Five Ways Giving Helps Berklee Students

Kimberly Ashton
April 10, 2018

Whether giving a talented student a chance to come to Berklee, or supporting an experience that ushers a new alumnus into a career, philanthropy helps fuel initiatives that give Berklee students the best performing arts education in the world.

This Wednesday, April 11, Berklee celebrates this generosity with Giving Day, in which the institution is seeking to hit a goal of 250 donations, each of any amount. That money helps make a wide variety of projects and opportunities possible. Here are five ways these donations, and other financial gifts, help students. 

Watch this video about Giving Day, on April 11: 

Funding Presidential Scholarships

Donations on Giving Day directly fund opportunities for deserving musicians and artists to come to Berklee. One of the ways such gifts do this is by endowing the Presidential Scholarship, a four-year award that covers tuition, housing, and fees for exceptionally gifted students. For recipients, the scholarship is life-changing.

"Because I am here, I am a smart, professional, and better musician. I am also a better version of myself because I have found communities and connections at Berklee that not only positively affect my personal health and growth but my future career in music. I am/will be working with family and people I trust who are as passionate about music as me. That's all I could ask for."

—Kyana Fanene, music therapy major from Oakland, California


"My parents and me don‘t have the financial resources to pay for such a school, and it makes it possible for me to study with some of the greatest musicians the world has ever seen."

—Bastien Rieser, performance (trumpet) and jazz composition major from Munich, Germany


"I couldn’t have done without this scholarship musically because I’m free of thinking how to make money; I can invest my time in creating something that I love to do—the art."

—Han Beyli (Shyrkhan Agabekov), performance major (bass) from Kharkiv, Ukraine

Bringing A-List Choreographers to Campus

One of the reasons the Boston Conservatory at Berklee’s dance program is among the top in the nation is the because of the number of A-list guest choreographers who come to campus to work with students. These residencies are funded in part by financial gifts such as those sought on Giving Day.

Dance faculty Duane Lee Holland Jr. leads students in a rehearsal for Limitless.
Image by Kelly Davidson

Each year, the Conservatory is able to bring in about 15 choreographers—from younger, less established dancers to world-class artists—to work with students, especially in preparation for the four mainstage events the program hosts each year. Chief among these productions is Limitless, the annual showcase of the Conservatory’s best dancers. This year, Limitless will feature a piece from the star choreographer Mark Morris, who has sent dancers from his studios to teach it.

Working closely with these outside choreographers allows students to build connections they can draw upon after graduation. “In four years, each student will have worked with approximately 10 different choreographers,” says Tommy Neblett, interim dean of dance. Equally as important as the networking component is the real-world performance experience the students gain. “You can only learn to perform by performing,” Neblett says. “It’s paramount to what we do.”

Supporting Career Goals

Part of every dollar given this Wednesday will help students break into the highly competitive music and performing artist industries. One of the best ways to get a toehold in these industries is through internships.

But many are unpaid. “This makes them completely inaccessible to most students, many of whom cannot afford to live in a new city for an entire summer,” says Stefanie Henning, an associate vice president at Berklee who leads the Career Center. However, financial gifts allow students to afford these invaluable experiences.

Henning also oversees Berklee’s annual Career Jam, which brings more than 50 artists and entertainment-industry leaders to campus to mentor, recruit, and network with students. This year’s expo, held April 7, connected students with a lineup of industry heavy-hitters. 

Making Berklee Accessible to All

Money raised on Giving Day helps fund campus improvements, such as the recent major renovation of the 150 Massachusetts Avenue facility, the complex that houses many of the campus’ classrooms as well as its library and media center.

One of the college’s top goals in the renovation was to make sure the building was accessible to all. Toward that end, Berklee installed an elevator near the library, and ramps and other upgrades throughout the building.

“These projects demonstrate Berklee’s commitment to a welcoming and inclusive campus for all students, faculty, staff, and visitors,” says Steven Riggs, director of facility planning.


Leading Special Education in Music

Jenna Gabriel, manager of special education in the Office of VSA and Accessibility at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, giving her keynote address, "Arts Better the Lives of Everyone: The Arts and Special Education from a Civil Rights Perspective" on April 8, 2018.
Image by Mike Spencer

A special gift to Berklee helped make the college’s first ABLE Assembly, held April 6–8, a reality. The assembly, hosted by the Berklee Institute for Arts Education and Special Needs (BIAESN), brings scholars and practitioners in the field of arts education and special needs to campus for two days of presentations, workshops, and performances.

During this time, students can engage directly with the field’s pioneers, both at the conference’s sessions and during visits these guests make to graduate-program classes. "At Berklee, we believe that the Arts Better the Lives of Everyone [ABLE], and the ABLE Assembly exemplifies our values and our unique contribution to the field of arts education and special needs," says Rhoda Bernard, managing director of BIAESN.