The 12th Annual Herbert Randolph Kiser Memorial Scholarship

BCC News

BCC congratulates the 2023 winners of the 12th Annual Herbert Randolph Kiser Memorial Scholarship, Jillian Ryan and Rory Li!

The Herbert Randolph Kiser Memorial Scholarship was established to help young people realize their full potential. Herbert Randolph "Randy" Kiser was born in Waltham, Massachusetts in 1956.  Randy received the majority of his formal education in the Boston Public Schools and last attended Boston English. In May 1974, Randy was returning home from work when he was approached by two young men on Gallivan Boulevard near Neponset Circle in Dorchester.  Randy’s life was taken as a result of a racially motivated attack.

The scholarship was established for the singular purpose of helping a young person realize their full potential since Randy is unable to realize his. Recipient(s) are graduating Boston Children's Chorus seniors who are bound for college, who are civically engaged, and who have demonstrated a commitment to diversity and the well-being of humanity. 

This year, two Herbert Randolph Kiser Memorial Scholarships were given:

  • Jillian Ryan received $10,000
  • Rory Li received $5,000

Jillian Ryan

Prompt: BCC’s mission lies at the intersection of choral music education and social justice. How would you describe BCC’s impact on your life and that of your peers?

Journey Through Song
My journey with social justice began when I joined BCC more than a decade ago, and has evolved from discussions about the meanings behind song lyrics to applying those discussions to create change in others’ lives. Last year, after witnessing a decrease in diversity and singer involvement in the organization that was like my second family, I joined BCC’s Group for Equity in Music (GEM) in hopes of helping to revitalize BCC’s mission. With GEM, I
contributed to summer recruitment and outreach programs, which expanded on singer diversity and improved retention, especially among underrepresented groups in the Greater Boston area. We also addressed disparities in singers’ experience with reading music and discussing music theory through a student-led music mentorship program that served dozens of singers.

During my now third year in Premier Choir, our discussions focusing on the Massachusetts Freedom Movement leading up to our concert at the Gardner Museum, Stay Out For Freedom, particularly highlighted how education equity remains a prevalent issue almost 60 years later. As a student at Boston Latin School, the oldest public school in the country and one of Boston’s three exam schools, I have witnessed firsthand the fight to diversify schools that hold disproportionately low numbers of Black and Latino students compared to the district’s student body. The competitive admissions process for these schools gave students with more resources an advantage, highlighting the systemic barriers that keep under-represented communities from accessing quality education. Reflecting on education disparities in the greater Boston area and observing how students thrive without them contributes to my understanding of the pressing urgency of working toward undoing these disparities.

In BCC, discussions are the bond that help us achieve a trusting and close-knit community. As a section leader, I have the privilege of being a role model and pillar of support for all singers. Fostering an environment where everyone feels heard in cross-cultural conversations has granted me an appreciation for every person’s identity and unique perspectives. When each singer emerges from discussions with a deeper understanding of
themselves and their peers, we create a space of belonging where every individual knows they are valued, regardless of their identity, as we work toward developing a more equitable society. As I continue to grow through BCC’s open dialogues, it becomes easier to extend my journey with social justice to other commitments with courage, confidence, and knowledge.

I have been a Girl Scout for as long as I have been in BCC. While BCC’s mission centers around music equity and Girl Scouts’ centers around female empowerment, I have the opportunity to employ social justice work from one organization to propel the impact of my work in the other. As a Girl Scout, I develop projects and lead workshops that contribute to bettering my community, the most recent of which was Girls Connected, a forum that hosted
dozens of middle school girls to encourage exploring their identities through the topics of courage, cooperation, and intersectionality. Years of discussions in BCC prepared me for leading the girls in thoughtful dialogue and my work surrounding music education has only made me more aware of the importance of committing myself to groups that counter the disparities in our community.

