Melissa Ferrick Supports New GLBT Scholarship

By 
Danielle Dreilinger
September 24, 2008
Melissa Ferrick '90
Melissa Ferrick '90
Myra Hindus, Berklee's vice president for cultural diversity, addressed the crowd at the Berklee Performance Center September 13.
Students at the show.
Photo by Phil Farnsworth
Photo by Phil Farnsworth
Photo by Phil Farnsworth
Photo by Phil Farnsworth

Singer-songwriter Melissa Ferrick '90, who performed at Berklee on September 13, is out and proud. But not everyone in the music world feels comfortable shouting their identity from the rooftops—not even here.

Some students feel that being open about their sexual orientation "would jeopardize their career prospects," says Ann Driscoll, a fourth-semester electric bass principal and board member of the student group BUGLE (Berklee Union of Gays, Lesbians, and Everyone Else). She adds, "The music industry is still hostile to a lot of people who are out of the closet."

That's why Ferrick donated the proceeds of her concert to help kick off the college's new GLBT Leadership Fund. The fund supports projects benefiting the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community.

Three separate inspirations converged this spring to create the new opportunity. The faculty group GLBT Allies started discussing ways to get more funding for the college GLBT community. After giving a workshop at the Cafe 939 Loft, Ferrick wanted to help BUGLE—possibly by playing a benefit concert, she suggested.

Dana Friedman '85, the CEO of Dragonfly Technologies, also wanted to help. She made the fund happen by giving $10,000 to the college.

Details are still being hammered out, but the fund will disburse at least $2,000 per year for the next five years for projects that benefit the GLBT community. Any Berklee student may apply, regardless of sexual orientation.

"I think for Berklee to take a lead on this is really crucial," Driscoll says. The college's public support "encourages people to be proud of who they are."

She hoped the initiative would give the GLBT community a bigger presence on campus. For its part, BUGLE organizes social gatherings for students and has put together a Queerstock caf show (in Berklee's dining hall) that they hope to make an annual event.

"The visibility is just crucial to make sure everyone knows this is a diverse community," agrees Michael Wartofsky, a Harmony Department faculty member and a board member of GLBT Allies. When that's not there, "[people] assume it's okay to use homophobic language or make homophobic jokes."

He adds, "I think Berklee has become a much safer place over the years, but we still have a ways to go."

He envisions that some students will use the fund for projects that benefit Berklee and some will direct their actions to the world at large—via internships at queer arts organizations, for example.

Ferrick writes from the road, "When I was at Berklee I was just coming out of the closet and went to BUGLE meetings for support. As I travel and visit queer youth throughout the country, the need to give back has become apparent, and given my relationship and history with Berklee it was a perfect fit."

Ferrick talked about her time at Berklee at the pre-concert reception BUGLE hosted with about 30 club members, faculty, and alumni. "Melissa was really, really gracious and friendly," Driscoll says. "It was just a really cool opportunity for BUGLE to meet with such a prominent figure in the GLBT community."

The fund "sends a signal that Berklee as an institution is a safe and supportive place," Wartofsky says. "We can all work together to make it a more tolerant place—and a more fun place."

To donate to the fund, go to the Giving section of the Berklee website and specify "GLBT Leadership Fund."