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Local students win Berklee scholarships

Posted by Jeremy C. Fox  August 26, 2011 12:16 PM

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Denise Torres East Boston.JPG

(Phil Farnsworth photo/Courtesy Berklee College of Music)

Denise Torres, a vocalist from East Boston, accepts her scholarship. Left to right: Berklee President Roger H. Brown; J. Curtis Warner Jr., executive director of Berklee City Music; Torres; Lynette Gittens, director for operations and enrollment for Berklee City Music; and Krystal Banfield, senior director for Berklee City Music.

The Berklee College of Music has given 10 hard-working local teenagers and six more from around the country a rare opportunity for a four-year music education, free of charge.

The Berklee City Music College Scholarship program will cover a total of $2 million in tuition for these 16 students, who also attended the college’s five-week Summer Performance Program on scholarship. The local students have previously participated in other aspects of the City Music program sponsored by the college, while the others have participated through one of 32 City Music Network sites around the country.

The Boston-area students awarded scholarships on Aug. 9 are Jennifer Aldana, a vocalist from Winthrop; Brittany Butler, a vocalist from Hyde Park; Gregory Groover, a saxophonist from Roxbury; Nicolas Perez, a pianist from Hyde Park; Jackson Mann, a bassist from Mission Hill; John Margaris, a bassist from Dorchester; Omar Munera-Sosa, a guitarist from Revere; Josue Raymond, a drummer from Mattapan; Max Ridley, a bassist from Jamaica Plain; and Denise Torres, a vocalist from East Boston.

Other students receiving scholarships come from East Orange, N.J.; New Orleans, La.; Oakland, Calif.; Pittsburgh, Pa.; Richmond, Va.; and Washington, D.C.

To win the scholarship, students must have completed the summer program, been accepted to the college, submitted a portfolio of their work and a short essay, demonstrated financial need, and participated in an interview with a panel of judges. Lynette Gittens, director for operations and enrollment for Berklee City Music, has worked for years with some of the Boston-area students, and she’s seen their hard work and challenging schedules.

“A lot of these kids, they’re up at 6:00 in the morning, trying to get on a 6:30 bus to get out to wherever they go to school,” Gittens said. “Some of them are METCO students; some of them are involved in extracurricular activities after school; some of them have to meet with tutors before school begins because they struggle academically. Many of them are involved with sports, and they juggle between sports and being in the music program.”

Despite all their other obligations, these students have made a commitment to Berklee’s 20-year-old City Music program, which has classes for high school students from 4 – 6, Monday through Friday, with additional sessions some Saturday mornings. They take music theory classes, private instrument or vocal instruction, and play in ensembles.

The most advanced students, the City Music All-Stars, often perform at events outside the college. Some have sung the national anthem at Red Sox games and performed at the White House and at charity fundraisers in New York City. Gittens said the program grooms the students for success, but they have to make the commitment and balance it with their schoolwork to maintain good grades.

“These students sacrifice their time to engage in being participatory in the City Music High School Academy program,” Gittens said. “And it takes a lot of effort on their part. They still have homework. They still have to practice everything that their teachers have given them to practice, on the college level. … So it’s a huge commitment and dedication on their part.”

Email Jeremy C. Fox at jeremycfox@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter: @jeremycfox.

Gregory Groover Roxbury.JPG

(Phil Farnsworth photo/Courtesy Berklee College of Music)

Gregory Groover, a saxophonist from Roxbury, accepts his scholarship. Left to right: J. Curtis Warner Jr., executive director of Berklee City Music; Groover; Berklee President Roger H. Brown; Lynette Gittens, director for operations and enrollment for Berklee City Music; and Krystal Banfield, senior director for Berklee City Music.

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