As a woman aspiring to go into mechanical engineering, a field with more than six men for every woman, I am appreciative to be part of an organization that empowers women to become confident leaders and agents of change. Within Girl Scouts, I aim to challenge systemic barriers, adjacent to the ones I address within BCC, that limit access to opportunities for girls. Through Girls Connected, among other projects, I hope to offer support for younger girls and set an example for how they can reach their full potential by searching for strength within themselves, despite obstacles society may throw their way.

Inspired by my work in GEM advocating for music education access, I began volunteering as a student leader in my school’s music department during my junior year. As a student leader, I offer one on one instruction and assistance to dozens of students in various choir ensembles. Assisting my peers and underclassmen with challenging repertoire has been a rewarding way to give back to my community and work towards ending education disparities in music through providing resources they may struggle to find elsewhere.

Music has given me so much in my journey with social justice, so to take this mission to the next step, I began my Gold Award service project, aiming to earn the highest Girl Scout award by establishing a sustainable project to further my work with music education. Currently, I am creating a program at my school to provide easily accessible music education resources for students.

Though these actions are only a small dent in reversing education disparities in our community, the positive impact I am able to make on the people I connect with motivates me to continue exploring my role in fighting for social justice. Music through BCC has been unwaveringly supportive and undeniably transformative throughout my eleven years here, and I hope every child has equal access to opportunities like this. As my journey with these issues is just beginning, I am grateful to BCC for opening my eyes to the intersectionality of music education and social justice that has fueled my initiative to work towards change. 

Rory Li 

Prompt: BCC’s mission lies at the intersection of choral music education and social justice. How would you describe BCC’s impact on your life and that of your peers?

Colored Lenses
To be able to speak is a privilege. I have known that since I was very young. Growing up with my autistic, non-verbal older sister taught me that not everyone could advocate for themselves the way society demands them to. My sister’s voice could not reach the people around her. However, I learned to listen by watching her facial expressions and recognizing her body language. By listening, watching, and trying, I could speak up for her. When I first came to that realization, at only seven years old, it felt like I'd found my purpose. I had a voice in this world, a freedom I did not want to take for granted.

My recognition of this privilege was only the first step. My entire life until and beyond that moment consisted of middle-class, suburban, white-dominated towns, where I was raised heavily sheltered from the challenges of many communities just a few miles from my own home. I did not know that there were people in my country who struggled to get an adequate education or pay for healthcare services, despite how prevalent these issues are in our society. Although my family faced a series of challenges in trying to find the necessary resources to support my sister, and I grappled with blatant racist remarks from kids at school, I did not yet understand how rooted these prejudices were in our world. Looking back, I do not think I would have for many years to come if not for the Boston Children’s Chorus.

Perhaps it sounds cheesy, but the first time I stepped into BCC headquarters, I knew it would change my life forever. Music has been a part of my life since before I can even remember, but when I auditioned for the Boston Children’s Chorus very soon after moving away from my old home, I was terrified. With no friends, no community, and no sense of belonging, I prayed that BCC could fill the empty voids in my heart. Now, almost eight years later, I can say without a doubt that they fulfilled that wish.

BCC has given me a place to use my voice. At my house, there was never space or time for me to process my emotions or express them with the constant, daunting task of taking care of my sister as she struggled with autism and alopecia. BCC taught me to put language to my confused feelings. I found a safe space to share my thoughts and concerns, where they were embraced with care and support. In addition, not only could I use my voice for myself, but I could use it for others, too. At BCC, I learned about racial injustice throughout history more than I ever had at school. From reading the words of Langston Hughes to listening to Martin Luther
King Jr. across many years of social activism teaching, BCC empowered my fellow singers and me to learn about the raw, brutal history of our nation that many public education systems shy away from. I can still remember my first MLK tribute concert- how little I was, how little I truly understood, and how much admiration I felt for the powerful Premier Choir singers on the front lines of our fight for equality.

