In the Spotlight: Clara Barbera

Clara Barbera is the Director of Student Affairs at Berklee Valencia and plays a major role in making sure that students have an incredible and fulfilling time as they make the transition to Valencia, Spain. ProjectNextUp’s Student Ambassador at Berklee Valencia, Zoe Schneider, spoke with Clara about her love for dancing, leaving that particular professional world to enter another one that proves to be exactly where she wants to be. 

ProjectNextUp: Tell us a little bit about yourself. How did you get here?

Clara Barbera: My background is in dance. I was a soloist with the English National Ballet in London before joining Rambert Dance Company as a contemporary dancer. I lived in London for 15 years, dancing full-time for these companies while finishing a BA in Business Studies. After this, I decided it was time for me to reconnect with my roots and take things one step further. I enrolled in a Masters in Arts Administration by the Instituto Complutense de Ciencias Musicales (Universidad Complutense) in Madrid where I was lucky enough to learn about the project of Berklee in Valencia. I fell in love with everything about it and when the opportunity finally arose to join the team in November 2011, I took it.

The past five years have been a whirlwind of incredible experiences. I have been lucky enough to learn a great deal from students, staff, and faculty from all over the world, and to share life experiences that have helped shape who I am today. It’s been six years since retiring from full-time dancing. I could not be more thankful for the opportunities that I've had access to, and to have been able to join this project exactly when I did, helping it morph into what it is today in my role as Director of Student Affairs. I also have the privilege of teaching the Movement for Musicians class, which keeps me in touch with dance on a regular basis, and where I have the chance to work with with various students, and explore movement as an art form directly related to music. 

PNU: What’s one challenging project, and how did you get through it?

CB: By far, the most challenging project I have been involved in was finding a worthwhile purpose after dance. Moving back to Spain after so many years in the UK and preparing to retire from full-time dancing at the peak of my career were the two toughest decisions I have had to make to this day. I went through a major identity crisis at both a personal and professional level and was only able to get through it with patience and determination, trying to hold tight to the belief that one day, I would look back to those decisions as the only ones that could work for me.

PNU: This industry is constantly changing and now more than ever you really have to stand out. How do you stand out?

CB: I always believe that if you work hard and give your all to whatever it is that you are dedicated to, you will get to where you want to get. I say this now, but it only hit me later on in life that no one has the power to control every situation and that you have to be ok with that. As long as you are honest, work hard, passionate, committed and an overall good person, you have an opportunity to make a difference. That’s regardless of whether that difference is on the macro level, as the CEO of a major company, or on what may appear to be a micro level with your daily one-on-one interactions. Those are just as important. 

As long as you are honest, work hard, passionate, committed and an overall good person, you have an opportunity to make a difference.

PNU: Who has been your mentor?

CB: On a holistic level, my mother has undoubtedly been my mentor throughout my life. She has guided me every step of the way, especially when I had to make some of the most crucial decisions in my life at a very young age. As I continued to mature, she definitely got me thinking, made me believe that I was able to achieve whatever I set my mind to achieve if I put in the effort, and got my back when I most needed it. I appreciate her and all she has done to achieve all she has achieved.

I consider myself lucky to have many people I admire and look up to as close friends and colleagues. If I were to think of a collective of people who continuously inspire me and force me to seek a deeper understanding of Dance as an art form this would be the New Movement Collective. But there are a fair number of people in my life who I consider to be mentors in one aspect or another.

PNU: Which artist shares similar values with you?

CB: I believe I share similar values to a number or artists out there. If I were to name one, I consider Tamara Rojo to be an example of hard work, determination and assertiveness — all of which I think are paramount in order to lead a successful professional life.

PNU: When was the moment you realized this is what you want to do?

CB: When I started working for Berklee College of Music, I was not expecting to be able to fill the void that leaving professional dancing had left in me. I soon started to find ways to be close to the students and artists here, to have the chance to talk to them about their own understanding of what is like for them to be an artist, to watch them perform, to engage in some deeply insightful conversations. I even get the chance to participate in some inspiring projects. To this day, I still cannot believe I was given a second chance to feel fulfilled. Being a part of the development of our students, supporting them through their time with us here as they pursue different levels of education in a creative industry, and ensuring that their experience at Berklee and in Valencia prepares them for a successful future — both personally and professionally —  is proving to be truly rewarding.

PNU: What's that song on your playlist you are guilty of listening to on repeat? (And you still don't get tired of it.)

CB: I have many songs from all different genres that I never get tired of! Elusive by Lianne La Havas has been on repeat. Come to My Door by Jose James is also a new favorite of mine. My all-time favorites include Ex Factor by Lauryn Hill, anything by Radiohead and the entire Thom Yorke discography.

Being a part of the development of our students, supporting them through their time with us here as they pursue different levels of education in a creative industry, and ensuring that their experience at Berklee and in Valencia prepares them for a successful future — both personally and professionally — is proving to be truly rewarding.

PNU: What do you think is the biggest challenge women in music face?

CB: The biggest challenge for any woman wanting to pursue and succeed at “life" is balancing a solid professional life with motherhood. I am not a mother, but as I mentioned earlier, I have been blessed with one who has raised me and my brother to believe that if you work hard, you’re honest, and take risks, you can achieve self-fulfillment. Even though my mother is the hardest working person I have ever known, she showered us with all the love and care possible, never missing any of the important events in our life as we were growing up. I am still unclear as to how she managed to do so.

PNU: How can music industry leaders empower young women aspiring to pursue a career in music?

CB: I think it is important to remind leaders that they should seize the opportunity to grow their teams heterogeneously, having people — men and women —  from different backgrounds and with different beliefs will undoubtedly enhance their team´s ability to be efficient, creative, innovative and global. It is imperative they nurture young women by not only giving them the necessary tools, but also the very needed "space for growth" that will allow them to access — and succeed at — careers in every possible professional field.

PNU: What's the one thing you would tell your 15-year-old self?

CB: Trust yourself. Don’t stop questioning yourself and life. Always want to learn and grow, but don´t forget that you are valuable and worthwhile just as you are. 

PNU: If you could tweet your purpose in 140 characters or less, what would it be?

CB: My current purpose is to live my life to its fullest. Every moment, every person, every situation. Everything you encounter — whether good or bad — is worth your full attention, as it will likely help you grow.  

Zoe Schneider