May 3, 2016
Linda and I had the honor of representing Berklee with Lee and Susan Berk at International Jazz Day at the White House last Friday night, April 29.
I cannot tell you how meaningful it was to see a global appreciation for the music many of us love—the product of our own unique history and culture. While our nation has many flaws and our world is bedeviled by conflict and turmoil, jazz is a force for multicultural connection and an inspiration with its artistry, its focus on improvisation and communication, its virtuosity, and its ability to honor and give voice to people from all walks of life.
Berklee was well represented. Of the roughly 40 artists who performed in the two-hour set, eight are Berklee alumni, several more attended our summer programs, a few have sons or daughters studying at Berklee, and many have received honorary doctorates from us. Alumni performers included Terri Lyne Carrington '83 and Kendrick Scott '03 on drums, Danilo Pérez '88 on piano (in a magnificent ensemble featuring Pat Metheny and Dianne Reeves), Lionel Loueke' 01 on guitar, Esperanza Spalding '05 on bass and some transcendent vocals, Sadao Watanabe '65 (the oldest musician performing) and Eli Degibri on sax, and Diana Krall '83 on piano and vocals. Terence Blanchard, a visiting scholar at Berklee, also performed. It is interesting to note that our eight alumni performers hail from six different countries on four different continents and 100% of the female instrumentalists were from Berklee.
Having President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama, in the final lap of their service, bring this event into the White House made it very special. And the magic of Herbie Hancock’s generous, ever-inventive spirit was stamped all over the evening. We are blessed to be part of this great tradition.
Roger H. Brown, President