This past Saturday on February 28, over 2,000 attendees packed Zellerbach Hall for TEDxBerkeley, an independently organized TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) event. Centered around the theme of wisdom, compassion, and connection, this year’s TEDxBerkeley featured 21 speakers and performances on an array of topics, including Ebola, forgiveness, computing literacy and gender equity, and happiness.
My friend, Erin Roberts, curator of TEDxBerkeley, and her TEDx team, had been working hard all year to coordinate the event, and it was exciting to see everything come together so beautifully. As a volunteer for TEDxBerkeley, I had the opportunity to see some of the behind-the-scenes aspects, as I served lunch to attendees, transported heavy items around Zellerbach Hall, and assisted with security backstage. It was my first time in the backstage of Zellerbach, and it was an amazing experience meeting the speakers, cheering them on before and after their talks, and seeing their warm interactions with each other.
One of my favorite talks of the day was by Viviana Guzman, a professional flutist. She lit up the stage with her vibrant personality and presence, as she sauntered out while playing an airy rendition of “The Pink Panther” theme song on her flute. The New York Times has described Viviana as “an imaginative artist,” and her most recent recording was nominated for a Grammy award. Viviana has also performed in 123 countries and all 7 continents. For her talk at TEDxBerkeley, she introduced and played a few flutes from around the world, including one from Tahiti that is played by blowing air through the nose. The music emanating from that instrument had a light, lilting quality. Viviana said with a smile in her voice that the instrument came with a warning not to play during allergy season. She also played a jade flute instrument from China, while a slideshow of photographs that she’d taken of the Great Wall accompanied her music.
In addition to Viviana’s beautiful playing, her talk resonated with me. She shared how she was born with bilateral hip dislocation and was in a body cast during childhood. She had a tenacious spirit, and despite the hospitals, body casts, crutches, and wheelchairs, she persevered in her desire for music. When doctors told her that she would never walk, she learned to swim instead, and she became a national champion in her age group for butterfly. Her courage and resiliency was inspiring, and Viviana encouraged the audience to practice gratitude every day.
Viviana Guzman’s talk preceded the final one of the day by Cal alum Steve Wozniak, one of the co-founders of Apple Computer, along with Steve Jobs and Ronald Wayne. Mr. Wozniak mentioned aspects of his undergraduate days at Cal and he had the audience laughing with his anecdotes.
At the culmination of the talks, I journeyed upstairs to the balcony of Zellerbach Hall and admired art summaries of all of the talks, before joining the speakers, tech crew, and TEDxBerkeley core team for more laughter and engaging conversations during the dinner reception.
This was my fourth year volunteering at TEDxBerkeley, and I was filled with enthusiasm and wonder throughout the day. I love learning and interacting with people, and TEDxBerkeley was an amazing mix of both!