Ep. 22: NYC Vibraphonist Makes Name For Herself & Promotes Gender Awareness

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Sasha Berliner is a musician, composer, producer, and band leader from San Francisco, CA.

Sasha started playing drums at eight years old. She pursued a jazz emphasis at her high school, Oakland School for the Arts, where she picked up the vibraphone at age 13. She is an alumni of the SF Jazz High School All Stars Orchestra and the Banff International Workshop in Jazz and Creative Music. She headlined festivals like the Atlanta Jazz Festival, NYC Winter Jazz Festival, and the Burlington Discover Jazz Festival, by the age of 19.

In that same year, she was deemed one of SF Jazz's 10 Rising Female Instrumentalists for 2018 and was featured by Hot House Jazz Magazine, The SF Jazz Education Center, PBS News Hour, NPR, NBC Boston, and The New York Times for both her musicianship and her activism. She was a finalist for the International Hit Like A Girl program in the Concert Percussion category as well as the cover story for Tom Tom Magazine’s Fall 2018 publication. She was also the first US winner of the LetterOne “Rising Stars” Jazz Award 2018, which enabled her to bring her group to several prominent jazz festivals across the US and Canada.

Sasha has gone on to perform at venues such as the Fox Theater, The Jazz Gallery, Treasure Island Music Festival, Davies Symphony Hall, the Jazz Education Network Conference, the SF Jazz Miner Auditorium, and Davies’ Symphony Hall. She has had the honor of sharing the stage with musicians such as Ravi Coltrane, Beck, Vince Lateano, Miles Okazaki, Matt Wilson, and Victor Wooten, performing more recently with award winning drummer-composer Tyshawn Sorey's sextet. She also substitutes for, teaches, and performs with jazz vibraphonist Warren Wolf.  

Sasha is currently living in New York City. She is attending The New School of Jazz and Contemporary Music, where she has been a student of vibraphonists Stefon Harris and Chris Dingman. She is an endorsing artist for Vater and a faculty member at the MalletLab percussion intensive, where she gives masterclasses and clinics. She is also a prolific writer, fulfilling a Non Fiction writing minor at the Eugene Lang College of Liberal Arts and self publishing an array of personal essays, poems, and critiques. Her essay on sexism in the jazz industry, “An Open Letter to Ethan Iverson (And the Rest of the Jazz Patriarchy)”, was shared on PBS News Hour and discussed in tandem with the Winter Jazz Fest discussion panel on sexism, featuring activist Angela Davis.

Her next major musical project, Azalea, is projected to release in September 2019.

Sasha Berliner also publicly advocates for the We Have Voice organization, vowing to create a non-tolerance and accountability policy for discrimination or harassment based on race, gender, sexual orientation, and violence and abuse, in the performing arts. More information on how to adopt the code for your institution or website can be found at the organization's website here.

Topics discussed:

  • Playing drums at 8 years old
  • Seeing her mother run a business growing up
  • Moving to New York attending The New School
  • Getting ignored throughout her career
  • Finding self confidence
  • Saying no to $100 gigs
  • Finding utility in low paying gigs
  • The power of giving through teaching
  • Establishing payment standards
  • Comparing the American music market to Europe
  • Not being afraid of failure
  • Developing and maintaining relationships
  • Applying for funding and grants
  • Planning for the future as a freelancer
  • Multiple sources of income
  • Feeling grounded in a freelance career
  • Factors to consider when thinking about moving to a big city like New York
  • The financial consequences of sexism in music
  • Lack of women hired as university/conservatory faculty
  • Practicing gender awareness
  • Asking others how they found success
  • The importance of music business courses

Resources & names mentioned:

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