Loving Jazz and the Southwest

May 1, 2017

The extended Berk family gathered recently to celebrate Lee Berk’s 75th birthday. Back row, from the left: Jon Fisher, Lucy Berk-Fisher, Lee Eliot Berk, Susan Berk, Nancy (Berk) Langan, and Jake Langan. Front row: The Berk grandchildren Ethan Lee Berk-Fisher, Louisa Langan, and identical twins Julia and Rachel Langan.

When former Berklee president Lee Eliot Berk and his wife Susan left Boston upon Lee’s retirement in 2004, they brought their love for jazz with them to their new home in Santa Fe, NM. It wasn’t long before New Mexico’s then-governor Bill Richardson invited Lee to serve as the state commissioner of music, and Susan became the president of the New Mexico committee of the National Museum of Women in the Arts. The Berks also established the Friends of Santa Fe Jazz and began bringing national jazz talent to Santa Fe for concerts.

Around 2013, the Berks moved to Phoenix, AZ, and once again, they became involved in the music scene. They established Woody’s, a jazz organization that produces eight jazz concerts a year. Lee also formed a jazz appreciation group to support and nurture jazz in Arizona. Both Lee and Susan serve as advisers to the Phoenix Conservatory of Music, which has a college preparation program that is a partner in the Berklee City Music Program.

The Berks have adapted well to the scenery and weather of the Southwest, and frequently travel throughout the Western states and beyond. Notably, trips have included attending jazz festivals in Vail, CO, and jazz cruises. Of their retirement lifestyle, Susan says, “We feel like jazz gypsies!”

This article appeared in our alumni magazine, Berklee Today Summer 2017. Learn more about Berklee Today.
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