Snarky Puppy Completes Berklee College of Music Residency, Inspiring Next Generation of Music-Makers
Snarky Puppy is a GRAMMY®-winning collective that’s not quite jazz and not quite fusion or jam band. Coming off their latest GRAMMY® win for “Best Contemporary Instrument Album,” the band recently completed a semester-long residency at the prestigious Berklee College of Music.
Snarky Puppy describes itself as a “collective of sorts with as many as 25 members in regular rotation.” The group was founded in 2003 in Denton, Texas, by bassist and primary composer Michael League during his time at the University of North Texas. Within the first three years, the collective transformed “into something funkier, more direct, and more visceral” and welcomed musicians like Robert “Sput” Searight (drums), Shaun Martin (keyboards), and Bobby Sparks (keyboards). Now based in New York, Snarky Puppy, “at its core, represents the convergence of both black and white American music culture with various accents from around the world.” The group has global representation with musicians from Argentina, Canada, Japan, Puerto Rick, the UK, and the United States, who harness the “joy of performing together in the perpetual push to grow creatively.” The members are also involved in projects outside of Snarky Puppy, working as sidemen for artists like Snoop Dogg and Kendrick Lamar, producers, and solo artists.
The beginning of 2021 kicked off a semester-long residency for members of Snarky Puppy at Berklee’s campus in Valencia, Spain. Throughout the 10-week semester, members of the band, their crew, and the management team participated in a range of virtual endeavors to help mentor the next generation of music makers. The group delivered classes to students enrolled in Contemporary Performance (Production Concentration) courses and shared their insight via instrument-based clinics, workshops, and masterclasses on production, pedagogy, composition, and improvisation while offering feedback through livestream student performances.
Additional contributions came in April from band founder League, pianist and composer Bill Laurance, trumpeter and keyboardists Justin Stanton, and other band members as they coached student ensembles who performed at the virtual Musaico Festival. Saxophonist and multi-instrumentalists Chris Bullock participated in “Journey in the Soundscape of Brazil.” At the same time drummer and vocalist Jamison Ross joined historian Aminah Pilgrim, producer, educator, and multi-instrumentalist Patrice Rushen, and steel pan musician Joy Lapps Lewis for a discussion entitled, “A Luta Continua: Global Black Cultural Resistance.” On the production and recording side of the residency, League offered guidance to students in the Music Production, Technology, and Innovation graduate program while simultaneously facilitating a recording session with undergraduate students. GRAMMY-winning producer, mixer, and engineer Nic Hard presented a master class on his techniques to record Snarky Puppy projects.
Snarky Puppy’s commitment to assist in the growth of future music makers extends beyond the band. Their management team and crew also participated in the residency with GroundUP CEO Eric Lense and label manager Jamie Margulies, providing insight into a modern independent record label. Sound Engineer Matt Recchia joined League to present a class on running an efficient soundcheck. Tour manager Rosanna Freedman moderated a conversation on sustainable touring alongside special guest, percussionist Manu Delago. The Berklee residency concluded for Snarky Puppy in early May with a town-hall meeting that included 16 members of the band conversing with students on resilience and adaptability.
The band’s efforts to promote the future of music extend beyond their residency at Berklee. Recently the collective facilitated a contest for current students and alumni of Los Angeles’ Musicians Institute. Participants submitted a 30 to 60-second video covering their favorite song from the Snarky Puppy catalog. Submissions were judged by a panel consisting of band members, staff from both the Musician’s Institute and Orpheum Theatre L.A., with winners receiving a pair of tickets for a show and personal feedback directly from the band.