Extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures...of Pomp and Circumstance

Jordan Hall may not be filled with the excitement and joy of graduating students this month, but this extraordinary time has demonstrated the strength of the NEC community.

As President Kalyn discovered during her “listening” tour last year, NEC is a family. That is especially evident at commencement as each student receives a warm and loving cheer during their final walk across the Jordan Hall stage. The feelings of pride and accomplishment are shared amongst all NEC graduates – it’s an experience that brings the family closer.  

The spirit of commencement exists beyond the walls of Jordan Hall as 84 alumni from across the globe came together to remind us that NEC is about the people, not the location. 

Inviting alumni to collaborate in a musical celebration was “a unique way to reconnect in these unique times” (Cory Pesaturo, ’08). Alumni were grateful to give back through music, “Music is what I have to offer during these difficult times” (Merrick Nelson, ’09 MM). 

Through their solidarity with the graduating students, alumni offered words of encouragement that “they are not alone” (Stephanie Wagner, ’97). “There is a whole network of alumni who are happy to help them” (Najib Wong, ’08). 

The “performance” for each alumnus was unlike a regular concert. There was no stage, no audience, no conductor, no other musicians - just a click track and a single violin part.  

David Reffkin, ’73, describes the experience as “a unique musical, technical, and cultural activity. It evoked for me the intriguing sensation of simultaneously producing an audition tape, one-take tracking session, and live performance. As my colleagues in the ensemble were fellow alums, I experienced a sense of ensemble and familiarity, even though I was alone in the “hall.” It was particularly satisfying to contribute to the celebration of this year’s graduating class at NEC.”  

Music is a universal language. This virtual performance of Pomp and Circumstance is a celebration for all graduates around the world. We hope it serves as reminder that wherever you are, we are all in this together, and we will always come together to support one another.  

We “hope that the graduates will feel honored and celebrated as they go off into the world, to make it a better place through their art.” (Sally Wituszynski, ’86)

Congratulations to the Class of 2020! Welcome to the NEC alumni community.  

Messages from Alumni

"New England Conservatory holds a special place in my heart. It has given me so much when I was a student.  A hearty congratulations to you!... Each graduating class is a promise and a potential for what is greater than all of us, MUSIC. Your teachers, mentors, artists who have inspired you, your predecessors (alumni), and yourselves are part of one long continuum of human beings concerned with beauty, with something truly worthy. I am so happy to have taken part in this project, putting forces together with so many fellow alumni… I wish you to treasure fellowship and solidarity with musicians of all generations. I wish you great respect and love of your current and future audiences and students. Finally, I wish you many a myriad splendid, crazy, fantastical ideas on how to take what we all love, do, and believe in into the next level."

- Blanka Bednarz, ’97 MM, ’07 DMA


"The closure of NEC due to the current pandemic brought back memories from 1970 when I received my M.M. from the Conservatory. Then, due to the Vietnam War Protests, NEC’s gesture of solidarity was not only to cancel final exams, juries, concerts, lectures—but to invite both students and teachers to perform in Jordan Hall for two weeks or what essentially would have been the end of the Spring Term… Given the opportunity to perform with friends and faculty during the 1970 shutdown enabled me to forge new friendships that have lasted for decades. For this I am so grateful to NEC, and my participation for the 2020 Commencement is a way giving back to the school. To the 2020 NEC graduates, I wish all great things for your upcoming careers. Surviving, creating, and ultimately surviving this pandemic will make you stronger and more determined to make music and unify with your colleagues and the world."

- Chester Brezniak, ’71 MM 


“I hope the 2020 graduates will see this virtual performance as a way we all explored a new way to create music.” 

- Marian Concus, ’84


“This is a way to give back to the younger generation. The performing arts are placed in jeopardy during any societal crisis. Having others who have weathered difficult times come through for those just starting out on their life experiences always gives the younger generation a sense of confidence in embarking on their careers during a globally difficult time.” 

- Rachel Cox, ’93


“I hope that it makes them feel good that graduates from many years ago are thinking about them still, especially now.” 

- Chris DeChiara, ’99 MM


“I was able to contribute to my Alma Mater as an alumna – and doing it in such a collaborative way made it very enjoyable! A friend of mine is receiving her Doctorate of Music... I felt I was personally able to “be there” for her by being part of the orchestra.” 

- Bianca Garcia, ’08 MM


“Willie and I decided to participate because it seemed like a wonderful outreach in this extraordinary time to the class of 2020... We thought it was a creative way to make the ending of their course of study special. We hope that the graduates feel celebrated by their wider community.” 

- Debbie Grohman, ’87 MM and Willie LaFavor, ’87 MM


“I wanted to be part of the experience for the 2020 graduates. They all need to be rewarded for their efforts at NEC in a positive and meaningful way. I hope that this is something they will see as a community of people coming together in difficult times to celebrate their achievements.” 

- Matthew Guilford, ’86, ’88 MM 


“It was a pleasure and honor for me to participate in the performance. The new graduates have our warm feelings, and can transmit them to a younger generation, and that atmosphere will help us in our professional lives.”

- Gor Hovhannisyan, ’07 GD


“I hope the graduates feel the goodwill of the NEC alumni community and a feeling of connection.” 

