By Ed Karvoski Jr., Contributing Writer
Grafton – Kristin Turgeon, a 2014 Grafton High School (GHS) alum, is pursuing her dream as a freshman at Berklee College of Music. While studying at the world’s largest independent college of contemporary music, she’s drawing upon inspiration from her first mentor in middle school, chorus director Karen Barkin.
“Mrs. Barkin really brought me out of my shell – musically and as a person,” she said.
When the chorus learned a particular song accompanied with choreography, Kristin acknowledged that she was uncomfortable with the dancing.
“I told her that I was afraid to do the dance moves because I couldn’t see what she was doing,” relayed Kristin, who is totally blind. “Then she took me aside and taught me the dance steps one-on-one.”
Noting that her favorite musical style is rock, Kristin credits her mentor for encouraging her to trust her instincts.
Her musical education continued by participating with the Worcester Children’s Chorus. She also took private vocal lessons with Jeanine Vitale in Northborough.
“She taught me great vocal techniques that I’m still using in my private lessons at Berklee,” Kristin noted.
While a sophomore at GHS, she performed her first rock solo with karaoke tracks at the school’s annual “Rockstock.”
“I did three songs and it was a really great show,” she recalled.
After returning to “Rockstock” in her junior year as solo singer, she decided to express herself differently as a senior.
“Doing ‘Rockstock’ my senior year was my ‘last hurrah’ and it was the best one,” she said. “I sang with a band, which I like much more than performing solo. Each musician brings different experiences and influences to performing the songs.”
Between her junior and senior years at GHS, her musical education progressed to the next level, for which she’s grateful to her mother.
“My mom is a really big advocate of mine when I need help,” she said.
Her mother, Teri Turgeon, has served as a Grafton School Committee member since 2006. She has worked for several years at Perkins School for the Blind, beginning as a teacher of visually impaired. She’s now the school’s director of community programs. During Kristin’s junior year at GHS, Teri learned of a five-week summer program at Berklee.
“For me as a parent, I was thinking about her developing independent living skills, travelling around the city and living on her own,” Teri explained. “Her getting in the summer program was a partnership between myself, Grafton and the Massachusetts Commission for the Blind.”
As a GHS senior, Kristin needed to do an independent study and wanted it to be music related, Teri noted.
“In part of my work, I found a resource, the Miami Lighthouse for the Blind,” she said. “Kristin took an online braille music class as an independent study music elective. Grafton allowed her to use it as a credit and provided her with the teacher, Steve Trombley, overseeing the class.”
After an early acceptance to Berklee, Kristin returned for a second year to the summer program.
“Grafton was incredibly supportive by providing orientation mobility in Boston,” Teri said. “They thought about where Kristin was going next and what she needs.”
Attending the summer program was helpful then and now, Kristin noted.
“I’d already been on the campus, so I knew the ins and outs,” she said. “I love living in the city, the independence factor, my classes and the students.”
While aspiring to be a rock singer, Kristin is also considering additional possibilities.
“I’d love to get on the radio,” she said. “I’d make jokes and talk about all the bands that I really like, which I already do anyway.”