Twice in a Lifetime: Boston Conservatory Student Blake Hopkins Shares the Stage with Harry Connick Jr.
For most young artists, performing for an entertainment icon is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Not so for Blake Hopkins (B.M. '22), a senior voice student at the Conservatory. On October 20, he performed in a master class with renowned singer, pianist, composer, and actor Harry Connick Jr.—but it wasn’t the first time they had been on stage together.
Hopkins was only 10 years old when he first met Connick at the White House, where his glee club from Miner Elementary School in Washington, D.C., had been invited to perform for First Lady Michelle Obama. Connick performed at the same event, and Hopkins remembers with a laugh, “When he came on stage, I was like, ‘Is he famous?’ I love his voice!” When Connick asked for a volunteer to join him to sing “When the Saints Go Marching In,” only Hopkins was brave enough to take the stage. The performance made a splash in the national media, appearing on CNN and The View.
Hopkins has been singing since he was a child in church, musical theater, and, more recently, opera. In coming to Boston Conservatory at Berklee, where he studies voice with Michael Hanley, he was the first in his family to attend college. He was grateful to receive scholarship funding from the Conservatory, and has also received a scholarship from the Patrick Michael McMurphy Memorial Foundation. What truly solidified his choice to attend the Conservatory was the school’s supportive atmosphere. “I loved the environment,” he said. “Everyone is very encouraging of one another.” Of the many performance opportunities he’s had while in Boston, he particularly treasures singing Italian songs in the North End as a freshman and being asked to perform at a U.S. Supreme Court gala during his sophomore year.
The master class with Harry Connick Jr. bookended two pivotal moments in Hopkins’s musical journey. He performed an emotional rendition of “Make Them Hear You” from the musical Ragtime, and retold the story of their first meeting, thanking Connick for the confidence that experience gave him. “You really impacted my life...you saved me,” Hopkins said. “I was bullied really badly, but after that performance, I said to myself, ‘I can conquer anything.’”
Connick was touched by Hopkins’s story and had nothing but praise for his performance and confidence on stage. “I’m just so proud of you,” he said. “You were heard back then and you’re heard now...I just hope that you have a wildly long and successful career, because you really deserve it.”
The master class, open to all Berklee students, was moderated by George W. Russell Jr., chair of the Harmony and Jazz Composition Department at Berklee College of Music. Connick’s visit to the Berklee campus also included a conversation with Berklee President Erica Muhl.