Our friend and colleague Mili Bermejo passed away on February 21. She had been serving students as a member of the Voice Department faculty since 1984.
Her teaching went hand in hand with her continued artistry. Her October 2016 release Arte del Dúo was named a Top 10 jazz album by the Boston Globe. Jon Garelick wrote "this recording is both daring in its spare intimacy and profound in its fearless, joyful execution." The album came on the heels of a residency at the Lily Pad in Cambridge; fortunately, there is some video of those performances we can enjoy.
From Marti Epstein:
I got to know Mili in 2000- not as the brilliant singer she was, but as an impassioned advocate for her colleagues. She signed up to help us with our bargain that year as we had put out a call for faculty who were not part of the executive committee to be part of collective bargaining. As usual, it was a contentious process. I discovered that Mili lived near me, in Cambridge, and we would frequently ride the #1 bus home together from our bargaining sessions. It is now amazing to me that we had such long and intense conversations and rarely talked about music. Instead we talked about what was just and fair for our colleagues. We struck up such a bond that well after the negotiations had ended, she and I were still continuing our bus conversations; in 2001, she (along with Carolyn Wilkins!) was one of the very first people I told that I was pregnant. Later, of course, I learned what an incredible musician she was. But at her core, she cared deeply about her friends and colleagues, and wanted for them what she felt was just and right.
Mili was outspoken in her support of the Berklee Faculty Union, as evidenced by this 2013 letter to her Voice Department colleagues:
As someone who joined the Berklee Faculty in 1984, before we had a union, I can attest to the fact that the Faculty, post-union, has seen consistent gains in pay, benefits and working conditions. We have gained enormous freedom and support for both our teaching and artistic endeavors as well..
- The Union’s job is to make sure the priorities of the faculty are visible to those who make the decisions.
- When the Union Executive Committee goes into negotiations, their effectiveness will be determined by how much the administration believes they speak for the faculty.
- If you doubt that your participation is important, ask me what it was like before the Berklee Faculty Union was formed.
In addition, I encourage you to participate, attend the meetings and vote. We need the new generation of faculty to get engaged, to support our Union, and to continue ‘la lucha’!
Let’s work together. Viva Mi Sindicato!
Berklee posted a memorial to Mili, with more background on her amazing life journey. Berklee also hosted a musical celebration in her honor featuring performances and compositions by some of her friends and colleagues.
She will be missed.