The older I became and the higher I moved through the ensembles, the more I learned about the world and our society. Unlike my hometown- where topics like systemic discrimination were shielded by layers upon layers of bubble wrap- at BCC, I could dive into the unequal distribution of Black and Latinx communities in impoverished areas. I could have powerful discussions about the treatment of neurodivergent individuals in public schools and the lack of appropriate resources or representation for their voices. Where I was used to stubborn ignorance and school and home, differing perspectives were welcomed at rehearsal. Everyone spoke, and everyone listened. For all of us, BCC was a home away from home regardless of race, financial status, gender, disability, and beyond. I’ve had the honor of supporting one of my greatest friends as they figured out their gender and sexuality over the course of all eight years we spent together at BCC. Watching them live as their true authentic self at rehearsal in ways they cannot at home is one of many heavy, yet warm reminders that BCC is truly a refuge for us all. We found a sense of safety and comfort in each other’s presences that could not be found anywhere else and were able to share it with others through our performances as a choir. The growth I experienced not only as a singer surrounded by incredible musicians and opportunities, but also as a sheltered child seeing the world through colored lenses for the first time, has shaped my beliefs, my passions, and my future.

My interest in healthcare arose from witnessing my sister’s struggles with services and accommodations, but I attribute my dedication to public health policy to the Boston Children’s Chorus. Coming into the end of my sophomore year, stuck in the pandemic, I did not even know what public health was. The person who first brought it into my life, and who would inspire me to run for Premier Choir president the following year, was Neha Saravanan. One of the choir presidents during my junior year and one of the most hardworking and determined people I have ever met, her campaign speech opened my eyes to public health, altering the course of my future for years to come. As an incoming public health major at Johns Hopkins University this fall, and one of the current Premier Choir presidents, I am honored to say that I have followed in her footsteps. The role models I have had the privilege of looking up to at BCC have taught me what it means to be a leader and how to use my voice to fight for what I believe in. Words are not enough to express the love and gratefulness in my heart for the Boston Children’s Chorus and its impact on me throughout these past eight years. This community, transcending all of the barriers that separate us in society, has truly changed my life.

Prior Scholarship Recipients

  • Jillian Baker
  • Allyssa Almeida
  • Sabrina Marzouki
  • Kevin Chan
  • Nafisa Wara
  • Jessie Rubin
  • Ana Mejia
  • Emmaline Dillon
  • David Blitzman
  • Leo Kotomori
  • Alex Lee-Papstavros
  • Carrie Shao
  • Austin Moore
  • Sophia Bereaud
  • Hal Cox 
  • Matthew Auguste
  • Elizabeth Rozmanith
  • Shantel Teixeira
  • Branden Garcia
  • Grace Wagner
  • Abigail Gauch
  • Neha Saravanan
  • Erica Weinreich
  • Simone Isabelle

About Herbert Randolph Kiser

Herbert Randolph Kiser was born in Waltham, Massachusetts in 1956.  Herbert, affectionately called Randy by his family and friends, received the majority of his formal education in the Boston Public Schools and last attended Boston English.  

On May 15, 1974, Randy was returning home from work when a car occupied by two young men approached him on Gallivan Boulevard in Dorchester. One of the young men exited the vehicle and a brief altercation ensued. 

Most, unfortunately, Randy’s life was then taken. 

The young man shared that it was solely out of racial hatred that he ended Randy's life. Randy was 18 years old at the time. 

The Herbert Randolph Kiser Memorial Scholarship was established for the singular purpose of helping a young person to realize their full potential since Randy was unable to realize his.

The annual scholarship was founded in 2006.

Randy was raised in a family that believes fervently in the value of all people.  Believing deeply in the mission of the BCC organization, the scholarship chose BCC as its home in 2012. 

Since then, 24 graduating seniors have received scholarships, totaling more than $76,000. 

Past Scholarship recipients have attended or are currently attending such colleges and universities as The University of Southern California, Norte Dame, Ithaca College, Elon, Clark, UMASS, Harvard, Boston University, and Berklee College of Music. 

Randy's family is committed to social justice, fairness, inclusion, diversity in all of its forms, and supporting all efforts in support of peace and reconciliation in society.