At Berklee, the healing begins — with music

The sounds of music once again filled the performance center at the Berklee College of Music Monday, as the school reopened a week after the Boston Marathon bombings rattled the school’s Back Bay neighborhood.

Berklee College, which has several buildings on Massachusetts Avenue and Boylston Street, welcomed students, faculty, and staff back to campus with an emotional and uplifting ceremony aimed at bringing healing and understanding.

“We’ve lost a week this week, but let me tell you something, Berklee community: We are stronger than the violence that hit this city; we are better than the terror that has been presented before us; we are more creative than those who want to tear us apart,” Lawrence Simpson, the college’s senior vice president for academic affairs and its provost, told the audience at the musical program titled, “Let the Sunshine In — Berklee Faces the Marathon Tragedy.”


Although many local colleges were closed Friday, when the bombing suspects were still on the loose, Berklee’s location just blocks from the bombings put the school in special proximity to the tragedy.

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Four college buildings within the confines of the massive crime scene remain closed. Department heads and deans are working to find alternatives for students who have classes in those buildings, Simpson said.

One Berklee student was injured in the bombings.

Monday’s ceremony featured songs performed by the Berklee Balkan Choir, faculty members, students, and the Berklee Reverence Gospel Ensemble, whose song promised “Tomorrow will be better than today.”

Songwriting student Steffi Jeraldo, from Sweden, performed “Song for Boston,” which she wrote a day after the bombings. Among the lyrics:

There’s nothing we can say that will make this all right

’Cause there’s no magic way to erase and rewind

To heal what’s been broken and to mend what’s been scarred

It takes time, but we can’t lose faith in mankind.


Jeraldo drew applause midway through her performance.

She first performed the song on Newbury Street Thursday for an informal audience that included police and investigators. In addition to lifting spirits, she raised about $100 to donate to those affected by the bombings.

“It just brightened up the street,” she said. “. . . It’s important that we’re all united together, especially in times like these.”

Berklee’s president, Roger Brown, shared the mix of emotions he felt throughout last week — from shock, sadness, and anger in the aftermath of the attacks, to elation and relief as the suspects were found — to help guide students through their own emotions.

Brown told the audience to be thoughtful as the focus shifts and some look to cast blame, whether it is on law enforcement, immigration laws, religion, or a culture.


“A sort of ugly part of human nature starts to show its face as we start to take the anger and grief and devastation we feel and we project it onto something else,” Brown said. “So I urge you, especially those who are younger, to watch those feelings and emotions in yourselves.”

But when the floor was opened for community members to share their thoughts, they spoke of volunteering, sharing, and the power of music and community.

“I think as musicians that we’re spiritual alchemists who can actually take pain in and turn it into beauty, and it’s a responsibility and gift that we have, and so I think that we can use that to give,” Victoria, a songwriting student, told the audience.

Brown, too, focused on the importance of music.

“There is no magic formula for how you help people live more peacefully together, but whatever formula there is, whatever complex recipe there is, I know one thing: It includes music and the sharing of music among ourselves,” he said.

Johanna Kaiser can be reached at