Daniel Pearl scholarship winner wants to change society through music

PITTSFIELD, Mass. (AP) — A student who said he got goosebumps the first time he played the violin in an orchestra is this year's recipient of a college scholarship given in honor of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, who was kidnapped and killed in Pakistan in January 2002 while investigating a story on terrorism.

Geivens Dextra, who is scheduled to graduate from Pittsfield High School on Sunday, will use the $2,000 Daniel Pearl Berkshire Scholarship to study music at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

The scholarship has been awarded annually since 2003 to a high school student from the Berkshire Hills region of western Massachusetts who plans to major in journalism or music, Pearl’s passions. Pearl's journalism career began in the region.

“It's really an honor to receive this scholarship for music, a subject that meant so much to Daniel Pearl," Dextra said Wednesday.

Dextra's first formal introduction to music came in the second grade when his mother put him in the after-school music program, Kids 4 Harmony, he wrote in his scholarship essay.

Inspired by a cousin already in the program, he took up the violin and eventually got to play with Bard College's Longy’s Sistema Side-By-Side Symphony Orchestra.

“I can vividly remember getting goosebumps when playing alongside the brass and winds for the first time, and instantly falling in love with orchestral music,” he wrote.

In high school, he performed in the school orchestra and the musical theater pit orchestra. He volunteered as a mentor and worked as a teaching assistant for Kids 4 Harmony, and played in several orchestras and summer programs, including the Boston University Tanglewood Institute.

He also composed a piece of music for “Hear Me,” a documentary about gun violence and drug abuse in Berkshire County.

“Doing this project has opened my eyes to how music can be used to spread awareness in my community and in the spirit of Daniel Pearl, I am eager to take on more opportunities that can make a change in society through music," he wrote.

Pearl, south Asia bureau chief for The Wall Street Journal, was kidnapped and killed in Pakistan in January 2002 while investigating links between Pakistani militant groups and Richard C. Reid, known as the “shoe bomber.” Reid had attempted to blow up a flight from Paris to Miami with explosives hidden in his shoes, a flight that was diverted to Boston.

Pearl began his journalism career at the North Adams Transcript and The Berkshire Eagle in Pittsfield.

The scholarship is funded by contributions from the newspapers as well as Pearl’s friends and former colleagues.