Bridgewater prepared me for the real world. Everyone had a different teaching style, so it forced you to be able to deal with different people in different situations. That’s what the real world is all about.
Founding a music conservatory is not easy, but Greg Fernandes, ’13, had the necessary motivation and personal experience, as well as a Bridgewater State University education.
Rose Conservatory, the result of his hard work, is located in Fernandes’ hometown of Brockton. Named after his mother, it offers orchestral, West African drumming, choral, violin and other programs.
“It feels like the last 20 years of my life all combined into one space – all of my experiences, all of my successes, all of my downfalls, all of my education,” he said.
Fernandes’ path to BSU took a few twists and turns. As a child, he studied the violin and piano, only to discover that made him a target of bullying in high school. Wanting to feel accepted, he fell into the gang lifestyle and sold drugs, falsely believing that was the cool thing to do.
“It got to be exceptionally traumatic and really hard on a young kid figuring out life,” he said.
Yet Fernandes never completely abandoned music and played the violin at night. After time in jail for selling drugs, he committed to turning his life around.
Music was the mechanism to accomplish that. He spent time with family in Florida, where he taught at a Boys and Girls club. His mom was a music educator and Fernandes always wanted to follow in her footsteps. But his options were limited without a music degree.
After she died in 2010, Fernandes recommitted himself to finishing his education and returned to BSU, a university he had briefly attended after high school.
“Bridgewater prepared me for the real world,” Fernandes said. “Everyone had a different teaching style, so it forced you to be able to deal with different people in different situations. That’s what the real world is all about.”
His professors remember him as a driven man.
“He was a determined student,” recalled Dr. Sarah McQuarrie, a music professor who was his advisor. “He had a plan, and nothing was going to stand in his way.”
Fernandes appreciated the support of McQuarrie and Dr. Donald Running, and the tough classes with professors such as Dr. Steven Young, that made him a better musician.
“The music department wasn’t huge, but it was a very tight-knit, supportive, encouraging environment,” Fernandes said. “There were times when I did feel like giving up, but there were lots of staff and students who really had my back.”
He reflects that the conservatory he founded is the kind of place he desperately needed growing up as a teenager whose peers did not embrace his musical talent.
“How many other musicians have we lost that way?” he wondered.
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