Liberal Arts Symposium: Janis Ian

Friday / April 9, 2010 / 9:30 a.m.
David Friend Recital Hall
921 Boylston Street
United States

Janis Ian is an American songwriter, singer, musician, columnist, and author who will be the featured speaker at the 16th annual Liberal Arts Symposium. Through her singing, songwriting, writing, and personal journey, she reveals how one can lead an integrated and balanced life, and connect and control one's creativity and artistry. She has had a highly successful five-decade singing and songwriting career, beginning in the 1960s. Her discography includes 52 albums; her publications include science fiction stories and novels; she has contributed regularly to the Advocate and Performing Songwriter; and she has written her autobiography, Society's Child: My Autobiography (Tarcher/Penguin Publishing, 2008). In the early 2000s, Ian was one of the first artists to allow free music downloads from her website and document that this led to dramatically increased album sales. Her 2002 Performing Songwriter article, "The Internet Debacle," written before iTunes, changed public opinion about the availability of music on the internet.

Ian is a survivor, who has an important story to tell. She published her first song at age 13, had her first hit at age 15, and won her first Grammy Award at age 24 for her song "At Seventeen." Yet she remained unsure of herself, allowed others to define her, and nearly lost her way. Her strong will, and decision to take a 10-year hiatus to learn who she was, helped her achieve a long career. Her journey demonstrates the importance of lifelong learning to attain success as a person and artist.

At the symposium, Ian will speak about her life and about the role of artists today. The symposium will also feature a student ensemble, who will perform Ian's work. The top three winners of the Songwriting for Social Change contest will also perform. Prior to Ian's visit, faculty and staff will be invited to read her autobiography together and discuss that work. Students will read some or all of that book in several classes. While on campus, Ian will visit classes. She will also meet with the Berklee Union of Gays, Lesbians and Everyone Else (BUGLE) and with GLBT Allies, the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered members of the Berklee community. In addition, she will meet with female students, faculty, and staff to discuss issues surrounding women in the music industry. (Note: the Liberal Arts Symposium will be cosponsored by the Liberal Arts Department, the Office of Faculty Development, the Office for Cultural Diversity, and the Professional Education Division Herb Alpert Scholar Program.)