Berklee opens its doors

Berklee Abu Dhabi has published its first programme of courses, with starts from 1 March.

The full swath of Berklee courses at its US base covers a range of performance skills, including for instance musical theatre and composition, and many are semester-length or more; but this first batch for Abu Dhabi focuses on music and dance, and they’re all short. The longest requires a total of 12 hours, but more typically the Abu Dhabi courses involve sessions of between two and four hours at a time.

The programme is intended to appeal to a broad range of audiences seeking performance skills at all levels of ability from beginner to advanced. The opening Abu Dhabi courses touch most of the bases, including intensive workshops for classical musicians; a hands-on crash course in DJing and a more advanced workshop in music production; a Movement Explorations Lab (“gives students the tools to uncover their own hidden movement potential, while encouraging individual expression”); and an introduction to Jazz Movement.

Berklee Abu Dhabi is a partnership between Berklee College of Music and the Department of Culture and Tourism (DCT Abu Dhabi). It has commendably ambitious goals – it aims “to transform arts education in the Middle East, create the region’s next generation of artists and inspire them to better our world” says the website. Mohamed Khalifa Al Mubarak, Chairman of DCT Abu Dhabi, is a touch more pragmatic in his comments: “Part of our long-term cultural strategy is to not only bring the best artistic and musical talent to the emirate, but to nurture the homegrown talent that we have right here”.

Berklee Abu Dhabi is located in the refurbished Norman Foster-designed UAE Pavilion sited next to Manarat Al Saadiyat. The structure has been transformed into a 3,900m2 arts education centre, with facilities including a performance space, a professional-standard recording studio, rehearsal studios, practice rooms, ensemble rooms, and a tech lab as well as office space.

Two Berklee alumni have been appointed to head up Berklee Abu Dhabi. Named as Director is Gael Hedding (right), a Grammy-winning music producer who was formerly a faculty member at Berklee’s campus in Valencia; there he lectured on the subjects of recording techniques, music production, and mixing and live sound. Hedding’s own experience at Berklee “opened my mind and allowed me to connect with a vast network of extremely talented creators”.

The Lebanese American singer-songwriter Mayssa Karaa (right) is Berklee Abu Dhabi’s Artistic Director. She has performed internationally, appeared on soundtracks for Bollywood and Hollywood films, and sang the Arabic version of the alphabet song Sesame Street. She says she feels the value of giving something back: “Since graduating from Berklee I’ve felt the urge to find a way to give talented artists from the region I grew up in access the Berklee experience. We’re now making it a reality and I’m delighted as I feel like I’m bringing my musical home of Berklee to my home in the Middle East”.

Courses at the Abu Dhabi centre starting this month will include:

  • DJ Skills Taught by Emmy-winning composer, music producer and Executive Director of Berklee NYC Stephen Webber
    Workshop, Beginner/Intermediate – 10 hours, 1-5 Mar: AED 3,500
  • Music Production Taught by Stephen Webber
    Workshop, Intermediate/Advanced – 6 hours, 6-7 Mar: AED 2,200
  • Music Production Taught by Stephen Webber
    Masterclass, Intermediate/Advanced – 4 hours, 6-7 Mar: AED 1,460
  • String Orchestra Taught by the noted Palestinian cellist Naseem Alatrash
    Lab, Beginner/Intermediate – 10 hours, 1-5 Mar: AED 2,230
  • Middle Eastern Fusion Ensemble Taught by Naseem Alatrash
    Lab, Beginner/Intermediate – 10 hours, 1-5 Mar: AED 2,230
  • Application of Arabic Maqams in Contemporary Genres Masterclass, Intermediate/Advanced – 4 hours, 6-7 Mar: AED 1,300
  • Movement Explorations Taught by dance faculty Ruka White from the Boston Conservatory at Berklee
    Lab, Beginner – 12 hours 8-19 Mar: AED 2,200
  • Jazz Movement Principles Taught by Ruka White
    Lab, Beginner – 12 hours, 8-19 Mar: AED 2,200
  • Jazz Contemporary Taught by Ruka White
    Clinic, Intermediate/Advanced – 8 hours, 13-14 Mar: AED 1,460
  • Classical Modern Lab Taught by Ruka White
    Clinic, Intermediate/Advanced – 8 hours 20-21 Mar: AED 1,460

If you’re interested in any of these, there’s more information here including booking info.

Berklee Abu Dhabi will additionally be offering programmes for children and students under the label Berklee Ignite – a series of events for young beginners (aged 6-15) in music, dance and theatre.

There’s also a schedule of public concerts and performances, with upcoming events including the all-women Spanish Flamenco foursome Las Migas (31 March) and a production of A Comedy of Errors (10 April). More details when we have them.

Berklee Abu Dhabi’s full schedule of courses and registration details are on the website.

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