By Ethan Kaproski, SMARTACUS Creative Group
Born in Brooklyn, Berggren developed an affinity for the pipe organ, harmony, and the music of Johann Sebastian Bach while singing in the boys' choir of Grace Episcopal Church. Each summer, his family would head to the farm in the small Adirondack town of Minerva where his mother was born and raised. When Berggren was 12, his family moved to Minerva to live there year-round, but he maintained his passion for music and performing.
“I discovered how satisfying it is to practice hard to give a great performance that gives great pleasure to others and to me,” he says.
Among Berggren's favorites in his youth: The Beatles, Bob Dylan, Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder, as well as other rock, folk and soul musicians. Canadian folk singer Stan Rogers was a major influence and Berggren says he continues to be inspired by his work to this day.
Now living in Saratoga Springs, Berggren feels he has become a better musician throughout his career. He credits that to “practice, learning from mistakes, and knowing more ways to approach a musical idea, topic, or story. That’s why my most recent album, This Planet We Call Home, was the most fun to make."
That's usually the case, he finds. "You accumulate more experience and knowledge with each successive accomplishment.”
Keys to Success
Berggren attributes his success to his discipline and practicing the fundamentals of his craft. Also essential: “Being flexible and knowing when to bend or even break fundamental rules.”
Most musicians have a most memorable concert or favorite point in their careers. Berggren, who has performed in all kinds of venues and all sorts of places from South Africa to Texas, recounts several.
“I've had memorable moments with orchestras in concert halls, with thousands of people singing along on my songs at outdoor folk festivals, with only a few people gathered at weddings and funerals, with strangers in Africa, Europe, the British Isles, and with audiences at Caffe Lena in Saratoga Springs…”
"It can be the people in the audience, the acoustics of the room, the purpose of the event, or playing just the right song at just the right time."
Open Mic at Caffé Lena
A moment that particularly stands out for Berggren is his first open mic in 1985 at Caffé Lena which, as all Saratogians know, is the oldest continuing coffee house in North America. In those days, performers auditioned for Lena Spencer, the late owner and founder of the venue.
"Lena liked my 15 minutes on her stage and so she invited me back to do a show in November. I've been performing there every year since.” His latest show in early March sold out so quickly another was scheduled.
What Berggren says he likes most about being a musician is “getting people who have come to my concerts to join in and sing along on the choruses of songs. There is a wonderful energy in the room when that happens, and it lifts the audience's spirit and mine…singing does something to a person that is both physical and emotional.”
Berggren hopes his music will have an impact on others.
"Some songs may make you laugh, think about people you love, or direct you to questions that need to be asked and answered by each listener. Music and literature can deal with many aspects of love or hate or apathy. I want my music to send you in the direction of love.”
A junior in Jill Cowburn's journalism class at Saratoga Springs High School whose interests gravitate toward history and writing, Ethan Kopraski envisions a career as an elementary school teacher or ecologist. A varsity football and lacrosse player, he enjoys music and skiing and he runs a history-themed club, Studied History of Conflicts (SHOC).