Berklee Blogs

First-hand accounts of the Berklee experience

Tag: Diversity & Inclusion

Diversity & Inclusion

Women in Leadership Panel Discussion

Women Cover Shot

Last Tuesday September 10, Chris Connors from the Office for Diversity and Inclusion and Human Resources facilitated a Women in Leadership Panel Discussion  at The Loft at Berklee College of Music. The panel brought together three of Berklee’s most prominent leaders, Debbie Cavalier, VP of Online Learning and Continuing Education, Cindy Link, SVP for Institutional Advancement, and Dr. Krystal Banfield, Dean for City Music. The objective of the discussion was to ask the questions “how did you get to where you are in your career?” “how did you overcome obstacles?” and “how can women attain more leadership positions?” 

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Defying the Odds

As students at Berklee, we often take for granted the ability to play our instrument. We gripe and groan about practicing, and beat ourselves up over a sub-par performance for weeks afterwards. How often do we sit down and think about how incredibly lucky we are to be able to use our hands (or our voices) in conjunction with our brain facilities, and create beautiful sounds?

Jason Crigler – a guitar player, songwriter and Berklee alumni – likely does not take this skill for granted anymore. In 2004, as Jason was performing in New York City, his life changed in an instant when he suddenly suffered a brain hemorrhage, causing him to lose his ability to speak, walk, and of course, play the guitar. The doctors assured him and his family that he would remain in a vegetative state for the rest of his life.

A healthy and chipper Jason, along with his sister, Marjorie, came to Berklee this week to speak about Jason’s miraculous recovery; a recovery that never could have happened without the love, support and extraordinary faith of his family. It was incredibly inspiring to hear the two of them share the intense and intimate journey of rehabilitation that in the end forced Jason’s doctors to reconsider the factors that instigate recovery. It was a wonderful lesson on choices – we cannot choose what happens to us in life, but we certainly can choose how we deal with the events that are thrown at us.*

Jason and Marjorie Crigler

On Thursday, Jason and Marjorie were joined by Kevin Johnson and Josh Crary of the Office for Diversity and Inclusion, to give a presentation on Disability and Physical Difference. For Josh, this is an issue very close to home – at the age of 14, he was diagnosed with a degenerative condition known as Choroideremia, causing retinal deterioration and blindness. Like Jason, he has chosen to take what life handed him and run with it – literally. Josh will be running the Boston Marathon this Monday, April 16th, dubbing himself the “Boston Blind Runner”.**

It was incredibly enlightening to listen to Kevin and Josh talk about the relationship of Disability and Physical Difference to diversity, the proper etiquette and guidelines for appropriate interactions with those who have disability or physical differences, and especially the unconscious projection of exclusion that tends to be placed upon the disabled community. It definitely gave me a ton to think about.

And now, for a shameless plug – for those interested in learning more about disability and physical difference, there will be a workshop next week touching on some of these topics and more. The Workshop for Social Change, sponsored by the Office for Diversity & Inclusion, will help to strengthen skills for becoming an agent of change, and help you to learn to become a better ally by supporting those at risk and taking a stand against social injustice. Though the workshop will be about social change in general, it will be focusing on social change through the lens of “Lives Worth Living” – a documentary tracing the development of consciousness of pioneers who realized that in order to change the world for people with disabilities, they needed to work together. Through demonstrations and inside legislative battles, the disability rights community secured equal civil rights for all people with disabilities.

*To learn more about Jason Crigler’s miraculous story, check out the documentary “Life. Support. Music.”

** To read more about Josh Crary’s marathon training journey and support/donate to the cause, go check out his blog at

2012 Spring Orientation

Orientation week was an invigorating frenzy of free mini chocolate bars, fliers and pamphlets recruiting a myriad of 18-year-olds to various majors, and expounding upon them the secrets of success as a student at the Berklee College of Music. To wrap up the week were a few weekend events to give the students a better idea of the experiences that Berklee could offer them in their future and present Berklee careers.

First, on Friday night (January 20th), was a soul-brightening performance by the lovely ladies of Zili Misik. This group was comprised of seven beautiful, energetic and high-spirited women (all but one were proud alumni of Berklee) who danced around the stage, displaying incredible musical prowess as well as great passion for life and art. Their repertoire consisted of a perfect mixture of original creations as well as traditional folksongs from Haiti, Brazil and West Africa – all infused with endearing anecdotes, captivating rhythms, and danceable melodies. They brought an incredible energy to the room, and left everyone bopping their heads and feeling uplifted and full of life. Following their concert was a reception in the loft – free food for all, and a chance to mingle with other new students, as well as the ladies of Zili Misik. Upon meeting them, the warmth that exuded from the stage was clearly presented face-to-face, and their gratitude for their unique experiences at Berklee were readily shared.

zili misik

The next morning was the Berklee Women’s Welcome Brunch. A spread of deliciously unique food – including mini pancake and raspberry kabobs (genius!) – was the perfect backdrop for a few hours of inspiration, anecdotes and laughter. The tables were laden with various inspirational quotes by and for women, and after much chatting and feasting amongst the tables, these quotes were read out loud to nods of understanding and smiles of illumination.  Here are a few of my favorite quotes:

“As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” Marianne Williamson

“We don’t accomplish anything in this world alone. Whatever happens is the result of the whole tapestry of one’s life and all the weavings of individual threads from one to another that creates something.” Sandra Day O’Connor

“I know there is strength in the differences between us. I know there is comfort, where we overlap.” Ani Difranco

After a few moving speeches by Berklee alumnus Maya Khaldi and Ayeisha Mathis – highlighting their experiences at Berklee, the difficulties of being a woman in the music industry, and the triumphs of rising above those social constructs – Hannah Christianson took the stage. I have been a huge fan of Hannah’s since I first caught wind of her music – with piano and vocal stylings reminiscent of Regina Spektor, her music is laden with catchy melodies and enriching messages. Her performance was fantastic as always, and ended with a jubilant sing-a-long.

After taking a few hours to allow stomachs to digest exorbitant amounts of smoked salmon, pastries and pancakes, it was time to head over to the Museum of Science for the culminating artistic event of the weekend – a collaboration between Boston-bred rock quintet, Ghosts of Jupiter, and the scientific geniuses of the Museum. It was quite the trippy experience, to say the least – lying back, watching entranced as this vast, dome-shaped screen lit up with the most striking of visuals dancing in front of your eyes and taking you on this insane journey through space. I remember there was one point where I closed my eyes for but a moment, and when I opened them again, there was this colossal owl – eyes flashing, feathers radiant and lustrous – soaring into my face.  It truly was a visually and aurally stunning show, and one that I would highly recommend to anyone and everyone. I so look forward to the next musical and artistic collaboration that the museum chooses to take on!

All in all, it was a great success of a weekend – wonderful music, conversation, food, art, guidance – and a perfect beginning to what is sure to be a fabulous semester at the Berklee College of Music!

To check out the ladies of Zili Misik, go to

To check out some of Hannah’s music, go to


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