Ernesto Diaz: Drum Circle

Ernesto is an Assistant Professor, Percussion at the Berklee School of Music and performs, leads concerts and records Caribbean and South American music, including performances with Latin pop star Gloria Estefan, the Boston Pops, and Cuban legends such as Cachao Lopez, Eliades Ochoa, Toumani Diabate, Paquito D’Rivera, and Oriente Lopez.

“I teach traditional, popular Caribbean and South American music. This music is a little tricky for musicians to play because it’s very syncopated, so for that reason, I really make sure that the student is well grounded in the beat. It’s easy to lose your way but the trick is to feel the beat instead of counting it. So we drum in the class and use different types of Latin percussion instruments, but I also have students do exercises where they get up and do simple dance moves and either clap, sing, or play the rhythms as they’re feeling the beat. That way, when they’re playing the off beats, they don’t get out of time. When you do drumming in folkloric settings, you don’t look at it as studying so much as tricks that you do to understand the rhythm better. Hopefully, these rhythms will make the students better instrumentalists and influence their music in some way.”

“My teaching style is to make sure that I am giving feedback to all my students in order to help the class move forward together as a whole. This sounds kind of cheesy, but I’m a really fun teacher. It’s a passion with me.”

“I really want my students to understand rhythm not as something written on a piece of paper or a board but as something they can really feel. Sometimes, students can read music but it doesn’t mean anything to them physically, so I emphasize movement. I want my students leaving the classroom singing the rhythms in their head. I’ve caught students outside my door teaching each other a break that we learned in class that people had a hard time understanding – one that I didn’t write it out for this very purpose – and then they’ll come back the next week and they’ll know the stuff. It’s amazing.”