Lee Berk Tribute Concert Honors Legacy of Music Education Pioneer and Former Berklee President

The concert, 25 Tributes: Celebrating Lee Eliot Berk, will recognize Berk's enduring impact on the institution with performances from students, faculty, alumni, and guest artists.

February 8, 2024

Berklee will present the Signature Series concert 25 Tributes: Celebrating Lee Eliot Berk, a one-night event that will honor the life, career, and legacy of Lee Eliot Berk, former president and one of the most influential leaders in the institution’s history. The concert, which will take place Friday, April 26, at 7:00 p.m. at the Berklee Performance Center, is slated to feature contributions from students, alumni, current and former faculty, and special guest artists offering 25 different tributes to Berk in the form of speeches, stories, and live performances.

In addition to memorializing Berk, the tribute concert will offer a chance for the Berklee community to commemorate the tremendous impact that the Berk family has had on countless individuals, whether through personal relationships or the numerous programs Berk helped to create and innovate during his storied tenure. The lineup of speakers and musicians represents many of Berklee’s flagship initiatives and partnerships, which either started or expanded during the Berk presidency, including the college’s world-renowned jazz curricula, the Berklee International Network (now known as Berklee Global Partners), the Boston Arts AcademyBerklee City Music, the Reverence Gospel Ensemble, and several key academic programs.

Lee Berk stands with Amar G. Bose and Oleta Adams at the 1994 commencment, all wearing academic regalia.

Lee Berk (center) with honorary doctorate recipients Amar G. Bose (left) and Oleta Adams (right) at the 1994 commencement ceremony.
Image courtesy of the Berklee Archives

"Lee Berk dedicated his life to Berklee and played an immeasurable role in shaping the college into the internationally renowned and globally connected institution it is today," said Dr. David Bogen, interim president and provost. "This concert will be a testament to Lee's profound legacy, reflected in contributions representative of the many trailblazing programs and initiatives that helped define his tenure as president. We are honored to continue celebrating Lee’s impact on Berklee, contemporary music education, and the arts, as well as his enduring belief in the life-changing power of music."

The concert will feature tributes and performances from select members of Berklee’s jazz community, under the musical direction of Berklee instructor and jazz saxophonist, pianist, and composer Edmar Colón B.M. ’15, M.M. ’16, and will feature renowned saxophonist Bill Pierce B.M. ’73, woodwind chair emeritus; multiple Grammy Award–winning drummer Terri Lyne Carrington, founder and artistic director of the Berklee Institute of Jazz and Gender Justice (BIJGJ); pianist Kris Davis, associate program director of creative development for the BIJGJ; bassist John Lockwood; drummer and alternative jazz artist Tyson Jackson ’19; and celebrated jazz trumpeter and professor Greg Hopkins. As a special tribute to Lee and his wife Susan, a big band of students and faculty will perform a composition by Mike Gibbs ’63, whose concert at the Berklee Performance Center served as the venue for their first date.

“Lee was a friend and mentor, had a keen sense of humor, and rightfully pursued a vision that placed Berklee at the center of global music education,” said Dr. Ron Savage, vice president and executive director of academic affairs, who will be performing a stand-alone tribute on snare drum. “Lee Berk's advice to me as a new faculty member has long become my ‘prime directive’ in any youth development situation: ‘You'll know you have it right as a teacher when your students become successful.’ That quote portrays a sentiment that I hold dear to my heart. All of us who knew him miss Lee, and I look forward to the opportunity to celebrate his legacy!”

The program will also include tributes that recognize the growth and innovation of various academic departments under Berk. Featured performances include Boston Conservatory at Berklee student Elaina Spiro playing film scores arranged by Associate Professor Tim Huling '98; original music from student singer-songwriter Kieran Rhodes; and compositions from Sheryl Bailey B.M. ’88, assistant chair of guitar, and department faculty members Tim MillerRick Peckham, and Dave Fiuczynski, acknowledging the department’s important role in Berklee’s history.

Berklee officially partners with The Rimon School

Lee and Susan Berk (center) with Rimon School founder Yehuda Eder '79 (far right) celebrate the signing of official partnership agreement between Berklee and the Rimon School.
Image courtesy of the Berklee Archives

Following this tribute, saxophonist and composer Lihi Haruvi ’15 and pianist Tom Oren ’19, 2018 winner of the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz International Piano Competition, will perform a duet. The two are graduates of the Rimon School of Jazz and Contemporary Music in Ramat Hasharon, an institution cofounded by seminal Israeli musician Yehuda Eder B.M. ’79. During his time as president, Berk established a foundation for a long-standing partnership between the school and Berklee. Alumni from the Boston Arts Academy will then take the stage, led by academy graduate Gregory Groover B.M. ’15, M.M. ’17, Berklee's assistant chair of ensemble, and featuring Tyrone Sutton, the academy’s interim head of school.

The concert will also celebrate the expansion of the global Berklee network, beginning with a tribute from Berklee City Music, a program which started under Berk and now reaches 54,000 students throughout North America every year. Under the direction of singer-songwriter Nichelle Mungo B.M. ’97, associate professor of voice, this tribute will feature performances from City Music alumni, including guitarist Tyrone Chase B.M. ’95, ensemble interim chair; percussionist Sean Skeete B.M. ’04, dean of the Professional Performance Division; vocalist Deanna "Bomb Chica" Colón B.M. ’96, and many more.

“I am overwhelmed by the honor to be a featured vocalist for Lee’s tribute concert,” said Colón. “Receiving a full tuition scholarship to this prestigious college and earning an education in music business has had a direct impact on the entertainer I am today. Lee and Susan supported me at every show, always encouraging my talent. Having their reassurance and the support of my community at Berklee made me believe in myself, and that belief has carried me through my career.”

The evening will conclude with a tribute from a personal favorite of Berk, the Reverence Gospel Ensemble, led by Dennis Montgomery B.M. ’88, its director of more than three decades and a Berklee professor. Singer-songwriter and professor emeritus Donna McElroy will join Montgomery for a duet, and Lisa Harrigan ’83, the ensemble's original founder, will sing with the choir backed by a student band.

Other notable highlights include remarks from jazz fusion innovator Gary Burton ’62, ’89H, who served as a dean and executive vice president under Berk, and a rendition of “It Don’t Mean a Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing)” by Duke Ellington ’71H, the college’s first honorary degree recipient, performed by award-winning singer-songwriter and Berklee trustee Grace Kelly B.M. ’12.

Tickets and Event Information

25 Tributes: Celebrating Lee Eliot Berk is produced by Michael Borgida, director of marketing and external affairs. Admission is $15/$20 in advance and $20/$25 on the day of the show. This is a seated event and tickets are available online at the Berklee Performance Center box office located at 136 Massachusetts Avenue. The event will also be livestreamed.

Those individuals who cannot attend the show or who are looking to further honor Lee Berk and the Berk family are invited to make a gift, which will be split equally between the Berklee Fund and the Lee and Susan Berk Endowment at Boston Conservatory at Berklee to provide ongoing, long-term support for all Berklee students. 

More information about Lee Berk and his enduring legacy can be found in the digital collection of the Berklee Archives.