“It’s a good experience to see how many talented women there are,” said Berklee College of Music professor Christiane J. Karam last Wednesday. Those who attended the 14th annual Women Musicians Network (WMN) Concert at the Berklee Performance Center—which showcased the broad musical tastes and talents of Berklee women singers, performers, writers, and producers—discovered this striking female talent for themselves. The concert featured 10 of Berklee’s own female students in a show that encompassed an enormous variety of musical genres. From Silvina Moreno’s Argentinian jazz composition “Mañana” to Se-eun Kim’s Japanese film score “Mysterious Wind,” WMN’s female performers offered a stylistic spectrum of musical talents from around the world.
The event directors, Karam and Berklee College of Music professor Lucy Holstedt, sought diversity while shaping the concert. After spending three days sifting through over 100 submissions, the women decided on a varied group of 10 artists that covered as many areas of the world and aspects of music as possible. Karam, who performed in the WMN annual show while a Berklee student herself, said, “my role [as event director] is to share the vision of what we want the show to be, and try to make it as diverse as possible. We want to represent as many of the facets of the Berklee student population as possible.”
This range of performers was not confined to merely the Berklee student population: the concert also featured two special non-student groups in the evening’s eclectic body of performers. The first was the Berklee City Music Prep Ensemble, an ensemble featuring singers from Boston-area middle schools who, despite their age, held their own beside Berklee’s more experienced students. Their arrangement of Michael Jackson’s “Earth Song” received a boisterous standing ovation. By successfully showcasing talented youngsters in their program, Berklee proudly advocated the future of their school’s music while bringing an element of gospel to the show.
The second guest artist was Daniela Schächter, who was awarded the annual faculty honor of performing in the WMN Concert. Schächter, a Berklee assistant professor and a former student participant in the concert, performed an emotional modern jazz composition entitled “Ripresa.” Karam, a former classmate of Schächter’s at Berklee, praised her selection and said, “[Schächter is] one of the hardest working people I know in the business,” she said. “She’s extremely focused, human, and has a gentle loving nature.”
Indeed, the entire body of performers reflected Karam’s praise: the concert exuded a mood of joyful collaboration. Holstedt, who co-founded the program 14 years ago, said “I just love the kind of collaboration we have in this show—there aren’t any big egos [and] everyone is really in it for the music.” Katie H. Marshall, who performed her catchy original pop tune, “Liar Fire Sire Quagmire,” agreed with Holstedt’s sentiments. She said, “[everyone was] cheering each other on. Before we went on stage we were holding hands—there was so much support from each other.”
Although in many ways the annual WMN concert is an effort to help talented female artists gain connections and network with each other, Holstedt believes it exemplifies a larger purpose. WMN is vital because “it highlights women in leadership roles” while offering upcoming artists a valuable performance opportunity. “Some of these students haven’t performed on a huge scale before; they haven’t been leaders of groups,” Holstedt said. Marshall agreed, saying that the rehearsals gave her “the sense of what working in the professional world would be like.”
Berklee offers its students opportunities to break into the professional world—but this is not WMN’s only role. As Karam said, “the role of the concert is not to dismiss anyone, but to emphasize the beauty and the power of what happens when you put a bunch of women together.”