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Behind every successful innovation, there is a creative idea that took hold and gained momentum, leading to something bigger. The organizers of TEDxBerkleeValencia have deemed this phenomenon a creative catalyst, and aptly named this past Saturday’s conference for it.
“How does one idea have radical consequences in a field? We’re looking at creative tipping points that have affected and influenced careers, and opened doors,” says Maxwell Moya Wright, a graduate student in the Global Entertainment and Music Business Program at Berklee’s campus in Valencia, Spain, who served as the artistic director/curator for the TEDxBerkleeValencia team.
TEDx events are self-organized TED-style events that model TED’s mission—ideas worth spreading—and its goal of sparking conversation and connection. A video of the Valencia event will be available for viewing after the conference, which was held on June 21.
Wright, who performed at TEDxBarcelonaWomen with his electric a cappella band Man Ex Maqina in December, thought the Valencia campus could be a perfect host for a TEDx conference. He approached Emilien Moyon, program director for the Valencia campus' Global Entertainment and Music Business Program, who took the reins to lead the project.
Moyon worked to secure a license for the Valencia campus to host the conference and assembled a team including three co-curators—Wright, alumnus Ludovico Vignaga, and graduate Louis Vallbona—to lead different aspects of the project, from artistic direction to marketing to production. Eight other students rounded out the team.
"Without him, this would have just remained an idea," Wright says of Moyon's efforts. "He was more than brave to take on the project personally and more so in his first year as program director of the Global Entertainment and Music Business Program."
Saturday's sold-out event drew more than 300 people to the Aula Magistral Theatre of the Palau de les Arts Reina Sofia in Valencia’s City of Arts and Sciences. Not only was the event a success, but it offered the opportunity for the campus' graduate programs to collaborate. "They all learned a lot from the process as they developed professional skills working on a real project," Moyon says. "This is the best way to help our students to develop their entrepreneurial spirit."
To illustrate the theme of the conference, "creative catalyst," Wright referenced the late Paco de Lucia as an example of someone whose creativity led to a groundbreaking moment for flamenco guitar; by modifying his guitar position, his left arm became freer to play jazz chords. “That’s why flamenco exploded into the jazz world,” says Wright, who earned a Latin Grammy with his former band, Ojos de Brujo, recently.
TEDxBerkleeValencia, which featured 12 presentations and three musical acts, introduced its own host of creative minds as they present ideas spanning a variety of disciplines, including music, film and video game composition, sound design, entrepreneurship, dance, and psychology.
While four external guests were invited to present, Berklee’s Valencia campus showed strong representation: five Berklee Valencia graduate students, one graduate fellow, and two faculty members were chosen by a selection team to present. Speakers were chosen based on the strength and clarity of their ideas, their passion, and their stories’ ability to move people.
Meanwhile, two alumni were invited to participate: Sonicbids founder and entrepreneur Panos Panay ’94, founding managing director of Berklee’s Institute for Creative Entrepreneurship; and Spanish film composer Lucas Vidal ’06 (Fast & Furious 6, The Raven).
M.T. Aditya Srinvasan, a graduate student in the Contemporary Performance Program, native of Chennai, India, and tabla player, talked about rhythm as machinery that moves everything, and its presence in all aspects of life.
Ben Houge, a Music Technology Innovation Program faculty member, is a video game composer who talked about his idea for pairing music and food by designing music to accompany specific dishes at a restaurant via individual speakers.
Ganavya Doraiswamy, a Berklee Valencia post-graduate fellow and singer who was born in New York City and raised in South India, drew on her experience working in a prison to talk about how creativity is born out of necessity, and how it can be used to solve problems.
Clara Barbera, student affairs manager for Berklee Valencia and Movement for Musicians instructor, talked about the idea of immersive performances, specifically in the field of contemporary dance, and the role audiences can play. Her presentation will also include a performance element to illustrate her message.
Michael Sean Harris, a student in the Music Technology Innovation Program and native of Jamaica, presented on the theme of “cultural currency.” “The message is that folk music is a vast, untapped cultural resource that must somehow evolve and grow to remain current and maintain vitality,” he explains. “It has always been a passion of mine to fuse Jamaican folk music with other styles.”
For Harris, participating in the conference meant "an opportunity to share my story, my history, and my love for folk music as a creative resource.” His talk also illustrated his culminating experience, “Folkbeats and Blipspeak,” a fusion of Jamaican folk, electronic music recordings, and live performance.
Barbera says TED speakers and their ability to communicate complex ideas in an easily digestible format have inspired her. “I am very aware of how fortunate I am to be able to utilize such an extended platform to share my five-minute thought on a theme I thoroughly believe in, doing my bit to continue to raise the profile of contemporary dance as an art form.”
By hosting the conference on the Valencia campus, Berklee stands to get great exposure and raise brand awareness in the Valencia community and beyond, Wright says.
"TEDx is the perfect format to showcase the diverse talents of the Berklee community," Moyon adds. "We received excellent feedback from the audience (some of whom did not know about Berklee Valencia and were truly impressed). In addition, the videos of the talks will be valuable material to promote Berklee and the quality of the programs."
And in the spirit of TED, Berklee put some of its own “ideas worth spreading” on the map.
“I think it means we are thinking big and innovative,” says Moyon. “We want to be pioneers but we want to share. What’s being developed on the campus is not meant to stay on the campus. We want to share it with the world.”