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Berklee News

Make the People Feel Special

A Berklee senior is Bill Cosby's cohost for a night and lives to tell the tale.

By Claire Wadsworth '06
Berklee.edu Correspondent

Claire_cos
Bill Cosby watches while Claire Wadsworth talks to the crowd during the 60th anniversary concert.
Photo by Phil Farnsworth
 

"You may get a call from Bill Cosby," were the words I heard two weeks before Berklee's 60th Anniversary Concert. Bill Cosby would be hosting the Wang Center show, and he had told Rob Rose, Berklee's associate vice president for special programs, that he wanted a student to be his cohost. Rob Rose thought that student should be me.

To say the least, I was stunned. I imagined how exciting it would be for me to get a call from Bill Cosby or even his secretary. Days went by. Friends kept asking, "Hey, did Cosby call?" But the call never came. As the January 28 concert approached, I started to get a little worried. I had some idea of what my duties would be as one of Bill's two personal assistants while he was here, but I still had no idea what I would be doing as his cohost. And I sure didn't know what I was supposed to wear.

It also got my heart racing when I thought about all the musical geniuses that were going to be backstage watching, including the one and only Phil Ramone. I had been a fan of his producing and engineering skills from the first time I heard Billy Joel's "The Stranger," and Paul Simon's "Still Crazy After All These Years." Several other musical heroes of mine were going to be there, too, like Simon himself and Herbie Hancock. I knew this would be a night to remember.

The day before the show, my adrenaline was pumping as I helped students, employees, and faculty set up the backstage area of the Wang and assisted musicians who came in for their rehearsals. It was a long and busy day, and one that I imagined would be very different from the day to follow.

How I managed to get any sleep that night, I don't know, but I did, and the big day had arrived. At 1:30 p.m., we got word that Bill Cosby was on his way to the theater! Sue Arunasalam, another Berklee student, was Bill Cosby's other personal assistant. Together, we waited at the back door, jumping up and down in anticipation of his arrival, rubbing our hands together, and smiling from ear to ear.

He got out of the car wearing a pair of slick sunglasses, a Temple University sweatshirt, Berklee sweatpants, and a brand new pair of white sneakers. And he was hilarious, right from that first moment. Meeting Bill Cosby was exactly how I pictured it, complete with nonstop laughter.

Later, backstage, Rob Rose pulled me aside and suggested that I sit down with Mr. C and go over some of the introductions for the show. I agreed and went right away to find Bill for our first rehearsal. When I was running around trying to find him I noticed that I was started to feel some nervousness and panic.

I finally tracked down Mr. Cosby just after he finished a soundcheck with Gary Burton where they were both playing vibraphone. Moments later, I was sitting in Bill Cosby's dressing room, a few hours before show time, doing our first cohosting rehearsal. I was to introduce the first segment, which would feature works by three alumni composers. When I asked him what I should say, he gave me a somewhat abstract answer.

"You've got to make the people feel special."

When I asked him again, he gave me more direction. But when I gave it a try, I stumbled over my words and said "uh" a few more times than I would have liked. He stopped me with the advice, "You've got to paint the picture." We kept rehearsing, but my mind was so jumbled, I knew I wasn't painting the picture.

The only image I was seeing was myself falling flat on my face, saying the wrong thing, or being completely speechless in front of 3,600 people. Mr. Cosby could see this in my eyes. I heard his voice drop as he looked me right in the eye and asked me if I went to the 2004 commencement. I laughed for a moment and then I saw he was serious. After I told him I wasn't there, he started to say everything he said to that year's graduating class.

Claire_cos2
Photo by
Phil Farnsworth
 
 
"You're thinking right now that you're no good . . . and that everybody thinks you're no good," he said, a self-image similar to the one he said he had of himself when he was an up-and-coming comedian. "Don't let the demonic version of you come out . . . You've got to be you!" It was the boost I needed. Bill Cosby was coaching me right through my nerves. My eyes filled with tears, but I didn't want him to see because I knew that I could get up there and do it. So I pretended to fix my eye makeup and kept on rehearsing.

Finally, show time arrived and there were Phil Ramone and Rob Rose handing Bill and I our microphones. I can't explain what I was feeling during those few moments before I walked on stage, but I can tell you what I was not feeling. Thanks to Bill Cosby, my nerves were set at ease and I was okay with just being me.

"Who are you?" were the first words he spoke to me onstage, pretending to be surprised to see me.

"Hi, I'm Claire Wadsworth." After my friends in the audience made some noise, he spoke again.

"Sounds like there are some people here who know your name . . . well, what's going on here tonight?"

"We're about to hear 60 years of music that the world loves!"

"Sixty years . . . that's a long time. We're gonna be here a while. How long is it going to take to play 60 years of music?"

"Fifteen minutes, Bill."

"Fifteen minutes? Who wrote the music? And who's playing?"

"The composers are Rob Mounsey, Victor Vanacore, and Phillippe Saisse, all Berklee alumni, and it will be performed by Berklee students, faculty, and administrators."

"And who's gonna conduct this?"

"You are, Bill!" Of course he wasn't, but standing right next to the man, I couldn't resist throwing out a wisecrack of my own.

Together we walked off stage to the sound of laughter, and as I reached the wing I saw a smile appear on Phil Ramone's face. Rob Rose patted me on the back and said, "You're doing great." That was the moment I knew the night was going to be a success. Then I felt someone nudge my right arm. It was him, Mr. C, and he had one quick thing to say.

"See Claire, it ain't that bad!"

Claire Wadsworth, a vocalist and keyboardist from Summit, New Jersey, will graduate in May 2006 with a degree in Professional Music. She plans to release her debut CD this fall.


Grand Stand


MusicDish Network Promotes 60's Love Child Astrella-Celeste


MusicDish, an Internet music magazine publisher and artist marketing/development firm, is proud to announce the addition of Pop/Jazz singer Astrella Celeste to the MusicDish Network roster. Combining a variety of online viral marketing strategies, the MusicDish Network will be coordinating a broad campaign in support of her debut album "Blue Star" (the Spanish translation of Astrella Celeste).
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J-Music Distribution describes itself as "the very first European distributor of Japanese music whose activities link Japanese artists and their management, Japanese record companies, and European distributors together to provide a stable framework of distribution from artists to music retail store."

Formed in December 2005, J-Music Distribution representatives brought their business vision to "MIDEM, The World Music Market's 40th Edition" conference in Cannes, France.

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