Reaching Out

In addition to offering world-class musical training, Berklee’s mission includes developing and nurturing the professional and personal growth of our students. In 2012, thanks to the generosity of two donors, Berklee established the Reach Out initiative to address issues of substance abuse, sexual assault prevention, and mental health awareness. These issues can affect individuals during their time as students and in their professional lives in the music industry. Reach Out echoes the call throughout the country for more prevention efforts to address these important issues.

Reach Out was conceived as a community-based effort that would blend ideas from the Student Affairs area, including the Counseling and Advising Center and the offices of Student Affairs, Human Resources, and Housing. Additional support came from the offices of Development and Institutional Advancement.

In the summer of 2012, a professional consultant and committee members developed a strategy to roll out the initiative. The intent was to focus on the student experience and encourage maximum student awareness and involvement. During new-student orientation in 2012, the committee gave two presentations: Berklee Chooses (a drug and alcohol abuse prevention program) and Sex Signals (a program to promote awareness of sexual assault and dating violence). The committee also sponsored training events for housing resident advisers and for peer advisers who act as academic mentors for new students. The presentations were well attended and generated important student participation.

A broader presentation was developed to feature a high-profile figure from the music world speaking openly about the warning signs of alcohol and substance abuse and their effects on a career in music. With the help of Bass Department Chair Steve Bailey, Dave Ellefson, the bassist for Megadeth, was invited to campus for the presentation “Shredding Like a Rock Star on and off the Stage.” Bailey conducted a 90-minute interview with Ellefson in front of a capacity crowd in the David Friend Recital Hall on January 30, 2013, where the bassist candidly described his life on the road and how the touring lifestyle led him to choices that had profoundly negative effects on his health, relationships, and music.

Ellefson returned in the fall 2013 semester to present a second time, to another packed house. His two visits and encouragement have prompted many students to consider their lifestyle choices.

In March of 2013, we brought onboard Leah Driscoll ’03, a part-time program coordinator and licensed clinical social worker. In addition to coordinating Reach Out’s programming and clinics, Driscoll meets with referred students individually and in small groups using an intervention called BASICS (Brief Alcohol Screening and Intervention for College Students), with the goal of reducing risky behavior and educating students about the harmful consequences of drug and alcohol use. She also connects students and parents to resources in the community, including Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous. Additionally, in conjunction with the Office for Diversity and Inclusion, Reach Out continues to train student leaders to identify potentially risky behavior in their fellow students and to create awareness about substance use, mental health stigma, and violence.

In the future, we hope to increase Reach Out’s visibility in the Berklee community through online educational platforms that educate students about sexual assault, domestic violence, and substance abuse. In the spring of 2014, we will provide programming on eating disorders and body image issues.

We welcome all members of the Berklee community who would like to join the committee to send an e-mail to reachout@berklee.edu. This initiative promises to benefit Berklee students during their college years and beyond.