Decibel Plays the Fenway

By: Steven Holtzman, President and CEO, Decibel Therapeutics Inc.

Opening Night: Decibel Plays the Fenway
May 18, 2017

Thank you and welcome to all of you: our distinguished guests, my fellow Decibel colleagues and bandmates, and our friends and esteemed colleagues from the academic and industrial life sciences. I know that many of you had to take the long trek by Uber from Longwood, or ford the Charles from Cambridge to get here. We appreciate the effort and hope you discovered that we are not that far away and are reasonably accessible for future meetings and collaborations.

We all, as human beings, move through our lives inhabiting spaces. These spaces deeply influence the quality and meaning of our lives. They either reflect our values and facilitate achieving our hopes and dreams or fail to embody those values and hinder the realization of those hopes and dreams.

In the immediate post-World War II period, urban redesign and development embodied a view of modern life in which our working selves and personal lives selves are radically disconnected. Downtown working centers were designed to consist of office buildings and streets which turn into barren canyons, bereft of human habitation, after 5pm and on the weekends. Living spaces became collections of tightly bunched, high rise apartment complexes. Commerce and restaurants were consigned to strip malls. This disconnection of the integral sources of our identity creates a sense of isolation, anxiety, and anonymity.

What was lost in this vision of the modern American city?  The concept of a neighborhood.

A neighborhood is a place in which the different parts of our lives are integrated. It is a place in which people work and play, feverishly create and relax, eat and sleep, laugh and cry, and love.

The clarion call to re-think urban redesign and development, using as its lynchpin the concept of the neighborhood, came with the publication in 1961 of Jane Jacob’s seminal work, The Death and Life of Great American Cities.

Key to the realization of Jacob’s vision of the modern urban neighborhood were:

  • Mixed primary uses, activating streets at different times of the day
  • Short blocks, allowing high pedestrian permeability
  • Buildings of various ages and states of repair
  • Density but also oases of green spaces

We owe it to the vision and boldness of the Samuels organization that we gather here today in a reborn Fenway, a reborn neighborhood. It is a neighborhood with a rich history of creativity, particularly in the field of music.

Along with the spoken word, music is a primary means of self-expression, communication, community formation, mutual inspiration in which we can take each other to another level, improvisation and innovation, and the collaborative creation of works of beauty and meaning unobtainable to an individual working alone.

But to fully participate in all that music has to offer, one must be able to hear.

With this perspective in mind, Decibel’s Mission is to:

Translate cutting-edge science into breakthrough therapeutics that protect, repair, and restore hearing, in the service of:

  • people affected directly or indirectly by impaired hearing;
  • our employees;
  • our shareholders; and
  • society at large

Thus, it is only fitting that Decibel should choose the Fenway for here we have found a neighborhood and have designed and created a space in which the men and women of Decibel can fulfill their potential, flourish both as individuals and as members of a community, and create new therapies that will enable and enhance the experience of meaningful sound. In so doing, we will realize Decibel’s Vision of:

A world in which the benefits and joys of hearing are available to all

I don’t want to keep you further from the good food and drink that our gracious hosts have provided, so please let me conclude with three quick thoughts:

  • First, thank you to Samuels, the designers, the builders, and the fleet of people that brought our space to fruition; and, more importantly, thanks to all of you for celebrating and embracing the rebirth of the Fenway.
  • Second, thanks to all of you for being here to help kick off Decibel’s Boston tour. We aim to be here for the long run.
  • With that, I strongly advise you not to eat and run. My dear friend Thaddeus Hogarth from the Berklee college of music is in the house. Thaddeus is a fabulous guitarist, extraordinary harmonica player, and one awesome dude.


Thanks again.

Steven Holtzman
President and CEO
Decibel Therapeutics