orchestrated textures with free improvisation into a seamless whole. At the time I was about to start my senior year at Yale, on track to a career in computing, but I couldn’t help wish that someday I could be on stage with them.
When they announced an onstage jam session, I rushed to join (I’d brought my alto saxophone just in case). It was so spontaneous that I felt completely in the zone playing in front of hundreds of people, trading fours with a skat singer on a blues ballad. In those moments, all those thousands of solitary hours of practicing paid off. When it hit me that I was really on stage, the mental barrier between me and a life of music disintegrated—I realized if I act on my musical love, I can make it happen. That is why I’m at Berklee now.
During that summer I also realized why I love music so much. I was in Germany doing a research internship in robotics, and on weekends and free days I would travel with my saxophone and busk in parks and in city centers. I’d get this feeling that all the business that was going on around me—people taking a leisurely walk, talking on the phone, hurrying to their jobs, and the like, was an expression of the same motive, this unspeakable reason that was also why I was improvising on the saxophone at that moment. I want to devote my life to the study of that human motive, in all of its expressions and permutations. To me music is a metaphor for that human motive that ties life together.
Even before I decided to pursue career in music it was an essential part of my life, and I’m thankful for all the opportunities I’ve had to play. I’d been studying jazz saxophone since fifth grade. When I was 12 I had the opportunity to a solo with a university jazz ensemble and Wes Anderson, a saxophonist at the Lincoln Center, and in high school I played lead alto in both my school and local university jazz bands. Through the Music Educators’ Association I had the opportunity to perform with some of the best musicians in Pennsylvania in the All-State Wind Ensemble, and later some of the best in the Northeastern US with the All-Eastern Band. I also had the opportunity of spending a summer at the Pennsylvania Governor’s School for the Arts, where I learned to love free improvisation and collaborating with artists in other media. Growing up I also loved classical music, and I had a stint playing bassoon in orchestras, including the local northeastern PA Civic Orchestra and the Pennsylvania All-State orchestra.
In addition to playing with student groups I’ve had the opportunity to gig as a jazz saxophonist, mostly in combo setings, playing for weddings and charity events in Pennsylvania. Later when I attended Yale I continued gigging, performing weekly paid gigs with a pianist at a Japanese sushi restaurant and later performing weekly paid funk gigs with the New Haven Nuisance at an upscale nightclub. At Yale I also played lead saxophone in the jazz ensemble and played bassoon in the symphony orchestra.
I came to Berklee with plenty of performance experience but an eagerness to learn develop my ability as a composer and songwriter while continuing to study and grow as a saxophonist. During my first semester at Berklee I focused on expanding my saxophone playing into other genres, such as funk, playing both on and off campus. I also wrote and performed two original pieces on campus, one a conventional jazz ballad and another an odd-meter motive-based funk tune in the style of Steve Coleman.
In between semesters I thought extensively about my musical future and I’ve decided that in addition to being a jazz performer I’d like to develop my ability as a writer, arranger and performer in more popular styles, like rock and hip hop. I’m also hoping that in the future I will be able to use my extensive computer skills in a musical field—in addition to a songwriting major, I’m currently applying to the Electronic Production and Design major, and I like to experiment with creating new sounds and beats through Reason and Logic. This semester I’m taking voice lessons, learning guitar, and focusing on songwriting and particularly lyric writing. I spend much of my time outside of class creating a repertoire of original songs for the rock/funk band I currently play with, La Desesperada, and for future bands. My current career goal is to be a freelance jazz musician and songwriter-performer with a rock band. Right now you could say that my love for music is unrequited, and my hope is that a Berklee education will give me the tools to make a living doing what I love.
IM Screen Names
Experience & Education
Alto saxophonist, co-songwriter for La DesesperadaOctober 2010 to Present (over 8 years)
I play saxophone with this jazz/soul/funk/rock group in the Boston area. We're currently working on our first album.
Language Counselor for NACEL American VillageJuly 2010 to August 2010 (about a month)
Taught English classes and led activities for middle school students in France. Also had the opportunity to put on some musical performances for the students. Will return again this summer to continue work.
Alto and Soprano Saxophonist for New Haven NuisanceDecember 2009 to May 2010 (5 months)
I performed weekly gigs with a jazz/hip hop/funk quartet at a local nightclub
Diploma in Songwriting, possibly EP&D at Berklee College of Music2010 to 2015 (5 years)
BS in Computer Science at Yale University2006 to 2010 (4 years)