I come to you from the USAirways Gate 21 at Boston’s Logan International
Airport. We’re here — Liz Longley and her band: Johnny Duke, Derek McWilliams,
and Jake Cohen — waiting on our flight to Washington DC. The real destination, our prime imperative, is the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, our country’s national palace of music, dance, and theater, where Liz and pals will play the Terrace Theater tomorrow night. How do music students, admittedly ridiculously talented ones, get to play
a mainstage in our country’s conjunction of Italy’s La Scala, and the U.K’s Barbican Center? The answer is the Conservatory Project. Each year, the Kennedy Center invites the top American conservatories and music colleges to each present a night, one performance, of their choosing. The theater and all of the production is provided, free of charge, with the help of the Target Corporation.
Over the past six years, while the other conservatories performed primarily classical music, Berklee has presented bluegrass, country, jazz, and a ten-piece salsa band. You can see and hear every one of our five previous Conservatory Project shows, in archived webstreams here.
This year, we are wicked lucky to have one of the best in our current crop
of songwriters, Ms. Liz Longley of Philadelphia, PA, and her crack band. Or is that
cracked? They seem a great bunch. Jake Cohen is the drummer in Berklee’s Tower of Power ensemble, and he’s also from Philly. Derek McWilliams is the bassist, a music production major, and he has a bunny rabbit at home. And Johnny Duke is a soulful, tasty guitarist, with one sandaled foot in the Delta, and one in the DelMarVa Peninsula. A puckish and good-natured bunch.
On the way down, bassist Derek borrowed one of my British car magazines,
which spurred a complete car-geek conversation. The capper? Before Berklee, he helped develop a system that let mechanics diagnose diesel truck trouble, remotely, via cellphone, by talking directly to the truck’s engine management chip. Cool.