Dream Theater Announces Scholarship Fund at Boston's Berklee College of Music: Exclusive

Dream Theater

Dream Theater

Progressive metal band Dream Theater — in celebration of its 35th anniversary — is creating the Dream Theater Scholarship Fund in conjunction with the Berklee College of Music in Boston that will provide money to students. The fund will be headed by Berklee global development officer Mirek Vana and Dream Theater manager Frank Solomon, who together have worked over the past six years on the inititative.

Guitarist John Petrucci, bassist John Myung and former drummer Mike Portnoy formed Dream Theater at Berklee in 1985 while attending the esteemed institution. (The group is rounded out by singer James LaBrie, keyboardist Jordan Rudess and drummer Mike Mangini.) Although they left the college to concentrate solely on the band, their connection and dedication to the school has remained — for instance, former student Eren Basbug had the opportunity to conduct the Berklee Student Orchestra and Berklee Concert Choir during a 2014 Dream Theater concert at Boston Opera House.

“We’re happy to help aspiring young musicians attend the school,” says Petrucci. “We’re especially excited because the scholarship is limited to instruments that we play — guitar, bass, keys, voice [and drums] — and it’s really cool if we can help students who wish to attend make that decision to go. It’s something that we’re all really proud of.”

He’s especially excited for personal reasons. “Berklee is something that is close to me, not only because I went there, but my son graduated there and my wife Rena has her online certificate from there,” explains Petrucci. “Over the years, I’ve met so many young fans that aspire to go there or have gone there. And since we had so many ties to the school, we thought the scholarship would be a great way to help them out financially, if that helps in their decision.” He adds that it feels “so great to be able to give that” because the band scholarship in conjunction with Berklee is the first of its kind. “We’re really excited about it getting started because that’s where our origins were.”

Both Berklee and the band will be soliciting members of their communities to participate in creating the endowment. Says Vana, “We are planning a massive promotion of our partnership with Dream Theater. This is something we are extremely proud of and are in it for the long haul. We created a special web page where interested parties can learn more about this truly groundbreaking scholarship program and also where fans of the band can easily support this effort.”

Mangini taught at Berklee before replacing Portnoy in Dream Theater in 2011. “My experience at Berklee was as much about learning as it was about teaching,” he recalls. For him, being a part of the fund is meaningful in three ways: “Firstly, scholarships give back to people as an act of charity. Secondly, the scholarship targets musicians, which I am. Accordingly, I know how it feels to need, then receive financial help to grow. Lastly, I taught there and I’m in the band and I’m from the Boston area, so I feel proud to be associated with all three.”

Vana notes that the school’s motto is “Esse quam videri,” a Latin phrase that means, “To be, rather than to seem.” Of Dream Theater, he says, “No other band that originated here can better embody this. They have been a driving force in the industry for over three decades and built one of the most recognizable brands in the industry with probably the most die-hard fans. They did it on their own terms and with music they believed in. We hope the time they spent here helped them.”

Dream Theater has sold 3 million U.S. album copies, according to Nielsen Music/MRC Media; the band cites its worldwide sales as 15 million copies. It carved out its following with continuous touring and by embracing alternative means of promotion long before they became de rigueur for music artists, such as social media and extreme accessibility to fans. Dream Theater’s numerous accolades include five top five albums on Billboard’s Hard Rock Albums chart (three of them No. 1s) and 18 titles on the Billboard 200 (five of them in the top 20), as well as two Grammy Award nominations.

Petrucci concludes, “It was important for us because Berklee was a big part of Dream Theater, and we wouldn’t be a band if not for our time there. We also feel this is a good way to support the music business by making sure that other future creators can finish their time at Berklee, as they are the future of the industry.”

[Editor's note: Due to incorrect information supplied to, a previous version of this story erroneously stated that Dream Theater has performed at Berklee College of Music, that other band members besides Mike Mangini have taught at the college and that Dream Theater performed a composition by former Berklee student Eren Basbug. A quote from John Petrucci also has been edited to show that the scholarship fund will support drum students.]