At Berklee Valencia, Gender Equality Tops the Agenda
Amisha Patankar and Hillary Storm, members of Berklee Valencia's chapter of Women in Music, during a mixer organized by them. Photo by Tato Baeza.
The driving force of Berklee’s vision for 2025, an inclusive culture strategy that promotes diversity in all its forms, is “empowering artists to better our world.” Clara Barberá, director for student affairs, diversity and inclusion at Berklee’s campus in Valencia, Spain, said, “At the Valencia campus, we have designed our own particular way to make this happen. Our community is small enough to engage its members to take action, so the impact of this message is outstandingly felt. We facilitate activities where students learn from different cultures as well as their own to also challenge their preconceived ideas of the world. We allow for meaningful connections to happen between our students and local, national, and international associations working towards a more inclusive world through music via a number of opportunities, such as diversity grants.”
Diversity grants are awarded to students who propose activities that focus on at least one of the following areas: access and equity, community engagement, career development, community learning and development, and expanding outlooks. The outcome can be a concert, a seminar, or a series of events on or off campus aimed to reach local communities or specific, targeted groups. Their impact needs to be evaluated by the students and must be inherently connected to diversity, inclusion, and equity at the Valencia campus.
Two of this year’s awardees, Women in Music and She Knows Tech, celebrated the contribution of women in music by focusing on the diversity of roles within the industry, seeking to create opportunities for women and empower the female student population through workshops, and talks by female guests who lead by example.
Women in Music
Under Barberá’s guidance, in October 2017, Amisha Patankar, Hillary Storm, and Peter Robaudo—all graduate students in the Master of Arts in Global Entertainment and Music Business program—launched the Berklee Valencia chapter of Women in Music, an organization with a mission to advance awareness, equality, diversity, heritage, opportunities, and cultural aspects of women in the musical arts through education, support, empowerment, and recognition. The company’s headquarters are outside of New York.
“Through seminars and mixers, we celebrate the female contribution to the music industry that strengthens the community as a whole. We believe that the conversation around equality is an inclusive discussion where all voices are welcome, no matter the gender,” said Patankar. These conversations included the organization of talks and workshops by guest speakers like Allison Zatarain MA'13, celebrity publicist Yvette Noel-Schure, artistic director Dale Franzen, and cellist Nesrine Belmokh to discuss topics like identity and reality in the music industry, how to distribute your music, and fundraising for the arts.
In May, Women in Music launched the album Sincerely, Women, with a live performance at Sala Matisse in Valencia. The album consists of eight original songs and two cover songs, solely created by 10 Berklee undergraduate and graduate students and recorded by Berklee Valencia’s own label, Disrupción Records. “This album was a project we started to bring together a diverse group of people, not only diverse in gender, but in culture, in ethnicity, and in craft. This album is meant to supersede boundaries put on us, whether it’s by gender, identity, sexuality, race, religion, or any other labels. It is a symbol of our intention to go out into the real world, not looking at music in black and white, but in full color,” said Patankar.
Patankar, who plans to continue her involvement with the chapter after graduation to help the future team continue this task, is grateful for the help and leadership the team has received from the Department of Student Affairs, Diversity and Inclusion as well as from the graduate program faculty. “The grant given by the Office of Diversity and Inclusion made it possible for us to put on the events we did. Without the financial support of the school, we wouldn’t have been as successful. Also, Emilien Moyon connected us with speakers and guests like Yvette Noel-Schure, which was by far one of our largest events, with an attendance of 100+ people,” she said.
She Knows Tech
Another student-led initiative and diversity grant awardee is She Knows Tech, which saw a number of female tech specialists like Georgia Meyer, Nona Hendryx, Kat Becic, Stephen Webber, Rosa Narvaez and faculty Liz Teutsch offer workshops and guidance on specific technology-related topics with the aim of attracting more women into the field of music technology and providing female references within the music tech industry for the student body.
“The team formed by Jasmine Kok, Liliana Gagnon, and Anna Parry not only impeccably prepared these workshops, suggested the topics, invited the guests, and promoted the events on our campus for students from every program, but they also learned to constructively advocate for the need to provide female-only spaces in some cases, while encouraging male-identifying students to join in some others,” Barberá said.
Back in November, Parry, a student in the Master of Arts in Global Entertainment and Music Business program, was approached by Gagnon and Kok, who study music production, technology, and innovation, so she could help them on the business and logistics sides of the project. “I knew the industry as a whole was very underrepresented by females, but I did not realize how underrepresented it was for women in technology. As soon as Liliana and Jasmine approached me with the possibility of joining them in this initiative, I immediately jumped on the opportunity to work with two strong independent women like them,” she said.
Gagnon believes that the most important way to raise awareness is through visibility, so everything the team has done is geared towards showcasing strong, relatable women in music technology. “We held two kinds of workshops: one with outside speakers, like our coding workshop that was open to the whole student body, and other types that were either taught by fellow students or faculty that were only open to women. These workshops included getting started in the studio, DIY branding and Photoshop, and beginner Ableton. We offered these introductory courses aimed at beginners and undergrads in a female-identifying-only space in an effort to create a sense of community where participants felt safe asking questions and getting the most out of the experience,” she said. Parry added that as a result, two women who attended the workshops will now be pursuing production degrees at Berklee, something she celebrates as it meets one of She Knows Tech’s main goals: seeing more women study for technological degrees.
She Knows Tech is very proud to end this school year with their project '5 Questions with She Knows Tech' series. Starting in June leading up to the graduation week, they will be releasing one interview every Friday.
Through this series, they have conversations with versatile leaders in the music tech on how men and women should work and move forward together in this industry.
Watch the '5 Questions with She Knows Tech' video series.