Berklee's First Fulbright

Nick Balkin
May 8, 2009
Liz Davis Maxfield
Liz Davis Maxfield
Liz Davis Maxfield

Liz Davis Maxfield—a cellist graduating from Berklee on May 9—has been awarded a Fulbright United States student scholarship to Ireland to study Irish traditional music performance, the United States Department of State and J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board announced recently. She is one of over 1,500 United States citizens who will travel abroad for the 2009–2010 academic year through the program. 

Maxfield, who grew up in Utah and Maryland, is the first cellist ever accepted to the University of Limerick's Irish traditional music performance master's program, and the first Fulbright student grantee to come from Berklee. While completing her master's degree, she will write and publish a method book on adapting Irish fiddle and guitar styles for the cello, a groundbreaking concept since the cello is so rare in the world of Irish traditional music. 

Unlike most cellists, Maxfield grew up playing folk music. "My sister played fiddle, so I learned the same songs on the cello. When I wasn't playing the melody, I imitated guitar techniques to provide accompaniment. There weren't really any resources available to teach me this style on the cello, so I had to figure it out on my own," she said. "By studying in Ireland and publishing what I learn, I hope to make Irish music more accessible for the next generation of cellists." 

The Fulbright Program, America's flagship international educational exchange program, is sponsored by the United States Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. Since its establishment in 1946 under legislation introduced by the late Senator J. William Fulbright of Arkansas, the Fulbright Program has provided approximately 294,000 people—111,000 Americans who have studied, taught, or researched abroad and 183,000 students, scholars, and teachers from other countries who have engaged in similar activities in the United States—the opportunity to observe each others' political, economic, educational, and cultural institutions; to exchange ideas; and to embark on joint ventures of importance to the general welfare of the world's inhabitants. The program operates in over 155 countries worldwide.

Fulbright awardees are selected on the basis of academic or professional achievement, as well as demonstrated leadership potential in their fields.  Among the thousands of prominent Fulbright alumni are Muhammad Yunus, managing director and founder of Grameen Bank and recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006; Javier Solana, foreign policy chief, European Union; Ruth Simmons, president, Brown University; Craig Barrett, chairman of the board, Intel Corporation; Shamshad Akhtar, the first woman to hold the position of bovernor, State Bank of Pakistan; Alejandro Jara, deputy director-general, World Trade Organization; Raoul Cantero, justice, Florida Supreme Court; Renee Fleming, soprano; Gish Jen, writer; Daniel Libeskind, architect; Aneesh Raman, CNN Middle East correspondent; and Sibusiso Sibisi, president and CEO, Council for Scientific and Industrial Research in South Africa.

Over 40,000 individuals, including Fulbright recipients, participate in U.S. Department of State exchange programs each year. For more than 60 years, the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs has funded and supported programs that seek to promote mutual understanding and respect between the people of the United States and the people of other countries. The Fulbright U.S. Student Program is administered by the Institute of International Education.

For further information about the Fulbright Program or the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, please visit or contact James A. Lawrence, Office of Academic Exchange Programs, at 202 453-8531 or