2023 season

Returning artists were Andrus Madsen, Harold Charon, and Kevin Harris. New talent to the Summit: Hidemi Akaiwa, Sylvia Berry, Leo Blanco, Dennis Montgomery III and Utar Artun.

Hidemi Akaiwa 

Fasten your seatbelts because you are likely to have never heard music like what keyboardist and composer Hidemi Akaiwa performs. Her passion is to create a new art form infusing the tenets of Japanese Zen with the sounds of jazz and microtonal contemporary classical music. At the age of 30, she shifted from a successful corporate career to focus on jazz music. She received a full scholarship to Berklee, where she took part in the college’s Global Jazz Institute, Institute of Jazz and Gender Justice, Planet MicroJam Institute, and Interdisciplinary Arts Institute. These experiences have allowed her to study with world-class musicians including Danilo Pérez, Kenny Werner, Terri Lyne Carrington, Kris Davis, Billy Childs, David Fiuczynski, and many others. She just returned from a tour of Guatemala with the Screaming Headless Torsos, but that’s another story! Click here to see/hear.

Kevin Harris & Fabio Rojas

Having participated in the very first incarnation of the Summit, we are so pleased to have Kevin Harris and the creative volcano that he is, grace our stage again. Expect a different and unique multimedia experience with spoken word, poetry, and recorded and creative electronic sounds. A distinctive trait of New York/Boston-based jazz pianist Kevin Harris is his desire to constantly grow, evolve, improve, and advance. His interest to interweave traditional and contemporary music styles, visual arts, electronic media, science, and language, is what distinguishes his music and what renders his performances unique experiences, meant to activate the audience’s senses and personal curiosity. “Participation,” Harris says, “is what keeps our souls alive.” Both live and recorded performances reflect Harris’s determination to capture his audience through explorative interactions that Terri Lyne Carrington describes as “an exciting commitment to quality.” Harris’ music education has its foundation in the degrees he has received, but equally importantly in Black Gospel and Afro-Caribbean styles of music. He possesses the unique ability to compose complex, uplifting, tempestuous, and deeply stimulating notes. Fred Hersch talks of Harris as one who “plays and writes with flair and real soul” and DownBeat Magazine writes that “Harris’ compositions deal with themes of strength, love, courage, and self-awareness. It’s a heavy task he’s set up for himself, and he meets the challenge gracefully.
Among his recurring International and national performances are venues such as the Blue Note (NYC, Beijing, Milan, and Boston), New York’s Smalls and Mezzrow, Copenhagen’s JazzHus Montmartre-Denmark, Perugia Jazz Festival-Italy, Lima Jazz Festival-Peru, Boston Wally’s Jazz Club-USA, Havana Jazz Festival-Cuba, Panama Jazz Festival – Panama, Catania Jazz-Italy, to name a few.
In 2020 Harris was nominated by the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum to be a Neighborhood Salon Luminary, with the goal to exchange creative ideas and dialogue with some of Boston’s most innovative artists. In December of 2021, Harris released his solo piano work entitled “Doorways” at Calderwood Hall in the Gardner Museum. As a composer, one of Harris’ innovative projects is “Roots, Water and Sunlight: A Contemporary Octet Expedition through the Expressions of James Baldwin,” where he put music to the renowned and significant thoughts shared by James Baldwin. He is currently completing a commissioned work entitled “Pulse”, a new work for oboe, violins, cello, acoustic bass, and piano, to be released in 2023.
He is on the faculty at Berklee College of Music where he coaches ensembles, theory classes, piano labs, and private piano instruction. Additionally, he is part of Berklee’s Mentoring Program, and he leads the Berklee Piano Club. He serves as a council member for JazzBoston, the New England Conservatory Alumni Council, and Berklee Soundboard. Performing with Kevin is Drummer Fabio Rojas, originally from Valencia, Venezuela. Since arriving in the US, Rojas has performed with artists such as Terri Lyne Carrington, Geri Allen, Greg Osby Band, Bill Pierce, Sean Jones, Kevin Harris, John Lockwood, Nino de los Reyes, Manuel Valera, Paula Champion, Mike Rodriguez, Pablo Menares, Jason Palmer, Jon Cowherd, Regina Carter, Rachel Z Hakim, David Bixler, Gregg August and in venues such as SXSW, Daegu Jazz Festival, Smoke Jazz Club, Lincoln Center, BU Agganis Arena, Boston Symphony Hall, Scullers Jazz Club, MusikFest, NAMM, RIFF, among many others. Fabio earned his Bachelor of Music with a Dual Major in Performance and Professional Music at the prestigious Berklee College of Music in Boston, thanks to a scholarship and extremely hard work. There he had the honor of being mentored by Terri Lyne Carrington and Kim Plainfield. Right after graduating, he was hired as a staff member at Berklee. Besides performing and composing music for films and commercials, Rojas also educates and is currently part of the Faculty at the Brooklyn Conservatory of Music. “Music expresses that which cannot be said and on which it is impossible to be silent.” – Victor Hugo. Through music you can express greater emotions, ones that you cannot define with words. As an artist, this is what Fabio strives for and continues to do through his work.

