Giant Steps and Milestones

July 1, 2008

Giant Steps Campaign cochair and Berklee trustee John Connaughton.

Phil Farnsworth

Giant Steps Campaign cochair and Berklee trustee Mike Dreese.

Phil Farnsworth

Featured performers: pianist Michel Camilo (left) and drummer Terri Lyne Carrington. Camilo has created a Berklee scholarship for students from his native Dominican Republic.

Phil Farnsworth

On April 26, friends of Berklee gathered at the InterContinental Hotel on Boston’s waterfront for the official launch of Giant Steps, Berklee’s recently announced capital campaign. In his remarks, President Roger H. Brown told the audience, “This is the first capital campaign the college has ever undertaken.” Brown detailed that the campaign title was borrowed from the famous song “Giant Steps” by jazz legend John Coltrane and that it represents a milestone in Berklee’s development as an institution. “Coltrane’s song is really a jazz etude,” Brown said. “If you can improvise on it, it’s a milestone in your development as a musician.”

Berklee trustees and Giant Steps campaign cochairs John Connaughton and Mike Dreese told the guests how they came to be involved with the campaign. “I have been a mentor, a guest lecturer, and [a] trustee at Berklee,” said Dreese. “I’m cochairing this campaign in part because I have been around the college for so long and know the great things it has accomplished on a shoestring and what possibilities lie ahead. Most importantly, I am motivated to financially support the college and work on behalf of the students.”

Connaughton spoke about the plans for the funds the campaign will generate. “We expect to raise $15 million for scholarships, $15 million for facilities and $10 million to support innovation,” said Connaughton. “Our original plan was to raise $40 million by June 1, 2011. But like all institutions, our list of needs and dreams exceeds $40 million.”

According to Connaughton, the college decided to increase the goal to $50 million after contributions from early donors topped $27.5 million. “The campaign leadership firmly believes this early generosity will allow us to accomplish even more on our list to realize Berklee’s vision of becoming the world’s leading institute of contemporary music,” he said. “The board of trustees, Mike, and I feel we can take a ‘Giant Step’ and raise the goal to $50 million. This is a tremendous feat for Berklee. We are particularly grateful to the early donors and thank them for their generosity. I hope you will all help us spread the word.”

Other speakers included Board of Trustees Chair Jeff Shames, faculty member Lori Landay, and soon-to-be graduates Amy Heidemann and Kundayi Musinami. Heidemann and Musinami told the audience about the role of scholarships in helping them earn their degrees. “Only through my scholarship has this become a reality,” said Heidemann. Musinami recalled his arrival at Berklee from his hometown of Harare, Zimbabwe, with only $12 in his pocket and how the scholarship office helped meet his needs. “Four years later, I am still here enjoying the educational experience and realizing my dream because of generous contributions made to Berklee,” he said.

Before introducing the featured musical artists, President Brown told the audience that he has now been at Berklee’s helm for four years and explained why he is passionate about Berklee and the possibilities of the campaign for the future of the college. “Berklee gives access to a college education to students who might not otherwise aspire to it,” Brown said. “Berklee helps make Boston a great city. No city has a school like Berklee that is dedicated to jazz, blues, Latin, gospel, hip-hop, and electronica. As well, Berklee has had a global impact. Jazz-based music is America’s contribution to world culture, and Berklee is the one music college devoted to it.”

Brown then introduced drummer Terri Lyne Carrington and her quartet. They played an abstract version of the Beatles tune “Michelle,” an original penned by faculty guitarist Tim Miller, and Carrington’s odd-time arrangement of Coltrane’s “Giant Steps.” Following Carrington’s performance, Grammy-winning pianist Michel Camilo gave fiery solo renditions of three original songs, including his trademark tune “Caribe,” which was recorded by Dizzy Gillespie. The wildly enthusiastic audience gave the pianist standing ovations after each number.

Following the event, guests left the InterContinental with a picture of what it will take to reach the campaign’s goals by 2011 and help fund Berklee’s progress for the 21st century.

This article appeared in our alumni magazine, Berklee Today Summer 2008. Learn more about Berklee Today.
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