Fellowships Open Doors for Faculty

  Professor Dave Fiuczynski
  Photos by Phil Farnsworth
  Associate Professor Sally Blazar

Even the most committed teachers sometimes wish for more time, encouragement, and resources to dig into their subject. Since 2007, Berklee faculty members have been fortunate to have the opportunity to do just that. Mike and Laura Dreese launched the Newbury Comics Faculty Fellowship in 2007 seeking to promote creative, outside-the-box work that has the potential to transform the college's curriculum.

Guitar Professor Dave Fiuczynski jumped at the opportunity to delve into his "global microjam" concept. "I set the bar high," he says "My wish is to come up with a new musical language."

Fiuczynski's compositions combine microtonal melodies derived from Eastern musical systems with jazz harmonies and new beats. The approach grew out of his 21st Century Grooves and Microjam ensembles. And he's already playing some of his new pieces in those groups.

Fiuczynski used the $7,500 faculty fellowship he received to pay for a recording that features students Jovol Bell (drums), Evgeny Lebedev (piano), Evan Marien (bass), and David Radley (violin). The Massachusetts Cultural Council liked the results so far, and gave Fiuczynski a $10,000 music composition fellowship.

Associate Professor of Liberal Arts Sally Blazar pursued global concepts of a very different kind. Drawing on a course she teaches, Blazar traveled to Cambodia, Thailand, and California to learn about Buddhist notions of identity. Over the course of the several weeks she spent in Southeast Asia, Blazar asked how people could create peace and social justice through understanding their differences. A two-month silent meditation retreat on the West Coast explored the idea of identity from an additional angle. She went on to compile her insights in an essay for an anthology she's editing.

The experience was also rejuvenating, which is another goal of the faculty fellowships. On retreat, "you reconnect with what's most important to you," she says. "I felt my commitment to teaching."

Blazar had already arranged to take a sabbatical, but without the $7,500 fellowship award she would have gone into debt for the project. Beyond the financial support, however, she says, "It was really huge psychologically to know that Berklee was supporting this kind of work" on subjects that didn't fit into the typical academic realm.

Fiuczynski thought the fellowship was part and parcel of the drive to innovation that the college promotes during Opening Day and Berklee Teachers on Teaching sessions. Thanks to the Newbury Comics fellowship, he said, "I've talked the talk-now I walk the walk."