Harold Charon 

Harold Charon performed at last year’s Summit and just blew the house down. His talent can only be described as genius. His schedule has become quite full but we were lucky to bring him back this year Originally from Havana, he began piano lessons at 5 years old. Exuding musicianship decades beyond his years, he went on a Canadian tour which included the Halifax Jazz Festival and received training from  Fred Hersh, Taylor Eigsty, Billy Childs and the late great jazz master Chick Corea. Crossing genres, Harold has worked with a variety of artists including Leo Vera, La Cruzada, and Los Clasicos. In 2016 he joined Janio Abreu and Aire D’ Concierto, where he worked as a pianist and composer for Ruy Lopez-Nussa y La Academia. Currently, he is finishing his studies at Berklee, majoring in jazz composition and performance. His music features influences from Latin, Salsa, Jazz and Timba. Timba is a Cuban genre of music based on Cuban son with salsa, American funk/R&B, and the strong influence of Afro-Cuban folkloric music. Chucho Valdez, bandleader of Irakere is considered one of the founders of the style.


LEO BLANCO 

The music of the pianist and composer pulses with global rhythmic elements influenced equally by his South American roots and European classical traditions interwoven with improvisatory developments. Blanco was born in the Venezuelan Andes where he absorbed folk music genres that were a mix of Afro-Caribbean, North American and European musical styles.  By age eleven he was a violinist in the Merida Youth Symphony Orchestra. In 1996, his interest in world music and jazz brought him to Boston’s Berklee College of Music and he later earned a Master’s Degree in Composition at New England Conservatory. In 1997 Blanco became the first Latin American to win to the prestigious Boston Jazz Society Award. The next year, he received the Billboard Grant Award for his commitment, achievement and contribution to society through music. Currently, he is a faculty member at Berklee College of Music.

Blanco has shared the stage with major international jazz artists including Terence Blanchard, Pat Metheny, Chucho Valdez (Irakere) and Joao Bosco. He has performed at numerous festivals including the Montreaux Jazz Festival, North Sea Jazz Festival, Newport Jazz Festival, Monterey Jazz Festival, Edinburgh International Festival and the Latino Festival and at the Kennedy Center.  Blanco has produced and composed four albums under his name. Appearing with Leo are bassist Fernando Huego and drummer Gen Yoshimura.

Fernando Huergo is a bassist, composer, and educator from Cordoba, Argentina, now based in Boston. He has recorded over 140 albums, including 11 as a leader. Fernando has toured and given clinics in North, Central and South America, Europe and Asia. An active performer on the jazz scene, he currently plays with Guillermo Klein y Los Guachos, MOZIK, Mehmet Sanlikol, Daniel Ian Smith, Pablo Ablanedo, El Eco, Macuco Quintet, Leo Blanco, Fernando Brandao, Yulia Musayelyan, Carlos Averhoff, Maxim Lubarsky, Claudio Ragazzi, and Giovani Molten. He has performed with the bands of Luciana Souza, Cesar Camargo Mariano, Danilo Perez, Marta Gomez, Dave Valentín, Hendrick Meurkens, Dave Liebman, Dave Samuels, Joe Beck, and many others.

