Jesse Berkowitz began playing guitar at the age of 12 in his home town of Silver City, New Mexico after hearing Metallica for the first time and thinking “I wanna do that!” Deeply inspired by the do-it-yourself ethic of early ‘Nineties bands such as Nirvana and others who were part of the increasingly popular grunge and punk scenes, Jesse picked up the electric guitar and began teaching himself to play. He started playing in his first punk-rock and metal bands and gigging around his home state at age 14.
Upon graduating high school, Jesse decided to further pursue his musical interests in an academic environment (leaving the punk rock world behind!) and began studying music theory at the University of California, Santa Cruz. Here Jesse was introduced to the world of classical guitar, which became a consistent passion throughout his college career. Studying under renowned performer Mesut Ozgen, Jesse immersed himself in the classical guitar repertoire and discovered a fondness for somewhat avant-garde composers of the 20th century, particularly the colorful work of the Cuban guitarist/composer Leo Brouwer. While working towards his degree Jesse often performed as a soloist and as a member of the UC Santa Cruz Guitar Ensemble.
After receiving his Bachelor of Arts in music, Jesse decided to try his hand at composing and went on to recieve a Master’s degree in composition, also from the University of California, Santa Cruz. During this time he composed music mostly for chamber ensembles, including several string quartet and guitar ensemble pieces. He also began to experiment with introducing rock and metal elements into the classical music environment (with varying degrees of success!), composing several pieces for ensembles of strings and woodwinds which also featured electric guitar, electric bass, and drum set. Jesse has also spent time studying the music of eastern Europe and the far east, and he has traveled to Asia and performed with local folk musicians there. A piece he composed for guitar and gayageum (a Korean string instument) had it’s premiere performance at a national folk festival in Seoul, South Korea.
Throughout his academic studies, Jesse has continued to express his love of non-classical genres and has performed with countless rock, punk, metal, reggae and bluegrass bands throughout New Mexico, California and Texas. He currently performs in Austin as a member of the experimental rock/metal trio Vanished Clan, and also with Nefesh, an acoustic gypsy-folk ensemble.Back to Classes & Teachers>