The Academy is known for churning out stellar teen singers, who, whether singing a classical tune or a contemporary bit, never cease to surprise an audience.
The former music teacher formed the BYCA in 1992 in an effort to explore her passion for singing, and also because she knows that a child who loves to sing would enjoy it much more and have fun while really learning at a high level.
“It's an education program and it's about rigorous voice training,” she said. “There is music literary training and musicianship, students learn how to read music, ear training and basic musicianship skills. And it all begins with a love of singing.”
The after-school and weekend program is a voice-based music academy and a full music education program with performing ensembles that often get to work with notable composers and singers in the classical and pop music scene.
“I wanted them to be singer/musicians and treat the voice as its own instrument, to develop their voices and their musical understanding as fully as those who had private lessons,” Berkun said.
Raised in Suffern, New York, Berkun earned her bachelor's degree in Music Education and Piano from New York University. She studied conducting and theory at Mannes College of Music, and holds a graduate diploma in the Kodály Concept from the University of Calgary and an Artist-Teacher diploma from the CME Institute where she studied extensively with master teacher and conductor, Dr. Doreen Rao.
The Brooklyn Youth Chorus Academy includes an all-around curriculum that spans from classical to modern pieces, something which has allowed the students to collaborate with a diverse roster of artists including Andrea Boccelli, Lara Fabian, Debra Cox, Sir Elton John, Alicia Keys and Lou Reed to name a few. And under her leadership, the BYCA has been the recipient of one Grammy Award in 2005.
The YWCA of Brooklyn has named the Brooklyn Heights resident a “Woman of Distinction” and Brooklyn Congressman Major R. Owens honored her with a "Lifetime Struggle and Achievement Award."
She says her greatest reward is seeing the choristers grow as musicians and people. “I don't think there is any greater gift that you can give somebody than helping them find the artist inside them, realizing that quality that makes them unique.”
Photo credit: Jim Kriegsman