Keith Warren: The Healing Power of Music

By 
Danielle Dreilinger
September 23, 2009

Some Berklee students interrupt their coursework for a shot at stardom—an opportunity they can't pass up. Music education major Keith Warren '74 had a sadder reason: bone cancer. At the age of 22, he had to leave the college.

But Warren fought back, even after he had his leg and hip amputated. He credits his determination to his Berklee education.

"As a result of learning to practice something over and over while at Berklee, I learned to practice walking, little by little," he said.

Now 56, Warren walks with a state-of-the-art computerized prosthesis—he calls himself the "Bionic Man"—works full-time for New York State, and takes pride in his twin children at college.

"Berklee taught me to be very patient and measure the very small amounts of progress. I applied this thinking to my long journey back to a full life," he said.

In gratitude, Warren regularly contributes a small amount "to help other new young students to have the time of their lives." Though the million-dollar gifts make the headlines, small donations are essential for Berklee to grow and prosper. The average alumni gift to the Berklee Fund is $61.87.

Music has remained an essential part of Warren's life. Even during cancer treatment, he held boisterous singalongs with other patients, playing Rolling Stones and Beatles hits on his guitar. He and his wife, also a musician, sometimes perform with a local orchestra.

And though the state job pays the bills, he gets his kicks teaching guitar at Drome Sound in Schenectady.

"One of my greatest joys is teaching nine-year-old guitar players to play and sing 'Born to be Wild,'" Warren said—students who might one day experience Berklee for themselves.