More than simple scales 

Squamish-based musician to study at prestigious contemporary music college

click to enlarge Scott Verbeek
  • Scott Verbeek

While most of his friends will be partying in Pemberton at the end of July, Scott Verbeek will be in school. Strangely enough, the 16-year-old musician isn’t all that upset about missing out on the upcoming Pemberton Music Festival.

That’s because he’ll be making music, instead.

The Grade 10 student has been accepted into a five-week summer program at the Berklee College of Music, a prestigious independent music college located in Boston, Massachusetts. The college boasts Quincy Jones, Melissa Etheridge and Paula Cole among their alumni.

Faculty members teach classes from 9 a.m. until 6 p.m., with visiting artists presenting a variety of clinics and concerts. After class, students can take advantage of jam sessions, private practice rooms, computer synthesizer workstations, the library and career development centre in their free time.

Verbeek found out about his acceptance into program at Berklee about a month ago, but said he’s been interested in the program since he heard about it from one of his instructors.

Like many musicians, Verbeek was introduced to music by a family member. His mother used to play the guitar, so at the age of eight he simply picked up an old acoustic that was lying around the house, and she got him started with basic chords. It wasn’t until Verbeek discovered rock at the ripe old age of 11 that he really got passionate about his music. Eventually, he decided he wanted to switch to electric guitar.

“Every guy I liked and listened to, like Angus Young and Slash, were all playing electric guitar,” he explained.

His parents were supportive of his switch to electric, despite the extra noise, and bought him his first electric guitar – a “super horrible” Fender Squire Stratocaster. Now Verbeek plays a Gibson Les Paul, his equivalent of a first car, that he got about a year ago.

He also has expanded from rock — now, he draws inspiration from a vast range of music, especially fusion artists like Herbie Hancock.

“It doesn’t really matter what kind it is, as long as it’s got a really good groove, I like it,” he said, “… I’m into fusion, jazz, anything I can get my hands on, really.”

Verbeek is also one of the members of Black Swade, a young rock band based out of Squamish that formed about three years ago.

“We’re all friends and we just play the music that we want to play, and we’ve gotten some really cool shows,” Verbeek said, adding that they’ve performed at First Night, the World Ski and Snowboard Festival twice, and Sound Off at the EMP in Seattle Washington.

“We all share the same love of music, we’re all really happy that we get to play together and enjoy some success.”

The experience of playing in a band has encouraged Verbeek to push his musical limitations.

“Instead of just practicing scales by myself, I’ve gotten to jam and explore playing with other people,” he explained.

Now, he is going on to pursue some solo endeavours – namely, attending the five-week pre-college summer program at Berklee, where he will live in residence and study music all day long.

The experience is designed to not only strengthen your musical abilities, but to give students a taste of what it would be like to go to school there.

Verbeek hasn’t even been to Berklee yet, but he’s already pretty certain he would want to study there after he graduates from high school.

He heard about the program from one of his guitar teachers, Dave Martone, and applied right away.

“He went there, and he’s basically one of the best guitar players in Canada — like super crazy good,” Verbeek said with a laugh. “I’m going in funk fusion, so I’m hoping to sort of expand my musical skills and get better at different kinds of music, because I’ve been playing rock for a pretty long time now.”

The application process didn’t just involve filling out a form – Verbeek had to prove his musical abilities, too.

“Basically, I had to record an old classical song, and I did a rock arrangement of it,” he explained, “It’s called the Fifth Caprice by Paganini and, yeah, basically I just recorded it for that, just to show them what I can do.”

They must have been impressed with his application, because Verbeek wasn’t just accepted into the program; he was given a partial scholarship, too.

He leaves for Boston at the beginning of July, and will be back in town by mid-August.

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