In Wake of Marathon Tragedy, Berklee Lets the Sunshine In
A week after two bombs shocked and shook the Back Bay, killing three and injuring more than 170, the Berklee community responded to the Boston Marathon tragedy in a way only a place like Berklee knows how: through an afternoon of music and reflection.
The event, “Let the Sunshine In,” held Monday, April 22, in the Berklee Performance Center, came at a time when some Berklee buildings remained closed as the FBI wrapped up its investigation of the Copley Square area (they have since been reopened), and students, faculty, and staff were just beginning to return to a sense of normalcy on a campus located in the heart of the turmoil.
"There is no magic formula for how you help people live together, but whatever complex recipe there is, I know one thing: it includes music and the sharing of music among ourselves," said Roger H. Brown, president of Berklee, during comments he gave at the event. Brown spoke about the bravery and selflessness of Berklee students who helped victims in the immediate aftermath and who provided other meaningful support in the Boston community. He also thanked the Berklee security team, food services department, and other staff who worked around the clock to protect and provide services to students.
Hosted by voice professor Armsted Christian, the event opened with the Berklee Balkan Choir, directed by faculty member Christiane Karam and featuring 24 student vocalists hailing from 19 countries, performing the song “Kalimanku Denku.” Student songwriter Steffi Jeraldo of Sweden performed “Song for Boston,” a tune she penned a day after the attacks as a way of coping. Student pianist Giorgi Mikadze of the country Georgia played a solo and was later joined by Brazilian student vocalist Barbara Silva. The Berklee Reverence Gospel Ensemble gave an uplifting performance, after which students, staff, and faculty were invited to speak and share their feelings.
There was a collective call to lean on and support one another, to work together in healing and music in the aftermath of the traumatic event—to turn “bombs into balm,” as one speaker said. Another said she felt that Berklee's community of musicians have the responsibility to turn pain into healing, to serve as “musical alchemists” of sorts.
Following the community reflection, voice professor Donna McElroy performed Ira F. Stanphill’s “I Know Who Holds Tomorrow,” accompanied by associate ensemble professor Dennis Montgomery.
The event concluded on hopeful tone, with a rousing rendition of “Let the Sunshine In” by the student cast of Hair.
In addition to Monday’s event, in the week following the marathon tragedy, Berklee responded in other ways: student ensembles performed for victims being treated at Brigham and Women's Hospital, other students performed in a number of outdoor spaces, and one student sang at the funeral for Krystal Campbell, who was killed in the attacks. The Student Government Association hosted a memorial event in the caf and called for thank you notes for public safety personnel and soldiers patrolling the area. Under the direction of student Samantha DeRosa, these notes were distributed with snacks while musicians busked to provide some light-hearted entertainment.
One student, fourth-semester songwriting major Callie Benjamin, came to the aid of victims while working at Forum restaurant, where the second bomb was detonated. A few days later, she advocated for community support instead of anger over the bombings. “It’s just a matter of being there for one another,” she said.