Jessie Berne was born in New Jersey, and raised in Southwest Ohio. Born into a musical family, her first instrument was piano accordion, which she came to love as a small child listening to her mother practice every night as she studied Eastern European folk melodies and Cajun tunes.
Picking up the clarinet in elementary school, Jessie struggled to divide her time practicing between two favorite instruments. And in high school, she added a third with the study of the upright bass.
She continued on to get both a Bachelor’s, at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio and a Master’s degree, at Youngstown State University, in classical clarinet performance. Yet her love of roots music persisted, inspired by her father’s involvement in the music business as owner of a small bluegrass music hall and producer of American music events such as the Harlem Blues and Jazz Band, and Mama Lou Parks with her Lindy Hop dancers. While in college, Jessie picked up the mandolin, fiddle, guitar, and claw hammer banjo. She could also be seen playing alto and bass recorders for the Early Music Ensemble at YSU.
Instrumental music notwithstanding, her first love has always been dance. Indeed, her love for all varieties of world music grew out of her obsession with dance. She has studied tap, ballet, modern dance, swing, Appalachian clogging, ballroom, square, contra, salsa, and other folk dances from around the world.
Jessie has a wide range of interests from knitting to gardening to upcycling to bicycling, and she has experimented with many careers, trying on hats for size. She is currently working full time as an Americorps member in a social work capacity, but is eager to fuse this social mission with her passion for music through the Sistema Fellows Program at NEC.