- Joe Jewett, ’87 MM 


“Graduations are an emotional landmark… My personal time at NEC is something I cherish. During these times of uncertainty, it feels more vital than ever to give in any way possible… Participating in a virtual orchestra, especially for the benefit of my soon-to-be alumni colleagues, is one way to help. Collaborative projects such as these are a way to feel connected and needed. There is untold value in that.” 

- Miriam Kapner, ’98


“NEC provided me with an unbelievably great environment to grow and learn. Staying connected to that community is important to me... I hope this recording reminds 2020 graduates that the NEC community they were a part of while in school will still be there when they graduate. Making music is as important now as it ever was. Society is looking to the arts to help heal. I believe very strongly that, as poet Arthur O'Shaughnessy wrote, musicians "are the movers and shakers of the world for ever, it seems." I look forward to seeing how we evolve.” 

- Jamie Kember, ’05


“I hope the graduates feel the support of the school and its alumni at this uncertain time. Leaving the conservatory environment for the “real” world can be intimidating even in the best of times, and these are certainly even more tenuous times for many musicians. I hope they feel encouraged and a sense of hope for their future as they hear from those of us who were able to participate.” 

- Charae Kreuger, ’92


“I remember graduating from NEC 11 years ago and how proud of myself I had been. I thought this was one way the 2020 graduates would feel that their NEC community was proud of them. I hope the 2020 graduates gain a sense of community that comes from becoming an alumnus of NEC.” 

- Kristin Leitterman, ’09 MM


“By helping with this project, I hope to bring a smile to the class of 2020 and their families.” 

- Rebecca Leonard, ’87


“The music for their graduation ceremony may be virtual, but our thoughts and well wishes for them on their special day are very real.” 

- Robert Liew, ’82 MM 


“I am proud to be an alumna of New England Conservatory and was happy to give back to NEC through participation in the virtual orchestra... I pray that all the 2020 graduates feel remembered, celebrated and loved.” 

- Tammy Linn, ’93


“I hope the graduates will smile when they see the video! Out of this dark time, I hope this is something they will remember in the future with a smile.” 

- Brian Manker, ’84, ’86 MM 


“I am a happy alumna, having had a wonderful experience while in school, and am thrilled to be part of the NEC community still as a Prep school teacher. While playing, I was inspired by the thought of NEC grads embarking on their careers and knowing they'll get through this tough start during the pandemic. I think seeing these video collages of musicians contributing their own small parts is very inspiring and moving. I know there will be a place for NEC grads in the future and opportunities for all who want to make a career with their music.” 

- Julie Mckenzie, ’88 MM 


“I wanted to be a part of this project because I felt it had a lot of meaning and I hope that it creates a great experience for graduates... Music is what I have to offer during these difficult times. I have tried to find a way to help those around me and this project felt like a great way to do that! I hope the 2020 graduates feel that they are joining a true community.  A community of musicians around the world that share their love of music and their NEC experience. I hope that, during this time, experiencing this recording will give them a little hope for the future.” 

- Merrick Nelson, ’09 MM 


“The NEC family truly cares about graduates... Not only were we willing to spend time to create this but were very happy to do so.” 

- Cory Pesaturo, ’08


“I think it is a great initiative that can give a sense of community to the 2020 graduates. I hope they will feel supported, encouraged, and a part of the NEC community, present and past!” 

- Noémie Raymond-Friset, ’16 GD 


“This is actually the second cancellation of NEC classes, performances, and graduation ceremony that I have witnessed. By coincidence, May 2020 is the 50th anniversary of the National Student Strike to protest the Vietnam War. The Conservatory participated by opening Jordan Hall for a two-week, nonstop music marathon that included student graduation recitals... Recollections of my student past were blended with the expressed hopes and visions of the new graduates. I know this unexpected “cut to the coda” will be assimilated with the complex memories of the year 2020. I encourage the graduates, when they recall this Alumni Virtual Orchestra performance in later years, to reflect on their entire NEC experience, and to cherish their additional new role as valued alumni.” 

- David Reffkin, ’73


“I was excited for an opportunity to show support to my Alma Mater and its 2020 graduates. I hope graduates take away from this virtual performance knowing they have not been forgotten during this time, and the comfort of knowing they are joining the amazing community of NEC's alumni as they venture forward. I also hope this project widens their scope of what is possible in our industry and inspires some innovative ideas of how they can build their career, extend their reach, and make a contribution through music in ways they had not realized before.” 

- David Sterrett, ’12 MM 


“This was a perfect opportunity to show my appreciation for everything I learned at NEC. I know that I wouldn’t be where I am today if I hadn’t had the 4 wonderful, exciting, mind opening, and inspiring years.... I was truly shaped by NEC. I hope that the graduates know that they are not alone, there are a lot of alumni around who are happy to help if they need us! I wish the Class of 2020 the very best, knowing that they will always be truly special! And I hope they remember to always keep their minds open, too!” 

- Stephanie Wagner, ’97


“I hope that the 2020 graduates will feel honored and celebrated as they go off into the world, to make it a better place through their art.”

- Sally Wituszynski, ’86


“There is a whole network of alumni that are happy to help them if they want to connect.” 

- Najib Wong, ’08