The Reverberation of the Global Mix

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Indian composer and vocalist Shankar Mehadevan performs with Berklee students.

China and India represent an unprecedented potential for the growth of Berklee’s international profile. These nations not only possess thousands of years of history, deeply rooted cultural conventions, and very rich music traditions, but they are home to billions of people trying daily to grasp the new realities of the 21st century. As well, hundreds of millions of young people living there are interested in learning English and music.

One of Berklee’s strategic global development initiatives has been very straightforward. The plan is to bring the top music stars to Berklee’s Boston campus, offer our students—who hail from more than 100 different countries—the chance to engage with these artists, and present the “Berklee global mix” at iconic venues in front of huge and enthusiastic audiences. It sounds simple enough, but the reality is far more complex. These events have been successful thanks to the dedicated work of hundreds of students, staff, faculty, and volunteers across the college and, in these cases, across continents.

Chinese pop legend Wang Leehom ’99 performs with Berklee students in November 2016.

Last year Berklee brought Wang Leehom ’99 of China and Shankar Mahadevan of India to Boston for performances. Both of them are iconic and uber-successful performers and producers in their respective countries, but they are also absolute masters at merging the traditions of the Chinese and Indian classical music with aspects of contemporary music. Each enjoyed the blending of their original music with the reinterpretations by Berklee students and faculty members. Often, and quite enjoyably, during the rehearsals one had to wonder which party was more impressed and challenged by the virtuosity and brilliant musicianship displayed: the artists or the students.

By design, the reverberations go far beyond a single thrilling performance. Berklee has been able to build sizable and vibrant communities of new supporters for the college and ignite substantial fundraising efforts through these events. The icing on the cake will be the awarding of full scholarships in China and India in 2017 and 2018. Each presentation will be made on a big stage. We can only imagine what tremendous excitement it will be for a kid from Chennai or Shanghai to receive a full scholarship to Berklee College of Music from Shankar or Leehom.

It’s been my privilege to be part of the team that has made these types of engagements possible. I’ve found it invigorating to see all the pieces come together and then to enjoy the Berklee global mix. For anyone interested in joining this effort, please contact me at mvana@berklee.edu.