Encore Gala Raises Nearly $2 Million for Berklee City Music Program
Growing up in Miami, the future superstar and multi-Grammy-winner Gloria Estefan ’07H watched her mother, a schoolteacher, take money out of her own pocket to support students affected by cuts to the school system’s arts and music programs. So she was thrilled to be on hand, alongside her husband and musical partner—also a multi-Grammy-winner—Emilio Estefan ‘07H, as masters of ceremonies for this year’s Berklee Encore Gala, the 22nd annual benefit for the Berklee City Music program. Additionally, the Estefans both joined Berklee’s Board of Trustees earlier this year.
“Open up your wallet, baby, and do the conga line into giving,” she urged a huge ballroom full of stylishly-attired patrons at the Boston Marriott Copley Place on Saturday, October 15, 2016.
The Berklee City Music Program enables middle school and high school students from underserved communities to reap the academic, social, and emotional benefits of a world-class education in music. By the end of a very tuneful evening, the program had raised nearly $2 million at the event, which was presented by sponsors Bain Capital Community Partnership and Abrams Capital, along with colead sponsors Aramark Education, the Boston Celtics Shamrock Foundation, and Demond and Kia Martin.
The gala featured a wide range of silent auction items, including custom musical instruments, VIP tickets to a taping of The Voice, and packages for the Grammy Awards, the Sundance Film Festival, and more.
Estefan noted that her daughter, Emily, studied at Berklee, graduating in May, before preparing to launch her career in music; the proud mother told the audience that Emily Estefan's debut album will come out in February.
Watch Emily Estefan perform at Berklee's 2016 Commencement Concert:
Estefan looked back fondly, reminiscing about moving her into her dorm room at 270 Commonwealth Avenue. At the gala, Estefan later joined the Berklee City Music All-Stars onstage for a surprise performance of “Coming Out of the Dark,” her 1991 number one hit. Returning to the podium after the performance, Estefan asked, “Can you imagine a world without music?”
Berklee President Roger H. Brown noted that the college is one of the few institutions of higher learning where students can “analyze the lyrics of someone like Bob Dylan as if he were a Nobel Prize winner”—which, of course, the songwriter had just become. He also updated the gala attendees on Berklee’s recent merger with Boston Conservatory, which established Boston Conservatory at Berklee, and the new joint degree program between Berklee and Harvard.
“We’re hopeful it can elevate the profile of Harvard around the world,” Brown deadpanned to laughs.
During the seated dinner, donors pledged more than $400,000 in scholarship support to send deserving students to Berklee’s influential Five-Week Summer Performance Program. Following the dinner, it was time for a night of live music spanning across nations and genres from soul and jazz to Latin and bluegrass, among others, in pop-up “clubs” located in the hotel’s showrooms.
Guests roamed from room to room to enjoy a cornucopia of music. Before special guest Darryl “DMC” McDaniels (of the seminal hip-hop group Run–DMC) took the Funkateer Stage, the hallway on the Marriott’s third floor burbled with party music from the Venezuelan Project and Berklee’s Tower of Power Ensemble. Meanwhile, in the Roots Club, the new bluegrass band the Page Turners played a mountain version of Dylan’s “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right.” The City Music Club featured the Berklee Global Jazz Institute’s Red Ensemble, with vocalist Malwina Masternak singing scat vocals in unison with saxophonist Kei Matsumaru and clarinetist Matt Stubbs.
Walking the halls with his gig bag over his shoulder, 19-year-old City Music All-Star Antonio Shiell-Loomis took a moment to explain what the program has done for him. The son of a saxophonist and raised in Boston, he first picked up the guitar with an interest in the hard rock of Jimi Hendrix and Led Zeppelin.
Watch Antonio Shiell-Loomis on guitar:
“I’ve learned a ton of different genres,” he said. “And I’ve gotten into what I really want to do: studio production.” Could he be a multitalented recording artist, instrumentalist, and producer—the next Prince or Stevie Wonder?
“It could happen,” he said with a smile that encapsulated the mission of the City Music program.