Where Gifted Musicians Grow

Danilo Perez with BGJI students – Photo by Dave Green

Where do gifted musicians go to become student leaders of a world community and affect positive social change?

Doug Hall

The Berklee Global Jazz Institute in Boston, founded by Grammy-award winning jazz pianist, composer, professor and educator Danilo Pérez, through a curriculum that includes world-music exploration from roots up, to arrangements and performances of original composition, to internships and projects in remote under-represented communities around the globe, students develop into ambassadors for humanity. This is not an ethereal concept or group meditation on a “better world” but a hands-on curriculum that directs these young extra-ordinary musicians to park the “self” for a greater good. Pérez speaks to this part and emphasis in the program, “ When somebody has a gift, I believe he/she has a responsibility…you must have the desire to be a role model in society – and step away from your instrument.” BGJI offers a unique alternative approach to a discipline that has often focused more on developing self-achievement and acceptance based primarily on talent. Pérez keeps his mission and integrity close to the selection process, “you have to have the desire to experience the process of human development…fame is a four letter word.”


Danilo Perez at piano – Photo by Kelly Davidson

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Leo Leo- Boston, MA & Los Angeles, CA


We will always be a little bit different.. You know, kind of an awkward cool. Someday, it’s going to be in “style”. But if not, who cares.

Leo*Leo is a post-modern mishmash of poly-stylistic pop with a taste for wry humor, imagination, and warmer climates. The duo is comprised of long-time friends, Vanessa Wheeler (songs/guitars/lead vocals) and Sarah Hope (drums/electronics), and their unique blend of supple melodies and unexpected harmonic turns led Maimed and Tamed to call them, “equal parts warpaint, beach house, and tennis.”

Sweet and Psychedelic this is Leo*Leo…

Assuming you are both Leo’s. What are the pro’s and con’s to sharing this sign?

Sarah and I can’t really hide anything from each other. Our communication has to be transparent or it just doesn’t work. We have grown together and realize that, despite both being sensitive and sometimes short-tempered people, when it’s time to get down to collaboration we are in service of the music and leave our egos aside. This has been a very positive aspect for us professionally and personally. Other than that, we basically like all of the same things. 

How did Music find each of you and bring you together?

(V) This is strange to think about because I don’t have memories when I was ever without music. My grandmother played violin and my mother sings and plays both guitar and piano. I sang in a school choir as a kindergartner and started taking piano lessons when I was in fourth or fifth grade, switched to classical guitar when I was about 13 years old, and I think I stuck with that instrument because of it’s intimate nature – you can play it anywhere. 

(S) Like Vanessa, music has been in my life since I was a little, little girl (age 4, piano lessons with Sister Mary). I studied piano until college and quickly became curious about the process of recording music and the electronic magic behind analogue pedals and gear. I landed myself an engineering gig in a local Boston studio and was immersed in the whole process of making records from 2” tape to Pro Tools.  It wasn’t until my twenties when I played my first drum-set that I got hooked. Seriously hooked. I knew I needed to be performing and recording music.

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Jacob McCaslin – Boston

“What would you attempt if you knew you could not fail?” ~ Anthony Robins

We caught up with Seattle native Jacob McCaslin in the last moments before he set off on a scholarship to the Berklee College of Music in Boston. An amazing kid filled with ambitions to study his craft and ready to engrave his mark in music history. Jacob is a multi instrumentalist, composer, singer, & producer whom has never had a music lesson. Just the beginning for this old soul and we are excited to watch him do great things.

To discover more about this little firecracker check out his web site below and read his Q&A to see what we learned about him.

Watch for his live session with Fresh Independence coming next week!

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