Oscar Stagnaro Master Class Challenges Jazz Students to Feel the Beat

Rivers jazz students, joined by jazz students from the Noble and Greenough School, came together for a special master class with four-time Grammy Award–winning bassist and Berklee professor Oscar Stagnaro on Saturday, November 4. Stagnaro is the 2023 guest artist for the upcoming Rivers & RSC Jazz Festival on November 18, where the combined groups will be performing Stagnaro’s music. The festival will also serve as a send-off for the Rivers and Nobles music students' trip to Cuba in March 2024, where Stagnaro’s music will be featured. 

Rivers Jazz Director Philippe Crettien has led the effort in bringing Stagnaro to campus for the festival and preparing the students for the upcoming trip to Cuba.  

“It was wonderful to work with Oscar, a master of Cuban and Latin music,” shared Crettien. “He taught all the members of the rhythm section one by one, demonstrating the claves and correct rhythms, the bass lines, and piano riffs called ‘mantunas’ needed to perform his music with the real authentic feel of Cuban music.”

Students found the new rhythms challenging but also invigorating and were thrilled to learn from a master musician.

Violinist Arianna Martinez Cavero ’24 had the opportunity to interview Stagnaro in addition to participating in the master class.

“It was amazing to be able to work with not only a brilliant musician but also someone with such interesting experiences and background,” shared Martinez Cavero. “[Stagnaro’s] music and the music we’re preparing for Cuba is also so different from what we’ve played before; it has all sorts of awesome rhythms and characteristics that are super cool, and difficult to master!”

The Rivers and Nobles bands will play two compositions by Stagnaro at the November 18 festival: “Homenaje a Arequipa” and “Mariella’s Dream,” which he describes as “a mixture of rhythms from Venezuela and Peru with a Cuban vibe.” 

Of “Mariella’s Dream,” Stagnaro explained, “it demonstrates a lot of skill for the pianist and bassist to follow, with a little bit of classical music mixed in.” The piece was dedicated to Stagnaro’s daughter when she was studying at Boston Ballet. 
Crettien added, “Students were happy to learn so much in the master class and thrilled to have homework in preparation for the performance at the festival.”
Oscar Stagnaro’s music and Paquito De Rivera’s music will be performed at the festival and again on the March 2024 jazz trip to Cuba.

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