Walter Harp Memorialized with Endowed Scholarship

The late Walter W. Harp
The late Walter W. Harp

Thanks to the collective efforts of more than 50 faculty and staff members, as well as students and friends, an endowed scholarship has been established in the memory of late faculty member Walter W. Harp. The Walter W. Harp Liberal Arts Music and Society Scholarship can now be awarded annually to a student who has demonstrated outstanding achievement in civic engagement: the use of music, including composition and performance, to transform individual lives and society through community service, social activism, and humanitarian efforts on a local, national, and/or international level.

During the fall 2014 semester, Bahar Royaee became the first recipient of the endowed scholarship. A composition major, Bahar is the driving force behind a collective of Berklee women composers called CanvaSounds (, and her own imaginative music blends Western and Iranian/Persian musical cultures. The collective was created to highlight the voices of women composers and to present concerts that embody the spirit of multiculturalism and collaboration. CanvaSound’s members represent six countries, each bringing their own cultural and musical understanding to their performances. James Smith, the assistant chair of the Composition Department remarks, “As an Iranian woman, Bahar’s commitment to the cause of free expression and equal status is especially poignant and powerful.”

Scholarship recipient Bahar Royaee
Scholarship recipient Bahar Royaee
Curtis Killian

This scholarship pays tribute to Harp, a beloved teacher of history, sociology, and English composition in Berklee’s Liberal Arts Department for nearly three decades (1976-2005). Harp passed away November 8, 2005, after a three-year battle with cancer. The scholarship honors the memory of this remarkable individual who inspired countless students across the globe to wonder, question, seek connections among music and other disciplines, engage in social issues, and use their art to combat injustice and complacency. Peter Gardner, a professor in the Liberal Arts Department, conceived the idea for the scholarship. “Walter was a wonderful friend, colleague, and mentor,” Gardner says. “Encouraging respect for individual and cultural diversity, he urged all of us to be engaged citizens of the world fighting for social change with passion and compassion. Every year, on the day of Walter’s passing, I reread his lyrical essay “Bluefishing with Britten: Beneath the Surface of Music and Life,” written shortly before Harp’s death. Its sense of gratitude for the wonders of daily life and its call for global citizenry continue to move and inspire me.”

The idea for a liberal arts department award in Harp’s name started five years ago with a music and society award being given annually to a worthy student. During this period, faculty, staff, former students, and friends contributed to a separate fund with the goal of reaching the $50,000 minimum needed to fully endow the scholarship. An endowed scholarship provides Berklee with a permanent asset from which to award student support. Once the minimum is met, the principal gift amount is retained in perpetuity and cannot be spent. Instead, a percentage of the interest earned from the endowed scholarship fund is used to provide annual awards on a continual basis. We offer sincere thanks to Pat Pattison, Kevin Block-Schwenk, Camille Colatosti, Simone Pilon, and Mike Mason for their leadership in establishing this scholarship.

Members of the faculty, administration, and staff across the college nominate candidates to identify students engaged in truly inspirational community service through music. For instance, nominees have included those using music to raise awareness of sexual violence, homophobia, racism, and bullying; to enrich the lives of those struggling with dementia, depression, and other physical and emotional challenges; to help child mothers and former female child soldiers in Uganda tell their personal stories through song; and to promote global harmony and peace.

Increasing affordability for our students is the number one goal of the recently launched capital campaign, Soundbreaking: The Campaign for Berklee. On behalf of all of the students who will benefit from this special initiative, we thank everyone who has made a contribution to the Walter W. Harp Liberal Arts Music and Society Scholarship for their generosity. The scholarship will preserve Harp’s legacy and promote his beliefs about living a life of service and helping those in need.

Anyone who wants to contribute to the Walter W. Harp Liberal Arts Music and Society Scholarship can visit and select “Walter W. Harp Scholarship Fund” from the designation drop-down menu.

Peter Gardner is a professor of communication studies in the Liberal Arts Department. Jessica Halton is the associate director of stewardship and donor relations in the Office of Institutional Advancement.