Now's the Time

Opening Day and Convocation Ceremonies bring Gunther Schuller and Derek Sivers '91 to Campus

By Lesley Mahoney and Mark Small

  "Now's the Time," President Roger H. Brown told the gathering of faculty and staff during the Opening Day ceremony, introducing the theme for Berklee's 2008 - 2009 academic year.
  Photos by Phil Farnsworth
  Joe Mulholland, chair of the Harmony Department interviews legendary music scholar and composer Gunther Schuller (left). Schuller discussed his association with Duke Ellington among many other topics.
  Derek Sivers '91, founder of CD Baby, outlined the six things he wishes he had known as a Berklee freshman.

A sense of immediacy permeated the morning of Berklee's third annual Opening Day ceremonies. This year's theme?"Now's the Time," named after the Charlie Parker classic?provided the right message and music to inspire faculty and staff gathered in the Hynes Convention Center. "We're here today to celebrate and strengthen this community," said Lawrence Simpson, senior vice president for academic affairs and provost, "to prepare ourselves for the upcoming academic year, to create the conditions in which all of our students will be able to do their best work to become their best selves." Simpson also highlighted the past year's milestones, including the launch of the $50 million Giant Steps capital campaign and the expansion of the Berklee City Music Network.

Berklee President Roger H. Brown used the theme to urge the college community to consider its deeper purpose, asking, "Now is the time for what?" While extolling the virtues of serving the legacy and history of the college, creating a great workplace, fulfilling the comprehensive strategic plan, and focusing on students, Brown noted that each of these worthy missions is but a means to an end. "In my mind . . . our ultimate purpose at Berklee . . . [is] to create the conditions under which some kind of miraculous, unpredictable creativity can occur," Brown told the audience.

That's just what has happened for first-year student Taylor Gordon and senior Gianpaolo Eleria, each of whom shared their Berklee stories. The same is true for Margot Edwards, publicist in the Office of Public Information, and for Professor of Ensemble Carolyn Wilkins, who together traveled to Ghana and South Africa to audition students for the newly launched Africa Scholars Program. Wilkins called the trip "the most profound and humbling experience I've ever had." Wilkins said she had never met a group of students so hungry for an opportunity.

Music Technology Dean Stephen Croes paid tribute to the late MP&E professor Wayne Wadhams as someone who embodied the deeper purpose described by President Brown in his Opening Day ceremony comments. Croes spoke of Wadhams's leadership in developing Berklee's MP&E major that became a model to be emulated by other institutions around the world.

The morning program ended with words and wisdom from scholar, composer, conductor, and French horn player Gunther Schuller. In an interview with Harmony Department Chair Joe Mulholland, Schuller discussed his advocacy of marrying jazz and classical music. He also urged students to be the shepherds of their own education. "Absorb, have your ears totally open, be completely receptive to any talented person who comes into your life," Schuller said. "You have to open those floodgates very wide and take in everything you possibly can."

The Entering Student Convocation and concert were the culminating events of the day. Most of the entering class packed the Berklee Performance Center for the concert and a welcome from speakers representing the administration, faculty, students, and alumni.

Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students Lawrence Bethune told the new matriculants, "If people where you come from considered you different because you spent all your time listening to and playing music, welcome home. We're all like you here."


From the left: Phillip Ferrell, Denise Hudson, and Jonathan Carr. With her soulful rendition of "Everything Must Change," Hudson brought the audience to its feet during the September 5 convocation concert. Ferrell and Carr also drew vigorous applause for their solo numbers.  

President Brown told the crowd, "The Berklee curriculum has been carefully crafted over the last 63 years. It may not always make sense to you, but it works and has produced 162 Grammy wins, 47 percent of the Thelonious Monk Fellowship winners, and numerous top music educators, business leaders, film and game composers, and more. Someday in some unexpected way, you'll use the skills you learned here."

Distinguished alumni speaker Derek Sivers '91 and founder of CD Baby shared six things he wished he had known his first day at Berklee. In short, he advised the students:
1. Focus, disconnect, and don't get distracted. Stay in the shed.
2. Push yourself to do more than is required.
3. Teachers can present information, but you have to teach yourself.
4. Learn from your own heroes, not just those of your teachers.
5. Innovation is needed more than imitation. Don't get stuck in the past.
6. When you finish your Berklee studies, become valuable to the world.

Berklee's Yo Team produced a memorable concert showcasing 24 student singers and instrumentalists in a program ranging from Benny Goodman's "Flying Home" to Aretha Franklin's "Spirit in the Dark." Among the many standouts were Denise Hudson's soulful version of "Everything Must Change," and Jonathan Carr's sophisticated vocalizing on "The Meaning of the Blues." Phillip Ferrell rendered Eric Benet's "When You Think of Me," beginning in a rich baritone before soaring to his upper register. Notable instrumentalists included pianist Manami Morita (who roused the crowd with her version of Chick Corea's "Armando's Rhumba"), alto saxophonist Dan Puccio, trumpeter Linsey McDonald, bassist Shaun Munday, and guitarist Josh Connelly. The curtain closed, and the new academic year opened.


Lesley Mahoney is a writer and editor in Berklee's Office of Communications.