Berklee's Helping Hands

by Marjorie O'Malley

  Berklee student Jennifer Hirsh, first recipient of the Sylvia Zunz Endowed Scholarship, and Lyonel Zunz

Celebrating Sylvia Zunz and Music of the Great American Songbook
On September 30, 2007, friends and family of Sylvia and Lyonel Zunz filled the renowned Rainbow Room in New York's Rockefeller Plaza for a tribute to Lyonel's late wife, Sylvia. Vocalist Judy Scott performed some of the music Sylvia loved from the Great American Songbook. Lyonel recalled the importance of the music for the Zunzes during joyful and challenging days. Lyonel established an endowed fund at Berklee to provide scholarship support for aspiring young vocalists who are interested in performing and perpetuating music of the Great American Songbook. Thanks to his generosity and that of his friends and family, the fund now exceeds $200,000.

The first recipient of the Sylvia Zunz Endowed Scholarship, seventh-semester vocalist Jennifer Hirsh, sang two songs at the event, demonstrating how youthful talent can perpetuate beloved musical styles. Berklee is deeply grateful to Lyonel Zunz and his family for the scholarship support this fund offers to young vocalists at Berklee.

Parents Invest in Berklee
Robert and Sally Nicholson, parents of fourth-semester student Johnny Nicholson, have also invested in Berklee. "We believe Berklee College of Music is offering Johnny an opportunity to maximize his music skills and business acumen while working with top professionals and fellow musicians of extraordinary talent and promise," says Sally Nicholson. "We're privileged to partner with Berklee for their goal of remaining the premier contemporary music college in America. We can help by pledging to ensure the quality of the Berklee community for the duration of Johnny's college years and the longer term. Johnny will be able to call upon his Berklee contacts for the rest of his career in music. It's a small gift with great benefits for everyone."

When Kevin Neilson, son of Jim and Vicki Neilson, enrolled at Berklee, his parents knew that the college would become a central philanthropic commitment. Like many parents, the Neilsons expected to donate to the college when their son graduated. But a visit from Berklee Major Gifts Officer Ginny Fordham '80, who explained some of the far-reaching goals of the college, provided the impetus for the Neilsons to make their first generous donation to Berklee.

"A fundraising campaign is a huge undertaking for Berklee," Vicki notes, "and we are thrilled to be one of the bricks that collectively forms the steps supporting this upcoming endeavor. To this end, we want to make an initial commitment of $50,000, over a five-year period beginning in 2008." We warmly embrace the Neilsons' participation.

Diana Hirsh candidly admits that she was nervous about sending her child from California to Boston-and to Berklee. With many other conventional educational options available to their daughter, the Hirshes allowed Jennifer to attend her first-choice school but kept a wary eye on the education she received.

Skepticism evolved into enthusiasm as the Hirshes became familiar with the rigors of a Berklee education, the friendships their daughter has made here, and the performance opportunities she has enjoyed. Last fall alone, Jennifer performed in the Singers Showcase Concert, a concert featuring the work of Christopher Guest, a jazz brunch hosted by Lyonel Zunz in Manhattan, and more. As Jennifer looks toward graduation in May and life after Berklee, the Hirshes have expressed their gratitude by making a generous donation that will offer other talented musicians the opportunity to thrive at Berklee.

Return on Investment
Entrepreneur, philanthropist, and music lover Gary Eichhorn is accustomed to listening to many ideas and determining which can create a strong return on investment. He and his wife, Joan, created the Music & Youth Initiative to offer music education and mentoring to underserved youth. They have partnered with the Boys & Girls Clubs of America, the YMCA, and Berklee to open three clubhouses in the Greater Boston communities in Lawrence, Dorchester, and Allston-Brighton to bring after-school music programs to these neighborhoods.

Good investments create partnerships beneficial to all sides. Recognizing that the Berklee City Music Program (BCMP) provides a natural progression for clubhouse members who want to pursue a music education, the Eichhorns established a fund at Berklee to provide scholarship support for a clubhouse member to participate in Berklee's Five-Week Summer Performance Program. Graduates of BCMP compete for scholarships to continue at Berklee. The Eichhorns' gift provides a great return on investment by creating educational opportunities for young people with a passion for making music. We are grateful to the Eichhorns and look forward to a long and productive relationship with them.