People come from all over the world to study at Berklee College of Music in Boston, and starting this Saturday, some of the best students at Berklee will come to Salem to play free concerts at Derby Square.
That is a natural progression, according to Henley Douglas Jr. of the Salem Jazz and Soul Festival, which sponsors the four concerts in the summer series.
“Berklee being one of the most important music schools in the world, it made sense to connect with them and use their resources to help spread the word of our festival,” Douglas said. “In addition to putting on a festival for free, the main mission of Salem Jazz and Soul Festival is to give funds we raise to Salem schools for their music program, and a few of them have gone to Berklee. It’s a natural outreach for us.”
The Bob Marley Ensemble, which will perform this weekend, is a special kind of tribute band.
The 15-member group of Berklee students is a project of Matt Jenson, assistant professor of piano at Berklee, who teaches a semester-long course on the life and music of Bob Marley, the Jamaican musician who popularized reggae in the 1970s.
“They’re amazing,” Douglas said. “The band is the largest ensemble we’ve had at the series. It’s something to hear young musicians taking the music of Bob Marley and putting their own twist to it, in addition to remaining true to the original vibe of the music.”
A New Hampshire native, Jenson not only teaches students how to play the complex rhythms of reggae, but also introduces them to Marley’s social and spiritual message.
“It’s these young people who’ve put their own stamp on the arrangements, which to me is what the whole pursuit of music is about,” Douglas said.