For the first time in two years, Berklee Online’s graduating students traveled to Boston from all over the world to receive their diplomas in person at the 2022 Commencement ceremony on May 7. The world looks completely different from when the Class of 2022 started their degree programs, but this year’s graduates are entering into a new landscape brimming with possibilities and appreciation for the very thing that brought them together: music.
Among the graduating class of 2022 is Divinity Roxx, the renowned bass player and Grammy-nominated musician, recording artist, and composer. We had the pleasure of talking with Roxx on the Music is My Life podcast back in 2017, where she discussed her time touring with Victor Wooten and in Beyoncé’s all-female band.
All while touring, performing, and starting her own production company for children’s media, Roxx completed her bachelor’s degree in Interdisciplinary Music Studies with a summa cum laude honor. She attended the Commencement ceremony in Boston, joined by her mom, sister, and brother. Then she immediately returned to the numerous projects she’s working on like writing a one-woman show, composing music for the play adaptation of The Boy Who Kissed The Sky, releasing new music for kids and adults, and touring Europe this summer with legendary Detroit DJ Jeff Mills.
“Graduating from Berklee means being a part of a legacy of incredible creatives,” says Roxx. “I’m honored to share that with so many people I look up to. I’m proud to be a Berklee alum.”
Kelvin Frazier, PhD
Roxx wasn’t the only one who went back to school for music. For Kelvin Frazier, his degree from Berklee is his fourth! He earned an undergraduate degree in both chemistry and math from Savannah State University, and went on to earn his PhD in physical chemistry from MIT.
With a music career arguably as successful as his science career, Frazier released his first single, “Marked and Scarred” in 2017, which landed on the Billboard chart for Best Adult R&B Songs. In 2021, his single “I Be Best” also charted in the same Billboard category, this time in the top 30.
“It wasn’t easy, but I was proud that I could balance it all and release new music as a recording artist,” says Frazier. “It has always been a dream that I could balance both my science and music career.”
When COVID hit and Frazier couldn’t perform live, he decided to enroll at Berklee Online to learn how to better navigate the music business. He majored in Interdisciplinary Music Studies, focusing on music business, law, publishing, touring, marketing, and music supervision. He also did this while simultaneously working three jobs in the science field.
“Before the pandemic hit, I was going to set up an international tour in the UK,” says Frazier. “I’m glad I took the International Music Marketing course because I found out that I had no idea what I was doing. I am now equipped with a real plan on how to execute an international tour.”
Frazier flew to Boston from Atlanta to attend Commencement, alongside his mom, dad, and brother. The last time they were all together in Boston was for his MIT graduation in 2015.
“After graduation, I plan to continue to be an independent recording artist,” he says. “Because of Berklee Online’s program, I am more knowledgeable about navigating the industry.”
Commencement was a sort of homecoming for Bethany Becker and her husband Blake Jurasin, who graduated from Berklee College of Music in 2015. He worked as an intern in the Berklee Online office, and recommended the program to his wife. Bethany and Blake met after he graduated from Berklee and moved to Austin, Texas, where he became the guitarist in her band, three years before they started dating.
“I had been working in the music business since I was 14 years old,” says Becker. “I’ve been in Nashville and recorded and done the whole big-budget album thing. So when I decided to go to school, I didn’t want to go for a piece of paper. I wanted to go for an education.”
Becker’s Interdisciplinary Music Studies program focused on songwriting, production, marketing, and publishing. Her goal was to fill in any knowledge gaps that would help her become a jack-of-all-trades musician.
“I want to be as self-sufficient as I can be,” says Becker. “I know I need a team and when I have a team that’s awesome. Like right now I have people helping me book. But I want to be able to do as much as I can when needed.”
Becker flew straight from the International Christian Film Festival in Orlando to attend Commencement. She had been nominated for Best Performing artist for her song, “Open Arms” from the award-winning film The Dark Places, in which she played the lead role.
“I’m just working hard, jumping at the right opportunities as they come my way,” says Becker. “God’s opening doors and we’ll just see what’s next. I’m just going to keep using the knowledge I have from Berklee—I’m literally taking my assignments and using them as my real-life marketing plan.”
Based in Saugus, Massachusetts with the US Coast Guard, Lavelle Peterson is graduating Berklee with a degree in Music Production. There’s no way to sugar-coat it—being an active service member while being a student is difficult.
“It was the most challenging but most exciting thing I’ve done, next to earning the title of Marine,” says Peterson. “I had military duties, extensive projects due at Berklee, COVID-influenced lifestyle changes, and a child adjusting to virtual learning all at the same time.”
Even with all that was going on in his life, Peterson pushed himself in the program, spending ample time in a studio, thanks to a connection with Berklee Online instructor, Bora Uslusoy.
“Bora introduced me to the people at The Record Co., where you can rent a studio for low prices, as long as you provide the engineer,” says Peterson. “Hence, I was the engineer. So I have access to an auxiliary studio at any given time for a very low price.”
Another instructor who had a major impact on Peterson was Andrea Stolpe, who looked out for her students’ wellbeing throughout the pandemic, and especially during the Black Lives Matter movement of 2020.
“My instructor Andrea Stolpe gave us time to reflect on respect for humanity,” says Peterson. “It was her ability to use her influence to address this subject when it’s usually and unfortunately taboo in the workplace—it just made me proud to belong. Especially, since this is music and poetry here, and it should be a place where we can express how we feel without limitations. I am very appreciative for that moment in time during 2020.”
Peterson’s goal is to build his own studio back home in Detroit, where he can mix, produce, and cowrite for artists.
Tiffany Sanford from Gresham, Oregon, grew up playing classical piano and composing her own music. She has accompanied choirs and art institutions across the Pacific Northwest, including the Portland Ballet and Oregon Ballet Theatre, and also teaches piano. During her time at Hood Community College, she wrote the book, lyrics, and music to three full-length musicals. From there she turned her focus to songwriting and enrolled at Berklee Online.
“As a songwriter, I’m driven to write music that emotionally impacts my listener with the goal of bringing inspiration, renewed strength, courage, self-acceptance, hope, or healing to my audience,” she says. “I love to champion stories of the forgotten, hurting, or misunderstood, especially of women who overcome difficult situations.”
Sanford has overcome difficult situations herself, including raising her now three-year-old son while earning her Berklee degree in songwriting.
“I had to be very organized with my schedule,” she says. “Every nap time for my son was study time for me. But often, I had to study outside of his naps as well. When my son was young, I remember putting him in his bouncer right next to me so I could engage with him while also working on my classes.”
Sanford said she was looking forward to meeting up with her classmates at Commencement, especially her friends from her songwriting courses.
“I’m proud of the growth I experienced through my studies,” says Sanford. “Every class stretched and taught me that the boundaries in which I placed myself can and always will expand when I push myself outside of my comfort zone and try new things.”