Day #5

 

On our final day of teaching, we were excited to get to our first girls’ school. Rustenberg is a private all girls school where we got to work with the orchestra players. Most of these girls had no background in improvisation as they are classical players. This was our opportunity to jump on the basics of improv: the blues. We started by performing a 12 bar blues piece called ‘Centerpiece,’ where we each took a solo. After this, Winnie went through a little bit of what the blues is about and taught the girls the scale to play. With the rhythm section playing the changes, Winnie invited each girl to take an improv solo through the form. Though they were nervous, the players seemed to really enjoy the freedom of being able to play what they wanted in the blues form.

After this, we prepared for our show at the Crypt. We played three sets of all different music, including pieces by all of the professors. We were joined by William Haubrich, the department leader of Brass Studies at UCT on trombone. It was a wonderful opportunity and a great performance, supported by some of the students that we had met at various schools who came to watch.

 

 

Day #4

Today we returned to the University of Cape Town to continue the work that we had started. Winnie and the guys played a few songs for the students, and then began to discuss some composition and arranging tools and techniques. After this, the students could elect to either stay and continue the lecture, or break off into smaller groups to discuss percussion, brass, or music business. This way, each student could focus on what they were most interested in. In the music business workshop, we discussed the best ways to make money from your art and the importance of owning the rights to your work. We left the students starry-eyed and excited to keep working on their music.

On our way to do some sight seeing, the group was contacted and asked to perform at The Crypt tomorrow night as the No Boundaries group.

 

Day #3

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Cape Music Institute

Our first stop of the day was to see one of Winnie’s good friends from Cape Town. Camillo Lombard is a renowned pianist and has had a colorful and illustrious career as a musician in South Africa. After years of composing, performing, and collaborating, Camillo decided to put his skills to use in music education, and created the Cape Music Institute (CMI). The Institute helps talented students who are passionate about music and  come from all different backgrounds. At CMI  students can learn about many aspects of contemporary music performance, songwriting, music technology and theory with the freedom to focus on the genre of music that they desire. Winnie had met Camillo years ago when she was in South Africa helping with the Berklee African auditions, and ended up bringing him to Boston for the African Scholars Program. It was very exciting for us all to meet him. The Institute is found inside of a giant football (soccer) stadium, built completely of concrete. Upon our arrival the students gathered into a room set up with a PA and a drumset in the front. Marko, Steve, Manuel, and Bobby took their instruments up and encouraged Camillo to join them. They played a few tunes and took questions from the eager students. Marko gave a great talk about how to keep the time in your head while performing a drum solo. He displayed lots of different rhythms while singing the melody of the song, keeping himself on track. The guys along with Winnie talked about arranging and composing, paired with student questions, and then some of the students got up to perform. We were all blown away by the musicality that was displayed by the singers. The background vocalists sang beautiful harmonies with a total understanding of supporting the lead and a very careful blend. Then, we all broke off into different groups in order to talk about individual studies. Manuel took the bass players, Steve took the guitarists, and I took students to talk about songwriting and music business. In my personal lecture, I talked to the students about songwriting techniques, and played them an example of a song I wrote using one. We also talked about how to start getting out and performing, dealing with a band, and how to protect your original material. When the workshop was completed, Winnie got all of the students together in order to present the Berklee Online class scholarship to one of the students. Camillo thought hard about which student it should go to, and was delighted to present it to a multi instrumentalist, Robin McKay.

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The No Boundaries crew with Robin McKay

 

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The Delft Big Band playing at The Crypt

After refueling, we had to get ready to perform at one of Cape Town’s underground jazz clubs, The Crypt. The Delft Big Band plays here once every 5 weeks, and this particular night Bobby, Manuel, Steve, and Marko were able to sit in with them. The venue is found underneath of the Bishop Tutu church and is beautifully crafted. It was a spectacular night and a wonderful performance. Winnie got up to talk about No Boundaries, and was even able to conduct one of the songs.

Day #2

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Students at the University of Cape Town working with Bobby Gallegos

This morning  we all jumped into the van and made our way to the University of Cape Town. There, we were greeted by excited members of the community, both students of the music school and outside participants. In an ensemble room found in the basement the band set up their equipment and marveled at all of the wood on the walls, giving the room a spectacular sound. Winnie passed around her charts to her players and introduced everyone to the audience members. She explained to her listeners that the first part of her workshop would be held like an open rehearsal. The band had never played the tunes before and would be sight-reading the material. Everyone except for Steve Kirby that is, a tasteful guitarist, Harmony teacher at Berklee, and a frequent traveler for No Boundaries trips with Winnie. The now full band (consisting of Winnie on vibes, Bobby on trumpet, Steve on guitar, Manuel on bass, and Marko on drum set) dove right into the song. The music was great, the players were engaged, and they all demonstrated a great deal of discipline and schooling in their sight reading and musicality. All of this combined excited the students so much, that upon being asked to come up and play after the performance, the students were too shy to do so. A few nudges later, a group of students got up to sight read one of Winnie’s pieces. The students presented great enthusiasm and were eager to learn. This was especially the case when it came to the few drummers that came up to play. Marko Djordjevic, a percussion teacher at Berklee, is an extremely intense and high energy musician with an abundance of technique, talent, and love of music. Anyone sitting in his seat behind the drums knows they are going to learn a thing or two from him. After a great deal of work with the ensembles, the group was broken into smaller sections to work on bass, brass, drums, vibes, guitar, and a little music business for about 45 minutes. When we left, the students were even more excited for our return on Thursday.

