Listen to the four young Berklee musicians chosen by Keith Lockhart to perform with Melissa Etheridge @ Symphony Hall [ticket giveaway]

Ahmad El Haggar

It’s one thing to be recognized by Keith Lockhart of the Boston Pops. It’s another to be chosen to open for Melissa Etheridge. It’s something else altogether to be chosen by Lockhart to open for Etheridge, but that’s what on deck tomorrow night for recent Berklee College of Music graduate Sarah Walk and current Berklee students Sarah McKenzie, Deni Hlavinka, and Ahmad El Haggar (whose 2013 Egyptian rendition of Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy” has more than 120,000 views on YouTube). The quartet will take part in the latest Berklee Night at the Pops, featuring alumna Etheridge, on Thursday, June 12 at Symphony Hall.

And we have your ticket hookup. Just email michael@vanyaland.com with BERKLEE in the subject line and we’ll select a winner at random, good for you and a guest, by Wednesday afternoon.

At tomorrow’s event, each artist will pair with a Berklee student arranger to create orchestrations of their works to be performed with the Pops. It’s also the first time Etheridge will perform live with a symphony orchestra, the first of two nights for the Grammy-winning musician at Symphony Hall.


We know you know pretty much all there is to know about Etheridge, so let’s turn our preview attention to the student performers. Check out each artist below, along with the YouTube clip that’s helping make them famous, with or without the endorsement from Lockhart…


Sarah Walk is a native of Minneapolis, Minnesota and a Berklee College of Music alumna. A singer, pianist, and songwriter, she is currently writing and recording new music in Los Angeles and London. With a distinct voice and rhythmic playing style, her music has been described as “cynically optimistic and in-your-face, every bit as raw and passionate as one could hope” (St. Paul Pioneer Press). Watch: Sarah Walk, “Still Frames”


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Sarah McKenzie is a pianist, vocalist, and composer from Melbourne, Australia. She was a backup vocalists for Michael Bublé on his Call Me Irresponsible tour, and was the opening act for Grammy-winning trumpeter Chris Botti in 2011. Her second album, Close Your Eyes, won the 2012 ARIA award for Best Jazz Album. Prior to enrolling at Berklee, she studied composition with Johnny Mandel (“The Shadow of Your Smile,” theme from MASH) as well as with Berklee voice professor Donna McElroy at the Umbria Jazz Festival in Italy.

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Deni Hlavinka is a singer, pianist, and songwriter from Stephens City, Virginia. She is currently studying professional music at Berklee with Grammy-winning artist Paula Cole. In 2013, her band, The Western Den, released their debut EP and toured as the opening act for Melissa Ferrick. Later that year, they released a self-produced Christmas EP to raise funds for victims of Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines. Watch: The Western Den, “Carter Hall”

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Ahmad El Haggar is a vocalist and oud player from Cairo, Egypt. He recently joined music legend Carole King on stage at the MusiCares Person of the Year ceremony to perform a Middle Eastern-style version of her song, “Home Again,” that he arranged specifically for the event. It wasn’t the first time El Haggar put his stamp on a pop favorite. His Egyptian rendition of Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy” has almost 120,000 views on YouTube. Before coming to Berklee, he attended the Higher Institute of Arabic Music. Watch: Ahmad El Haggar, “Fi Kol Fengan Ahwa”

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