Karen singing, photo by student Jit S'ng

Meet Karen- a musician and singer/songwriter from Bray Co. Wicklow, Ireland.   Karen has been playing classical piano since age six, and also singing all her life.  She plays in a band with her friends called Wyvern Lingo, and she grew up in a very musical family.

I followed Karen around for a day on Wednesday to see what her classes would be like.  So far, she has really enjoyed everything.  It is information overload for most students, in the most positive way.

Below I included tidbits that I observed from classes.  There were many more topics covered- consider this a skimming of the surface.

Matt Glaser- 10:00AM
Improvisation style lab: today’s topic- blues

Matt Glaser, teaching in Dublin

Matt Glaser

“Blues is the great aquifer of American music, it is at the root of country, of soul, jazz- every kind of American music has roots in the blues.” – Glaser

As the class completed call and response exercises- they went around and each did a bar of blues improv.  “It’s more important to be in the pocket than anything else.  It’s important to sound relaxed. “ Matt coached them as they played.

To guitar players- “Don’t let the axe boss you around, you boss it around.  Think of the solo in your head.  You should be able to visualize and conceptualize your ideas.”


Mike Farquharson teaches in Dublin

Mike Farquharson




Mike Farquharson- 11:30
Class- Harmonic and Melodic Considerations for Improvisation & Composition

In addition to talking about modes, Farquharson talked about how he feels about classical harmony- and why it should be embraced.  He says that as a writer and improviser, learning the rules give you, as the composer, freedom, to open a lot more doors.  “I loved classical harmony.  This information was liberating, because it opened my ears and mind to everything.”

Karen talks about theory with another student

Farquharson identified the main scales that lead to successful improvisation. “Learning these scales is a lifetime adventure. If you’ve mastered these systems, then you’re off on the right path.’

-Major scales & modes
-Melodic minor ascending and the modes.  Take that scale, and build it on every note.
-Diminished scales
-Whole tones scale
-Major/minor pentatonic-which essentially are variations on other scales

Jim Kelly teaches in Dublin

Jim Kelly

Jim Kelly- 2:00PM
Performance Master Class

In Jim Kelly’s master class, the students studied a Jaco tune and discussed changing the feel of a song- creating new arrangements.  The students stared intently at the leadsheet that Kelly handed to them, while the song played through the PA system.

Kelly drew out a roadmap on a sheet of paper, and pointed to the keys as they changed.  What is interesting is that the students could relate what they just learned in Farquharson’s class about modes. “What Evans does is he plays two voicings for every key.” Kelly explains, “ CMajor, Ab Mixo, Bb Major, D Spanish phrygian, G dorian.”   Karen noted that she loved that about the program, that everything connected together from different classes.

Barry Kelly- 3:30PM
Special Lecture, Berkleemusic.com

Barry Kelly, from the marketing arm of Berkleemusic.com, has been really instrumental in creating a local community surrounding the Berklee in Dublin program.  He brought scholarships to award at the program, and he offered an information session about the online school.

Berkleemusic is unique in the creation of cutting-edge tools to re-enforce principles of writing, technology, performance, and business.  For example in a mixing class, you can see your teacher mixing through the digital interface.  Kelly explained how even some faculty teachers, like Pat Pattison, use the berkleemusic.com tools in on-campus classes to assist with learning.  I thought that was an interesting point, in observing the possible gravitation to hybrid music classes that include online and on-campus learning.

Wrapping up the day

At Five, Karen went to the jam session that I blogged about earlier.  I was really glad I was able to hear her sing, what an awesome voice!  Karen plays out locally with her band- anyone local should definitely check them out.

Overall, I had a really good time being a student with Karen for the day.  There is a lot of talent here in Ireland, I hope that workshops like this will help to grow the music community in Dublin and around the world.