He has played alongside great musicians such as Tom Harrell, Dave Kikoski, Joey Calderazzo, Paquito D’Rivera, Randy Brecker, Rick Margitza, Kenny Werner, David Sanchez, Mike Mainieri, John Riley, Mike Clark, Don Braden, Mike Stern, Dave Weckl, Don Byron, Giovanni Hidalgo, Jerry Gonzalez, Horacio Hernandez, Bill O’Connell, Richie Flores, Paulo Braga, Romero Lubambo, Portinho, Claudio Roditi, Raul Carnota, Juan Quinteros, Lucho Hoyos, and with some of the most influential musicians of his generation like Kurt Rosenwinkel, Ben Monder, Mark Turner, Chris Cheek, Miguel Zenon, Jeff Ballard, Antonio Sanchez, Jorge Rossi, Seamus Blake and Dafnis Prieto and Boston stars Billy Pierce, Jerry Bergonzi, and George Garzone.

He has also performed and recorded with pop stars like Chayanne and Sandra Mihanovich. Fernando Huergo has performed with his quintet at the Buenos Aires Jazz Festival, and Cordoba International Jazz Festival in Argentina, as well as at Alexanderplatz Jazz Club in Rome, Italy, and Sunside Jazz in Paris, France, The Regattabar in Cambridge, MA and Cornelia Street Cafe in NYC, among others. Fernando is a professor in the Bass Department at Berklee College of Music, since 1996, and an adjunct faculty at Tufts University since 2001. A dedicated educator, he has given clinics in Argentina, Costa Rica, Brazil, Colombia, Mexico, Panama, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Canada, Portugal, England, France, Germany, Sweden, Finland, Spain, Switzerland, Italy, Holland, Belgium, Poland, Turkey, Japan, South Korea, China, Malaysia, Israel, and in many cities in the United States. Fernando graduated from Berklee College of Music in 1992, and has also studied at New England Conservatory. He studied with Charlie Banacos, Jerry Bergonzi, Cecil McBee, George Rusell, Whit Browne, Oscar Stagnaro and Bruce Gertz, among others.

Gen Yoshimura is a drummer/composer/educator from Japan. He moved to Boston to study at Berklee College of Music (BM) and Longy School of Music at Bard College (MM), and has lived there ever since.

Throughout his musical career, he has been given opportunities to share the stage with several internationally acclaimed artists including Fernando Huergo, Walter Smith, Kris Davis, John Lockwood, Oscar Stagnaro, Rick Dimuzio, Daniel Ian Smith, Nate Radley, Ernesto Diaz, Manolo Mairena, Gonzalo Grau, Rebecca Cline, Gilson Schachnik, Yulia Musayelyan, Jim Kelly, Fernando Brandao, Maxim Lubarsky, Fabiola Mendez, Eduardo Betancourt, Andy Voelker, Matt Jenson, Doug Olsen, Alexei Tsiganov, Angel Subero, Zahili Zamora, Fryderyk HD, SONMASS, Bruno Raberg Tentet, Allan Chase Quartet, Leo Blanco Trio, La Pura Vida, Santiago Bosch Trio, Pritesh Walia Trio, and many others.

A major highlight of his career includes being featured alongside Pat Metheny, Fred Hersch, and Bobby Watson in Jazz Artistry Now (JAN)’s Best of Jazz 2020 for his drumming in Fernando Huergo’s Big Band album “The Possibility of Change”.

In addition to his extensive work as a sideman, Gen also performs and records original compositions with his own band, many of which you can find on Spotify, Youtube, and the Discography tab above.

He is on the faculty at New England Conservatory’s Preparatory Program and Continuing Education Program, where he teaches ensembles and private instruction. He has also led clinics and masterclasses for prestigious institutions such as Berklee College of Music in the institution’s 2023 Summer Drum/Percussion Workshop and its 2018 Workshop & Audition Tour in Quito, Ecuador. In addition to his work with his alma mater, Gen has led masterclasses in Groton School, and Lethbridge University. He also has been teaching private lessons regularly for years.

Dennis Montgomery III

Montgomery grew up singing and playing in Baptist churches around the upper Louisiana area under the tutelage of his father and mother,  By the time he was nine years old he was proficient enough on the Hammond B3 Organ to get hired to work alongside his father. Montgomery came to Berklee College of Music in 1983. Shortly after his arrival at Berklee, he headed for the gospel choir which had only recently come into existence. While Berklee’s education is focused on jazz,  “We know that jazz has its roots in the negro spiritual, which is gospel music. Gospel is also the mother of a lot of other secular music that America has produced.” Gospel at Berklee grew rapidly and when Mongomery graduated he assumed the direction of the Reverence Gospel Ensemble as a full-time faculty member. Montgomery believes that the choir is a fundamental ingredient of the American experience for international students, which is probably why students from all over Asia, South America, Europe, and Australia all come to be a part of the choir. Montgomery states, “When I was young, I had to learn European musical styles. So when foreign students come to Berklee, I think it is important to educate them in a true form of American music.” The choir has served as a catalyst for some premiere voices in the music industry such as Paula Cole, Lalah Hathaway, Susan Tedeschi, Claude Kelly, Rob Lewis and Mark Whitfield.

