Berklee Student Usman Riaz Named TED Senior Fellow

By 
Nick Balkin
December 12, 2013
Usman Riaz speaking at TEDGlobal
Usman Riaz

Berklee student Usman Riaz has been named one of 12 TED senior fellows who will present at the next four TED conferences starting in 2014. At 22, the Pakistani composer, multi-instrumentalist, and filmmaker is the youngest TED senior fellow ever selected. 

Born in Karachi, Pakistan, Riaz was classically trained on the piano at age 6, but as he got older he wanted to learn new instruments and styles. With music teachers in Pakistan in short supply, he used the internet as his teacher. Watching hundreds of videos online, he taught himself percussive guitar—a style that relies on a sharp striking of both the strings and guitar's body—as well as harmonica, mandolin, harmonium, and percussion. 

He also used the internet to distribute his music. After a viral video for his song "Fire Fly" caught the attention of TED curator Chirs Anderson, Riaz found himself onstage at TEDGlobal 2012, in Edinburgh, performing alongside his hero, percussive guitar master Preston Reed, whose videos Riaz watched to learn the style. 

Riaz has performed on the TED main stage and travelled all over the world sharing his artwork and music with audiences to emphasize how all of us can use multimedia to further our talents. His skills and interests are not limited only to music; he writes and directs short films to complement his compositions, and he painted the cover of his album Circus in the Sky

Riaz is currently in his first semester at Berklee and is pursuing a dual major in composition and performance. 

Watch: Context - Usman Riaz