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Longy 2024 Commencement: “Together We Make One Big Instrument: Our Community.”

By May 17, 2024May 20th, 2024News

Friday, May 17, 2024

To see the full slideshow of Commencement highlights, click here.

This year, the rainfall at Longy’s 2024 Commencement couldn’t dampen the excitement of the graduates or the celebrations with friends, family, faculty, board members, and commencement address speaker, Angélica Negrón.

Pickman Hall was abuzz as students gathered before the ceremony to mingle with friends and take a class photo. As the class of 2024 processed down Garden Street to First Church Cambridge for the afternoon’s event, a bagpipe led the way, cars honked in celebration, and passersby clapped and cheered their congratulations. 

The ceremony opened with a standing ovation for the graduating class and opening remarks from Longy President Karen Zorn. 

“At Longy, we believe the world needs more artists…Because our world needs creative solutions. It needs new thinking, fresh perspectives.” 

Board Chair Jo Frances Meyer spoke next about her sincere belief that the graduates’ music will continue to be important. 

“Your music will serve to lift each other up,” she said, “And will serve to uplift the spirits of many, many others as time goes by. It will, at times, serve to bring people from different backgrounds, cultures, faiths, and communities, together through shared experiences. It will serve to remind us of our shared humanity in ways that only music can.” 

Faculty speaker Jared Cassedy reiterated that the heart of every student’s origin story with music is joy. He advised students to look out for “freeze-frame moments,” a term he adopted from the high schoolers he teaches, that will remind them why their hard work and dedication are worth it.  

“As musicians, we live in a world of fierce competition, musical setbacks, constant feedback, and comparisons. However, there is no such thing as perfection in music – only the joy of sharing and the vulnerability of pouring our hearts into our craft.”  

Student speaker, Presidential Award Recipient, and Afghan composer and pianist, Arson Fahim urged his fellow graduates to never underestimate the social, political, and healing potential of the work they’ll do.  

“You see, I stand before you a criminal,” he proclaimed, explaining how the brave musicians of Afghanistan risk their lives for the privilege to make music under Taliban rule. 

“For me, the mere acting of making music is an act of rebellion. It’s a proclamation of freedom, and an instrument to fight back against barbarity.” 

The commencement address was delivered by composer, multi-instrumentalist, and teaching artist Angélica Negrón. She shared her earliest memories of music and her indirect journey to teaching artistry. 

“I discovered that engaging with learners fueled and nurtured my own creative process. It gave me a clear sense of purpose and reminded me why I was making music in the first place.” 

After sharing a poignant anecdote from the film Marcel the Shell with Shoes On about how sound can make us feel connected to everything, she questioned, “What does it mean to be connected to everything?” 

She went on, “For me, it means to remember I’m part of a larger community of sound makers, creators, artists, learners, listeners, humans, organisms and ecosystems. That every sound I make is connected to something, some place or someone. That every lesson I teach is connected to something, some place or someone. That the heart and pulse of everything I do lies in the fact that I’m part of the whole, and together we make one big instrument: our community.” 

She closed with giving the Class of 2024 ten pieces of advice she wished she had heard as a former graduate: 

  1. There’s not one clear path. You have to find your own. It might involve many detours or driving across multiple lanes at once. Embrace the process and follow your intuition.
  2. Multifaceted careers are incredibly normal. If you have many interests, pursue as many as you can. At times, they might feel too disparate, but there are always interesting connections to be made.
  3. You don’t have to choose between your creative practice and teaching.  One feeds the other and they can be beautifully integrated, no matter how challenging balancing the two might feel. That said, make sure you take care of your physical and mental health and be mindful of burnout.
  4. Take the leap. Challenge yourself to explore the things you’re curious about. If you want to compose, don’t think “I don’t have enough theory knowledge to compose” or “I’m not creative enough”. Just start composing. Put one sound on top of or next to the other.
  5. Find or make your own community. This is essential to have a sustainable career in what we do.  Find those who share a similar passion, a similar struggle, a similar purpose. Those who nurture your creativity and soul, and those that challenge you to expand your thinking, your art, your listening and your learning. Those who will literally feed you in their own homes and those that you’d love to feed in yours.
  6. Do not complain about the power structures in place without actively working towards challenging or dismantling them. It’s on us to leave things a little better for those who come after.
  7. Whenever you’re asked to do something, whether it’s to play a concert, teach a lesson or write a piece of music, ask yourself what that means to you.  Do not try to “perform” what you think this should look and sound like. Instead, find the way that feels the most authentic to you.
  8. Never let anyone make you feel like you don’t deserve to be in the spaces you’re in or want to be in. Not only do you belong there as much as anyone else, but we desperately need your voice and perspective in these spaces. 
  9. Remember that the things you might feel make you weird or peculiar or like you don’t belong are your superpowers. They’re what make you stand out. Own them, embrace them and run with them. This will be the key to finding your own voice as an artist and as an educator.
  10. Practice listening and noticing deeply as much as you can. Always stay curious. This will open up your imagination to the possibilities around you and will resonate with others you come in contact with.


Congratulations, Longy Class of 2024! As president Karen Zorn said, “We’re all rooting for you.”