Utar Artun 

We are thrilled to welcome Utar Artun to the Summit, an exceptionally talented musician with a diverse skill set as an arranger, composer, pianist, and drummer. Originally from Ankara, Turkey, young Utar achieved remarkable success in the music industry with prestigious awards, film scores, and performances at various international festivals, concert halls, and on television. Utar continued to pursue his passion for music and earned scholarships to attend the renowned Berklee College of Music and the New England Conservatory. Throughout his career, he has collaborated with esteemed artists such as Bobby McFerrin, Maria Schneider, Kevin Eubanks, Rudresh Mahanthappa, Simon Shaheen, Jason Linder, and Summit performers Kenwood Dennard and David Fiuczynski. Utar’s extensive body of work includes over 120 compositions for symphony orchestras and more than 160 pieces for brass and big bands. He recently arranged music for a video titled “Bizim Eller Ne Guzel Eller,” which showcased the devastation caused by the earthquake in Van, Turkey. This emotional and inspiring video has been viewed by over 50 million people worldwide. Currently, Utar is a JRR artist at Berklee, and we eagerly anticipate an amazing performance on May 6th.


Andrus Madsen 

Returning from his remarkable performance last year, Newton’s own Andrus Madsen is well-known internationally in early music circles and performs on the organ, harpsichord clavichord and fortepiano. He is the founding director of Newton Baroque. Originally from Provo, Utah, Andrus received a Bachelor’s degree in organ performance from Brigham Young University and went on to the Eastman School of Music, where he completed a Master’s degree in Musicology, and a Masters and Doctorate in harpsichord performance. Madsen is known for his eloquent Baroque style improvisations. His recording of keyboard music by Pachelbel has received critical acclaim. “Superb recordings of superb instruments by a musician who deserves to be better known.” (Michael Barone of pipedreams).

Sylvia Berry

Sylvia Berry is one of North America’s leading exponents of historical keyboard instruments. A Philadelphia native based in Boston, she has spent nearly twenty years playing countless types of fortepianos, harpsichords, and organs, including some noteworthy antiques. Her recording of Haydn’s “London Sonatas” on an 1806 Broadwood & Son grand for the Acis label drew critical acclaim; a reviewer in Early Music America proclaimed her “a complete master of rhetoric, whether in driving passagework or in cantabile adagios,” while a review in Fanfare stated, “To say that Berry plays these works with vim, vigor, verve, and vitality, is actually a bit of an understatement.” Of her concertizing, Cleveland Classical recently enthused: “Her splendid playing took her up and down the keyboard in lightning-fast scales and passagework, and her thrilling full-voiced chords allowed the fortepiano to assert itself as a real solo instrument.” Ms. Berry is known not only for her exciting performances but also for the engaging commentary she provides about the music and instruments she plays. She is also a published scholar who’s written and lectured on the performance practices of the late 18th and early 19th centuries, as well as the sociological phenomena surrounding the music of this period. In addition to performing with ensembles such as Les Délices, Ars Antiqua, and the Chamber Orchestra of Boston she is the curator of her own period instrument ensemble, The Berry Collective, which has performed at venues and series such as The Museum of Fine Arts, The Princeton University Art Museum, Monadnock Music, Museum Concerts of Rhode Island, and the Portland Early Music Festival. She’s performed solo recitals for Pittsburgh Renaissance and Baroque, Cambridge Society of Early Music, Oberlin Conservatory, Providence College, and Baldwin-Wallace College Conservatory, among others. In May 2020 she will join a “Beethoven Sonata Marathon” in New York presented by the American Classical Orchestra, and will also join the faculty of the Academy of Fortepiano Performance in Hunter, NY. Despite getting a late start at the piano – she began lessons at age thirteen – she attended the New England Conservatory and holds degrees from the Oberlin Conservatory (BM in Piano, MM in Historical Keyboard Instruments) and the Royal Conservatory in The Hague, The Netherlands.