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Berklee’s Valencia Campus Strengthens Ties with the Community

Student Aaron Sutton plays with a kid. Photo by Rudillapi courtesy of Casa Ronald McDonald.

For students at Berklee’s campus in Valencia, Spain, the venues might change, but the aim stays the same. Whether they performed concerts in hospitals, organized workshops in youth prisons, or helped out with marginal communities, students applied music’s enormous force for the enrichment of society and intercultural understanding.

Social initiatives are great opportunities for students to connect with the local community and to share similar principles. “They are not only an opportunity to network with different groups outside the college,” said Maxwell Wright, senior coordinator of the international career center at Berklee’s Valencia campus, “but also a chance to perfect their performing skills, meet new collaborators, and position themselves as artists who stand by certain values.”

Each month, a group of students visited the Hospital de Crónicos de Mislata in the Valencia neighborhood of Mislata as part of an agreement between the college and the hospital. Led by instructor Sergio Martínez, students performed acoustic concerts for patients, relatives, and staff.

“This was very important for long-term patients, as the concerts created a very positive atmosphere in the center,” said hospital director Rosa María Franco.

Casa Ronald McDonald Volunteering at Casa Ronald McDonald

In the fall of 2015, Student Affairs organized a pre-Halloween visit to the Casa Ronald McDonald in Valencia to help children staying at the center with decorations. Veronica Largiu, pursuing a Master of Music in Contemporary Performance (Production Concentration), said that although she had worked with children before, she found the experience to be “very moving and challenging.” She added, “I feel very grateful to have the opportunity to participate in these events; I feel enriched.”

Largiu said that music “has the power to unite people, even though they are not from the same country, don’t speak the same language, or come from different backgrounds.”

_dsc4625bis-13x18-254-textoKelvin Milliner, pursuing the same degree, added that it is “extremely important” for institutions such as Berklee to serve the local community. The benefits were reciprocal: patients learned about the tradition of Halloween in the U.S., while students developed a deeper understanding of the mission of Casa Ronald McDonald after touring the facilities. Once decorations were complete, students were invited to celebrate Halloween with the children and their families.

Holiday Sounds at Casa de la Caridad

A well-known institution in Valencia, Casa Caridad has supported local disadvantaged communities for more than 100 years. So it seemed the perfect location for the Holiday Choir from Berklee’s Valencia campus to deliver one of its first performances, just a few days before Christmas. Organized by Liz Turner, a contemporary performance graduate student, the choir was composed of nine members who sang an assortment of traditional carols and Spanish songs.

“Music is a great way to help lift people’s spirits and give them a feeling of joy,” said choir member Aaron Sutton. “Everyone seemed to really enjoy the performances. We stayed after the concert so the children could play with our instruments and take some pictures.”

Celebrating Pinktober at Hard Rock Cafe in Barcelona

Other initiatives take place around specific events. A good example is the collaboration, for the second year in a row, with the Hard Rock Cafe in Barcelona, Spain, to help raise funds for their Pinktober campaign.

“In the time we have collaborated, the relationship has given great results,” said Wright. “Our students have been able to perform regularly in Barcelona, and the campus has benefited from visits from Hard Rock Cafe’s staff and executive members, who gave workshops on different subjects within the music industry, an example being one given on ‘sponsorship strategies.’”

Grace Mann, a student in the study abroad program, was one of five female vocalists selected to perform at the event, which raised 4,500 euros for the Spanish Cancer Association (AECC). “I was selected as one of the Berklee ambassadors for Pinktober after submitting a few samples of my music and sharing my personal experience with the disease,” said Mann. “We performed in honor of our grandmother, who passed away two years ago from cancer.” An American composer and vocalist from Boston majoring in songwriting at Berklee’s Boston campus, she was accompanied on guitar by her brother, Jackson Mann, a graduate student in contemporary performance (production concentration) at Berklee’s Valencia campus.

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