Performer, Creator, & Seeker
My name is Leah Schehera Washington and I hail from Arlington/Fort Worth, Texas. I am a flautist, arranger, artist, and overall musical enthusiast. I call myself a “seeker” because I seek knowledge and learning all that I can of the different aspects and nuances of music.
I was introduced to the musical world long before I made a conscious decision to become a part of it. I am the proud daughter of Devetra and the late Marvin E. Washington Jr., two fabulous musicians and infinite sources of inspiration throughout my life.
Growing up, I was rather eclectic in my interests. I loved singing, reading, drawing, and animals. When I was in fourth grade, I wanted to be everything from an artist to a marine biologist. Then the local high school band came to my elementary to recruit and demonstrate the various instruments. I still wanted to do all of those things, but I decided I wanted to play the flute as well because it sounded beautiful and I loved music. My mother had been planning on enrolling me in violin lessons anyway, so she just decided to go with the flow.
When I decided to become a musician, I received formal classical training. This was pretty much expected considering my choice of instrument and attendance in a public school system. I have learned many things since I first started: I’ve learned about scales and chords, arpeggios and embouchure, dynamics and how to move my fingers very, very quickly. I think the most valuable thing I have gained from my formal education is that training and experience do not equate to talent.
I’ve learned that it’s not enough to be able to play off every piece of musical repertoire your private teacher or band director shoves in your face. It’s not enough to just play the notes and rhythms: you can do that in any audio sequencing program. Often times you are performing a piece of music that has been played by many musicians before you; unless you can take that song and make it yours, add your own unique flare, you’re just a broken record playing the exact same thing that millions before you have played.
I think that a real musician is someone who can create true and original music with every performance, whether it is with a renowned piece of work hundreds of years old, or an improvisation made up on the spot. Because I have learned every thing ‘by the book’ and was taught everything with the assistance of sheet music, I feel that I missed out on the more creative aspects of music, such as improvisation, playing by ear, and even arrangement and composition.
Since attending Berklee College of Music in fall 2007, I have turned my personal disadvantages around and used them to challenge myself. My formal training gave me the building blocks and I have laid down my foundation. Now I can improvise, compose, arrange, and play styles of music I never would have even considered playing if I had limited myself to classical music.
My personal goal is not to be categorized as a ‘classical’ or ‘jazz’ player, but a true musician who is not limited to any one style or walk of life.
For a more detailed accounting of my art and life, check out my Files for my artistic biography.
- Dean’s List
As of my sixth semester of Berklee, I have a GPA of 3.819. I have been on the Dean’s List since my entrance into Berklee in Fall 2007.
- Middle Eastern Fusion Ensemble
When I came to Berklee, my first goal for myself was that I would get into something performance related that was NOT classical music; I realized I would never grow as a musician if I just stayed inside my comfort zone. A week into the first semester I auditioned for something called the Middle Eastern Fusion Ensemble conducted by Christiane Karam. I have remained in this ensemble every semester since then. This was the best choice I could have made for myself: not only is it not western “classical” music, it’s an almost entirely different rhythmic and tuning system. The music is beautiful and also very culturally diverse: we play music from Turkey, Egypt, Greece, the Balkans, Romania, Lebanon, Palestine, and more. Each of the regions has it’s own unique sound, contrary to what the name ‘middle east’ would stereotypically imply, and it is actually very musically challenging to get all the little nuances correct and play it well. On top of having a wonderful director and source of inspiration in Christiane Karam, this ensemble has given me the chance to work closely with several famous artists, as well as leading to my first concert in the Berklee Performance Center February 18, 2009.
- Musical Theatre Club And Orchestra
I consider the musical theatre scene to be the perfect mix of music and story telling. I find that attending a musical is more satisfying and interactive than watching a movie, just like attending a live concert is more satisfying than listening to a CD recording. Thus, when I enrolled in Berklee, the first club I joined was the Musical Theatre Club. I was actively involved for about two and a half semesters, helping with fundraising and networking. Unfortunately for me, the club was more focused on the vocal aspect and offered limited opportunities for me as an instrumentalist. My class schedule later prevented me from maintaining a more active membership, but I made up for the lack by joining the Berklee Musical Theatre Orchestra. Auditioning and signing up for this class was exactly what I needed; the class is conducted in a professional manner that simulates the actual musical theatre business. Since I plan to pursue a career in musical theatre after graduation, this has given me opportunity to ‘practice’ my chosen career and still have fun performing it, all the while receiving valuable and vital tips on how to be successful and maintain that state.
- Video Game Music Club
I have always been an avid gaming fan since I was a young child playing Sonic on the Sega Genesis. Despite scheduling issues of previous semesters, I now have an active membership in the club and do my best to attend every meeting. I do not plan to pursue sound design for video games and multimedia as a career goal. However, as a performer, I would love to be a studio musician who worked with recording film score and video game music. Outside of music I am very much into cgi and 3D modeling, and have delved into game design and development. From a game designer’s perspective, it is very informative for me to learn the methods and needs of the sound designer—especially since I am a musician as well.
- Microtonal Society
I have been a member of the Microtonal Society since arriving at Berklee. There hasn’t ever been a standard meeting time for this club, but it nonetheless has greatly helped me in exploring how to best produce and use microtones in my playing. Being apart of the Microtonal Society gives me a chance to speak with other students who are interested in this style of music and trade tips and info on how to best perform it on western instruments that were based on an even tempered tuning system. It also allows me to be updated on any clinics and concerts dealing with microtonal music. This club is especially useful to me considering my current immersion into the Arabic music style.
- 3D Modeling
Outside of music, I have become heavily involved in 3D modeling and CGI. I am currently proficient in modeling, animation, and design. I have recently delved into the world of video game creation and are learning new things everyday about this exciting industry. Not only is it interesting, but I have found that it helps to tie me to aspects of the music business that I hadn’t personally considered before: video game music/film scoring and music synthesis.
Experience & Education
Lab Supervisor/ Video Editor for Berklee Learning CenterJanuary 2010 to May 2011 (about a year)
Lab Monitor for Berklee Learning CenterAugust 2009 to January 2010 (5 months)
BA in Music Performance Major, Visual Culture and New Media Studies Minor at Berklee College of Music2007 to 2011 (4 years)