 

 

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Winnie conducting the Delft Big Band

The Delft Big Band is one of the great youth bands of Cape Town, ran by Ian Smith. The No Boundaries team was asked to come sit in on a rehearsal, and Bobby was asked to sit in on their Wednesday night gig on trumpet. We made our way to their rehearsal which was found inside of a printing factory. Tucked away up the stairs and in a back corner was a decently sized live room with a band stand set up, where about 20 young musicians sat with their instruments. We jumped right into the rehearsal, where Bobby played alongside the trumpeters, Manuel helped out the bassist, Steve helped the guitarist, Marko and the band’s drummer switched off tunes, and Winnie conducted a few pieces. With an enormous sound, a great leader, and a wonderful vibe, the band blew us away. After a fairly short rehearsal, the group was ready to take on their gig.

Day #1

Today was our first day getting out and teaching. After a long battle with internet connections and jet lag, we were finally ready to hit the road with our instruments (and our jackets) !

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Winnie Dahlgren and Bobby Gallegos teaching the Bishops jazz band

First, we found our way to Bishops high school for boys. The sun was met with equally warm welcomes as we entered the music building on campus, greeted by Andrea, the teacher for the school’s jazz band. Andrea confessed to us that she knew very little about jazz, as she is a classically trained musician. Jazz is a language of music all about the feel. This is something that Andrea knows and was wonderfully eager to learn from us about. About twelve students of different ages bustled into the sunlit room and immediately got out their instruments and into their arrangements. The pianist, Michael, told us he had just returned from Berklee’s 5-week program in Boston and had fallen in love with the school. What a great way to start our time! Andrea asked the boys to take out their first piece, “Jazz Police,” and requested that we listen to their performance and give some feed back. The song was played very well as far as notes, but was seriously lacking some dynamics and energy. A very eager Bobby Gallegos jumped right on this opportunity. Bobby is a trumpeter and an ensemble professor at Berklee, all about energy. This was made clear by the exorbitant amount that poured out of him during our time at Bishops. Bobby encouraged the students to play out and with conviction; what he calls graduating from the ‘University of Strong and Wrong.’ Manuel Kaufmann, an Arranging teacher at Berklee, filled in on bass for the ensemble’s missing player. He acted as a wonderful example of what articulation sounds like in the notes (even though Manuel was sight-reading!). What was really exciting was that Andrea would chime in with questions about accents and articulations, allowing Winnie and Bobby to really delve deep into the feel of the piece, with eager audience members to take it all in. One of the biggest changes that was made was one of the smallest and easiest ones of all. A few runs of the piece in, Winnie asked the drummer to pull his kit back from the front, and angled. This way, he was a part of the rhythm section and could see both the bass player, as well as the rest of the band. This made such a huge difference in his playing and in the unity of the band. After some work on the coherence of the horns section and a few bad drummer jokes later, the band really started to sound like a band. There was finally life coming through the instruments with the new use of dynamics and a new feel running through every player. We then moved on to the next piece, ‘One Note Samba,’ which was met with new outlooks and more vigorous intentions. Winnie, Bobby, and Manuel made a few tweaks of similar nature, working with the new Bossa feel. When it was time to go, the boys were all really eager to come up and talk to the team. After this, the teachers invited us to talk about music education over some tea and coffee. There was a mutual excitement in the room as we discussed the future of Skype lessons and careers in the music industry.

 

 

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Bobby Gallegos working with the brass players at Rondebosch Boys’ High School

Next, we rolled on to Rondebosch Boys’ High School. Here, they are very fortunate to have a great practice stage for their jazz bands. We were told by the head of the music department that the main jazz band was not in attendance, as it consists mostly of seniors who are studying for their final exams. However, about 10 of the students studying jazz came to work with us and we were very excited to get started. We started by playing two impromptu tunes for the boys; an ensemble consisting of Bobby on trumpet, Manuel on bass, Winnie on vibes, me (Tash) on voice, and a sit in on drums by one of the students, Thomas. After this, we invited the students to take out their instruments and take the stage. They played “All Blues” for us, a tune that they all knew and we went from there. These were less trained ensemble members, so a lot of what Bobby talked to them about was listening to each other and watching and understanding the form and the music. Winnie took two of the boys to work on improvisation, something that the classically trained students had never worked with before. Meanwhile, Manuel, Bobby, and I continued to work with the band on their tunes, giving some insight into anticipations, breaks in the music, and even some visual cues to watch for when working with singers.

We finished up our day by welcoming the rest of our group from the airport, Steve and Marko, and making our plans for tomorrow.