Berklee School of Music graduate Goapele (born Goapele Mohlabane) will return return to her collegiate stomping grounds for a performance at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum’s RISE Music Series, curated by Shea Rose and Simone Scazzocchio, on March 31. She’s preceded by the likes of Yuna and Liz Dailey who have performed at the museum’s intimate concert cube, Calderwood Hall.
An educational immersion
Goapele says she came to Boston because she believed it was home to some of “the best musicians from all over the world,” spanning from her alma matter at Berklee to the New England Conservatory and the practical and jazz musicians that call the city their home.
“There are so many hole-in-the-wall places where people who are masters of their craft are just playing casually,” she remembers. “Like Wally’s [in the South End] — I miss that place. I think being around all of that all the time really forces you to up your game.”
Just some old school chums
The artist says she decided to go to college at Berklee to gain experience working with musicians. “I would sing a capella or with the choir at community events, or over whatever the latest, hottest hip-hop track was, but I wasn’t really comfortable or confident enough to perform ewith live musicians, especially my own original music,” she tells us.
Goapele says her formal education taught her to turn journal entries into songs, some of which led to her first album, “Closer” in 2001. Plus, her fellow alumni continuously pop up in her professional career.
“I got to meet Jeff Bhaskar, who just won producer and song of the year with Bruno Mars at the last Grammys, in a James Brown ensemble [at Berklee],” she says. “We sat down and wrote many of the songs that ended up on 'Closer.' Then even with my last album, ‘Strong as Glass,’ I ended up hooking up with another former student and friend, Keith Harris, who worked with Estelle, and we did five songs together.”
Some friendly advice
When Goapele started to pursue music on a professional level, she started with an EP in the Bay Area and sold a few thousand before landing a distribution deal with Hieroglyphics. She says the industry has changed a lot since she got her start, but her advice to aspiring artist remains the same.
“Find trustworthy people that can help support your vision,” she says. “And for me, it’s always important to make measures of your own success. Pick measures that don’t have to do with the standards of the world around you. Make sure you know you’re on your own path.”