“Berklee is the Best!” Songwriter Kate Diaz Highlights the Five-Week Program

15 year old Berklee/Sonicbids Competition winner and Five-Week scholarship recipient, Kate Diaz from Chicago IL, shares some of her experiences and memories at the 2011 Five-Week Summer Performance Program.

The Competition

I heard about the Berklee Five-Week Summer Performance program through a listing on SonicBids.com. I didn’t think I was going to win it, but I thought it was worth a shot so I entered. After receiving news that I was a finalist, I was very excited. It was a tough decision for my family to decide to fly me and my mom out to it from where we live near Chicago, but since I have family in Boston, we made a vacation weekend out of it and stayed with them.

After some stressful travel delays, I finally arrived for the final competition at Café 939, a Berklee venue. It was a very unique experience to be able to receive advice from the great judges who all teach at Berklee. I had a great time performing, but had my doubts about the outcome as I was the youngest participant in the running. They announced who won 3rd and 2nd place, and since I didn’t get those, I really didn’t expect to be picked for 1st. When they called my name as the first place winner of the full scholarship, it was a shock and I went home unbelievably happy!

Five-Week Fun

When I started the Five-Week Performance Program the following month, my initial reaction was that of awe and inspiration to see so many students from all over the world who played different styles. The first night I sang at the singer/songwriter open mic, which I loved because everyone who performed was so great and unique. My first week at the program was really busy with the placement exams, going to jam sessions, and various auditions for showcase opportunities.

Initially, I wanted to choose voice as my instrument because I sing, but have never had any voice lessons. Instead, I chose guitar as my principal instrument. The first few days of class were challenging because there were only a few female guitarists. I was having a hard time meeting people since I was too young to live in the dorms (you have to be 15 or older to stay in the Berklee dorms). However, I met a great friend, Anna Chalon from France. She was one of the few other female guitarists I met, and she was in my ensemble, chord lab and pop/rock lab classes.

“It was great to perform with other singer/songwriters from all over the world.”

As far as performances were concerned, I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to play at various extra performances. I performed at a trustee meeting, as well as at the Berklee Performance Center in front of all my fellow Five-Week Program students. The next week, I had my own solo acoustic “CAF Show” in the Berklee Cafeteria. I was also chosen to be in the Singer/Songwriter Showcase at Café 939. I would say the best performance highlight for me was the Berklee Singer/Songwriter Sidewalk Shows, hosted outside of the Berklee Bookstore every Thursday at lunchtime. It was great to perform with other singer/songwriters from all over the world. There I met another friend, Jose Andres from Panama. He is an amazing guy and I loved all of his songs, and his style. I also met Tubby Love, who is one of the coolest guys I have ever met in my life. He is a Berklee graduate who ran the sidewalk shows every week, and he brought such an energetic and positive vibe to the show which made everyone have a great time!

“Jetro was an awesome teacher and I felt that I grew so much by being in his ensemble. He had us write charts, change keys on the spot, learn about 8 songs a week, and he even let us do original material.” 

I had three favorite classes at the Five-Week Program. The first was my Theory class with Marty Walsh. I really loved how he taught us a more practical way of learning theory that applied to guitar. It also got me ready for AP Music Theory, which I am taking this year at my school. I still use his tricks to help me understand my high school teacher’s way of teaching theory. I loved my weekly private lessons with Bob Stanton. He taught me so many new interesting chords that I still play around with today, and he also ran the weekly sidewalk shows with Tubby. When I left my guitar lesson every week, I was so inspired and I would write a new song with the new chords Bob Stanton taught me, and show him my new song the next week. I was able to perform a lot of those songs at the Berklee Sidewalk Shows as well, which was awesome because I love to test out new songs and watch the audience’s reactions. Another class that I absolutely loved was the Ensemble with Jetro Da Silva. Our ensemble was amazing! We all got along really well and had such a fun time. Jetro was an awesome teacher and I felt that I grew so much by being in his ensemble. He had us write charts, change keys on the spot, learn about 8 songs a week, and he even let us do original material.  He made our ensemble feel like a family and we named our ensemble “Jet’s Kids” because he called us that all the time.

I really enjoyed exploring Berklee’s neighborhood, located in the Back Bay of Boston.  It has really cool old-style buildings, and I loved to walk around and discover really cool “nooks”. My favorite lunchtime spot was Boloco, a burrito place right next to the Berklee bookstore, or I would get a sandwich in the garden café inside the Boston Public Library. I did my homework at the beautiful reflecting pool at the Christian Science Center, which is next to the Prudential building nearby. Berklee is the best! I look forward to hopefully coming back this summer.

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