Berklee Today

Berklee's Helping Hands

by Marjorie O'Malley

  Walter McCarty (left) of the Boston Celtics provided saxophonist Marvin Balen with a scholarship for Berklee's Five Week Summer Performance Program.
  Farnsworth Blalock photos

Memorial Scholarship Fund Established
Berklee alumnus John Blackwell Jr. '95 is probably best known as the versatile and flamboyant drummer for Prince and the New Power Generation. Upon leaving Berklee, John moved to Los Angeles where he joined Patti LaBelle's band. He appeared on LaBelle's Grammy Award-winning CD and DVD Patti LaBelle-Live! One Night Only. While LaBelle's band was performing in Minneapolis, Prince got to see and hear Blackwell, and eventually asked him to join his band.

Tragedy struck Blackwell and his wife Joann this year, when their two-year-old daughter Jia drowned. To perpetuate Jia's memory, John and Joann are establishing the Jia Kennie Blackwell Memorial Scholarship at Berklee. A memorial concert will be held at the Berklee Performance Center on December 11, 2004 featuring various artists with whom Blackwell has worked. (A list of these musicians is available on John's website at

A portion of the proceeds from the concert will be used to promote water safety, and the majority of the proceeds will be used to provide scholarship support for outstanding female musicians at Berklee who demonstrate musical potential and financial need. Tickets are available through the Berklee Box Office at (617) 931-2000 or

Donations to the fund can be made online, or sent to Berklee College of Music, c/o Marjorie O'Malley, 1140 Boylston Street, Boston, MA 02215. Please make checks payable to Berklee College of Music and indicate that the gift is for the Jia Kennie Blackwell fund.

Walter McCarty Invests in Young Musicians
Walter McCarty of the Boston Celtics is well known as the go-to man on the basketball court. Less visible is McCarty's quiet work to expand musical opportunities for urban youth through the I Love Music Foundation that he launched more than two years ago. Saxophonist Marvin Balen from Dorchester, Massachusetts, was able to study at Berklee this summer thanks to McCarty's last minute intervention.

A junior at the Boston Arts Academy, Balen auditioned three times for a scholarship to attend the Five-Week Summer Performance Program at Berklee. This year, competition for scholarships was intense and finite resources limited the number of available scholarships. Consequently, Balen did not make the initial cut. Upon hearing of the young musician's desire and dilemma, McCarty stepped in to provide the funds for Balen to attend the program. An enthusiastic Balen met McCarty for the first time on stage at the Berklee City Music Program's Blow Out Concert on August 10. Balen and Berklee are grateful for McCarty's generosity.

Clowes Fund Builds Berklee City Music
The Berklee City Music Faculty Outreach Program is the latest initiative of the Berklee City Music program to enhance the level of music instruction in the Boston public schools by providing adjunct teaching support. The program was launched in 2002 at the Boston Arts Academy with seed funding from Newbury Comics, Inc. A second investment of $28,000 was provided to us by the Clowes Fund, Inc., to replicate the program model at Roland Hayes School of Music. The generous Clowes Fund grant will provide up to 560 hours of high-quality music instruction.

A Harp for Berklee
Donald W. Meals donated a harp to Berklee owned by his wife, Kathleen, who passed away four years ago. According to Berklee's harp instructor, Associate Professor Felice Pomeranz, the instrument is quite valuable and in excellent condition. Mr. Meals's gift doubles the number of harps owned by the college (two) and allows Pomeranz to bring her $20,000 instrument home. We are deeply grateful to Mr. Meals for helping to build the Berklee harp program.

484 Phi Alpha Foundation
The 484 Phi Alpha Foundation made a donation to enable Berklee to conduct peer-to-peer outreach in the city of Cambridge. Berklee students from Cambridge and graduates of the Berklee City Music program will form groups that will be showcased at Ryles jazz club in Cambridge.

The performers selected will have attended Berklee on scholarships from Berklee City Music or other locally based music programs. The objective is to demonstrate to the young people in the audience that a college music education is possible. Additionally, Berklee plans to initiate the City Music Street Team in Cambridge for which Berklee student ambassadors will perform at various times and locations to reach Cambridge high-school students. The 484 Phi Alpha Foundation offers a range of initiatives to support underserved young people in Cambridge. Berklee is proud to partner with 484 Phi Alpha Foundation in this effort.