Berklee Today

Twelfth Encore Gala Raises $1.2 Million for Berklee City Music Program

By Beverly Tryon

  From the left: Berklee trustees and gala cochairs Steven Holtzman and Elliott Hillback
  Photo by John Kennard

Berklee's 12th Annual Encore Gala, held at Boston Park Plaza on October 21, 2006, reached a milestone this year by raising an unprecedented $1.2 million. Thanks to lead sponsorship from Blue Cross Blue Shield Massachusetts and Bain Capital LLC, gala cochairs Elliott Hillback and Steven Holtzman, as well as many other generous donors and gala attendees, the musical extravaganza featured more than 150 musicians and exceeded expectations. Proceeds from the event will go to the Berklee City Music Program (BCMP), the college initiative to engage talented inner-city students in grades 6 through 12 in music.

The evening began with a cocktail reception and dinner for 900 guests. A highlight during dinner was the gala's first-ever live auction. John Terrio, the evening's auctioneer, kept guests entertained as they bid on exclusive offerings, such as trips to the Sundance Film Festival and the Puerto Rico Heineken JazzFest and the chance to throw out the first pitch at Fenway Park. Tickets to The Tonight Show with Jay Leno as special guests of bandleader Kevin Eubanks '79, as well as VIP tickets to a Barbra Streisand concert in Boston, were also big hits. Bidders created a buzz vying for a private concert by Livingston Taylor, which went for $35,000. The live and silent auctions, cochaired by Berklee trustee Isabel Pisano and Tim Duncan, added a total of $170,000 to the evening's proceeds.

The student performers of the Berklee Salsa Ensemble turn up the heat in the Motown Review room.  
Photo by John Kennard  

After dinner, Berklee faculty, alumni, and student musicians performed music from around the globe in eight unique nightclub settings that reflected Berklee's strong international influence. The Berklee Groove Club featured the eclectic sounds of West African percussion and American bluegrass. Guests danced until midnight in the Motown Review club to a variety of earthshaking salsa, Motown, and hip-hop. Those seeking quieter venues enjoyed jazz favorites with pianist/vocalist Maggie Scott in the Starlight Lounge as well as folk music and original songs in the World Folk room and Rising Star Club. A classical music ensemble serenaded bidders in the silent auction room.

Special guests included rock legend Al Kooper and the Funky Faculty, who played to a packed house in the Blues after Dark room. Bebo Valdes, the celebrated Cuban-born pianist and bandleader, performed with the Berklee Salsa Ensemble. Renowned drummer Tommy Campbell '79 made a guest appearance in the City Music room, which showcased the incredible talent of the City Music Ensemble. Gala guests got to see firsthand how their contributions benefit promising students from Dorchester, Roxbury, Chelsea, Jamaica Plain, and Hyde Park.

  From the left, back row: Phil Pratt, Rachel Conn, John and Stephanie Connaughton, and Kevin Conn. Front row: Robin Pratt and Steve and Sara Kish of Bain Capital, the gala's lead sponsor
  From the left: Sonchu Gavell, President Roger Brown and his wife, Linda Mason, and Stefan Gavell in the Silent Auction room
  Photos by John Kennard

The Berklee City Music Program helps underprivileged teens with limited resources pursue their musical and academic aspirations through scholarship and mentoring opportunities. Since its inception in 1992, more than 1,000 young people have benefited from participation in BCMP. Eighty-three Boston-area high-school students have received full four-year scholarships to attend Berklee.

Cleve Killingsworth, Blue Cross Blue Shield Massachusetts president and CEO, says that Blue Cross was eager to participate. "We were proud to support this important program that benefits deserving young people in our community," says Killingsworth. "I attend many events and must say that Berklee's Encore Gala is the best in the city."

Colead sponsor, Bain Capital Children's Charity Ltd., also provided significant event support this year. "Bain Capital feels very strongly about supporting talented urban youth through Berklee's innovative educational outreach," says John Connaughton, managing director for Bain Capital LLC. "We were very pleased to play a lead role in this year's Encore Gala."

The Blues Breakfast, sponsored by Mr. and Mrs. Lawrence J. Sapanski, offered an array of breakfast and dessert foods and dancing. The Blues after Dark band kept things grooving until 2:00 A.M., bringing this year's festivities to an end.

Cleve Killingsworth (right) of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts receives the Boston Business Journal's award for Arts Partner of the Year from Carol Fulp.  

"It is very satisfying to find ways to offer scholarships to immensely talented musicians who lack the means to attend Berklee," says President Roger H. Brown. "Can you imagine the difference in music history if Larry Berk couldn't afford to offer scholarship support to Quincy Jones, Toshiko Akiyoshi, or Arif Mardin? The funds raised at the gala directly help the next generation of Quincys come to Berklee."