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To The Students Of NEC

NEC President



As we approach Commencement and the end of the school year, I am saying farewell to NEC just as many of you graduating students will do on May 17.  Like you, I am moving into a new chapter of my life, which will provide I am sure as many adventures as the last nearly 20 years in the States. As the poet Hermann Hesse once wrote: “In all beginnings dwells a magic force/For guarding us and helping us to live.” To a considerable extent, we are all going to be engaging in a very similar journey. Good fortune to us all.

Looking back over my eight years at NEC, I am extraordinarily proud of the Conservatory’s accomplishments and its current eminence. And you students—and your teachers—are largely responsible for this distinction. It has given me great joy to observe your artistry, your collegiality, your entrepreneurial savvy, and the importance you place on being citizens of the world.

There have been so many performances and events that I recall as intensely pleasurable and profoundly moving: the two Symphony Hall concerts by the Philharmonia and Hugh Wolff; the celebrations of our Jazz and CI 40th Anniversaries, our “Evening in Valhalla” and opera productions such as Paul Bunyan, Turn of the Screw and our most recent Così fan tutte. I have also been thrilled to see the work of UGOS really develop in recent years and their production of Albert Herring in March was stellar. The work of the Chamber Choir and Chorus has also really burgeoned into something of great quality.

There have been other moments to cherish: the extraordinary intimacy and passion of chamber music performances by NEC musicians outside Brigham and Women’s hospital on the terrible days following the Boston Marathon bombing; the poetry readings and dramatic performances by students in our Liberal Arts classes and the very impressive creative writing from our students in the Hear Here! Programme. And I have looked with wonderment at the creation of professional opportunities that some of our recent alumni have pulled out of thin air like A Far Cry, AcousticaElectronica, and Dan Gabel’s Abeltones and High Society Orchestra.

In the last few months, I have had occasion to travel and listen to musicians from around the world, including the Guildhall School’s international Reflective Conservatoire Conference, which drew over 400 participants from every continent. From all corners, I have heard how the music world and the lives of musicians are undergoing great change. And you, students and graduates, are going to be right in the middle of it. It will be you who have the responsibility to lead the charge. You will be responsible for preserving the essential, soul-affirming core of music that is a foundation of our civilization. You will have to guide music back to its central place in society from what is currently, sadly, a position on the margins.

For this, you will need to open yourselves to new collaborations, new idioms, new cultures, new ways of presentation, new ways of teaching. You will need maximum flexibility of mind, versatility, willingness to dare, the ability to strip yourselves bare of preconceptions and old habits. (It’s like moving out of a house, divesting oneself of most material things we possess and stepping out unencumbered but nearly naked—a process with which I am all too familiar at the moment .)

For this, I wish you courage, a spirit of adventure, resilience in the face of failure, and endless resourcefulness. It is a battle worth fighting and about which I feel total confidence in your ability to prevail. My warmest good wishes and affection to all of you.

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Our Time At NEC

As the school year comes to a close, five graduating students have taken time to reflect on their different and unique experiences at NEC. On May 17th they, along with 240 other graduating students will walk across the stage at Jordan Hall one last time to receive their degrees. Join them in reliving some fond memories from the last few years!

Second-year MM Guitar



Two years ago, my twin sister and I arrived in Boston from Guatemala, carrying the highest expectation of becoming masters of the classical guitar. We were very excited about joining Eliot Fisk’s guitar studio. His amazing teaching, kindness and support has made these two years at NEC, a unique and unforgettable life-learning experience

At NEC, we learned from great musicians who inspired us through their love and passion for teaching music. In the Fall of 2013 we joined the CPP with a Performance Fellowship which allowed us to share guitar music in Boston’s Community at a  variety of venues. The experience has been heartwarming and priceless, as  has the opportunity to spread music to young generations through [Music in Education] MIE internships, which is such a promising effort.

It is surely very gratifying to achieve the Master’s in Music degree with the MIE concentration. In May 2015, our dream of M.M. becamea  reality, and we feel very proud of being NEC graduates! Now a new path to go together, as The Molina Twins.

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Incremental Changes

As the school year comes to a close, five graduating students have taken time to reflect on their different and unique experiences at NEC. On May 17th they, along with 240 other graduating students will walk across the stage at Jordan Hall one last time to receive their degrees. Join them in reliving some fond memories from the last few years!

Second-year GD Trombone



Goodbyes are strange. They are, at least to me, never quite satisfying. It’s like your new favorite Netflix binge-watch show – the mystery at the beginning is what draws you in, entices you. Somehow the wrap-up of that mystery – (SPOILER ALERT!) they were dead all along, it was all a dream, they all live happily ever after – is never fully satiating.

Could it be, then, that we expect too much from endings? Do we have unrealistic expectations for how things are “supposed” to be? Perhaps. After all, it’s been said before that the destination is not the important part, but the journey is. Fitting, then, is the phrase touted by trombone guru and NEC faculty Norman Bolter “Wherever you go, there you are.”

You’re here, now. You’re graduating. You’re reading this article. You’re enjoying the much-deserved sun on a much-delayed Boston spring day. You’re at NEC! And what a “you” you are. You’re more “you” than there ever has been a you before in the history of the “you”-niverse. OK, that was cheesy. But it’s true, in a way.

Everyone has a story to tell, not the least of those people called musicians. Music speaks something to us deeply on a personal level that makes us want to shout it out to everyone around us at every opportunity. Performing isn’t the only way to do that, of course, and being the loudest in the room isn’t the only way to get someone to hear you. If I learned anything during my time at NEC, it was this.

I fell into writing for The Penguin by accident. In my first week at school, the then-editor hosted a party boasting a free dinner and hey, who wouldn’t be enticed by that?! There was a caveat, however; in order to earn the dinner you had to bring along one idea for an article in The Penguin that year. My idea must have been half-hearted, because I can’t recall for the life of me what it was about, but nonetheless it was convincing enough for the editor to urge me to bring that idea to fruition.

Equal parts terrified and excited (kind of like before playing a big orchestra concert) I pressed “send” on an email a week or two later containing my first contribution to the newspaper for that year. And when the paper came out, the world didn’t end. In fact, it was kind of cool to see something I’d done without a trombone in my hands out in the public for people to see!

It’s not groundbreaking or revolutionary, but it doesn’t have to be. It’s natural that, as artists, we continually strive to best the best we can be at all times, but just because you “can’t be the best at everything” doesn’t mean you can’t strive for the acceptable, applaud the mediocre, or celebrate the mundane along the way!

Nothing we do pops into existence fully formed and perfect. Much of our favorite things take shape like the snowball effect – start small, build on success. Start small – like with an idea. Press send. Build upon that.

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