Dave Kusek and his team are delivering the Berklee experience to your web browser.
From its programs in Los Angeles and Puerto Rico to its global collaborations with schools in the Berklee International Network, Berklee College of Music has projected itself well beyond its Boston campus. But there are millions of musicians worldwide who for a number of reasons aren't able to take advantage of the opportunities at any of these locations. A new web site is going to change that. With Berkleemusic.com, Berklee classes and other resources will be as close as a keyboard.
"There are thousands of musicians and music educators who want what Berklee has to offer but who can't come here," says Associate Vice President for Berklee Media Dave Kusek. "Berkleemusic.com could be one of the most important things this college has ever done in terms of expanding its reach and making Berklee far more accessible."
Berkleemusic.com is the latest project for Berklee Media, the department of the college responsible for developing new areas of opportunity for Berklee. Berklee Media grew out of the expanded Berklee Press operation, which is responsible for producing and marketing instructional books, DVDs, and videos. All Berklee Media instructional materials are alike in an important sensethey're produced by Berklee faculty using Berklee teaching methodology. They're as unique as the college itself.
"One of the biggest advantages that Berklee has is that our curriculum is established and proven, but still fluid," says Kusek. "This breadth and depth is not available from any other publisher. We don't have to go looking for music methods and lessons that will work, or for really current approaches, or for people who know what they're doing. We have it all right here."
|"There are thousands of musicians and music educators who want what Berklee has to offer but who can't come here."|
Berkleemusic.com is a new web site where musicians, teachers, companies, and other music industry professionals can interact with Berklee faculty by taking certificate-granting courses and master classes. And since vocational development is as important a part of the Berklee experience as the curriculum, Internet users from around the world can also log on to Berkleemusic.com to network, find gigs and jobs, and tap into useful career resources. When you combine Berklee's academics with its occupational services, you have the two areas at the heart of the college's prestige. In conceiving Berkleemusic.com, Kusek and other executives realized that both aspects of the college were essential for the new site. Otherwise, it just wouldn't be Berklee.
"Establishing Berklee Media is a major step forward," says President Lee Eliot Berk, "in linking Berklee closer to the continuing educational needs of our alumni and expanding the ability to provide targeted music education opportunity to many more musicians. In all my years at Berklee, I haven't seen a more complex start-up challenge than that presented by this new venture. I want to thank our trustees for their confidence and support of this exciting commitment, and commend David Kusek and his fine staff for their pioneering achievements."
Recreating a college online isn't as simple as putting html brackets around the Berklee bulletin, of course. Kusek and his Berklee Media staff have been working on Berkleemusic.com for almost three years, and the site is set to be up and running by the fall of 2002. In the beginning, though, some fundamental questions needed to be researched: How will Berkleemusic.com users differ from the students attending Berklee in the flesh? What specifically are they looking for? What topics can be best presented on the web, and what areas of the curriculum will be difficult to teach?
Kusek says that Berkleemusic.com courses will not, at present, be offered for college credit. The goal, rather, is to develop educationally effective multiweek study modules to advance the skills of people with different backgrounds, goals, and schedules. Ultimately, with the experience gained from using the new media educationally, credit course work may be developed, but that would be a project for the distant future. For now, though, the opportunities in noncredit continuing education are enormous.
"There are adults further into their careers who have the time and interest to get back into their music," says Kusek. "That's a great group for us to focus on. There are also music teachers who would love to have access to Berklee for training and skill development, but aside from getting our books, have no easy way to do that."
In addition to serving people who have never been able to take advantage of a Berklee education, Berkleemusic.com also targets those who havealumniand want more.
"We offer continuing education for those who graduated a while ago, like me," says Debbie Cavalier, Berklee Media's director of content and a 1987 Berklee graduate, "and who want to brush up on their arranging skills, or learn to use a new music technology tool such as ProTools or Finale."
While Berkleemusic.com will offer video master classes on topics related to the curriculum at Berklee, what will really exploit the capabilities of the web will be the interactive instructor-led classes. Some of the first courses to be launchedcourses in home-studio production using ProTools, writing music using Finale, desktop music production, and basic music theoryaddress the demands of potential Berkleemusic.com students, who report a desire to keep up with cutting-edge technology and are looking for refresher courses.
"What is important is that the online classes are instructor-led," says Barry Kelly, product marketing manager for Berklee Media. "We've developed an environment where students can interact with each other while also having one-on-one access to instructors."
Berkleemusic.com students study directly with Berklee faculty members. They submit assignments, ask questions, and receive feedback from their instructors. Students and faculty communicate via discussion boards, chat tools, and e-mail. Each class becomes a community of online learners who progress through the content and learn from each other.
These few classes are just the beginning. Berkleemusic.com provides many unique courses, particularly in areas in which Berklee is one of only a few collegesif not the only onecapable of offering them.
"There are aspects of Berklee's curriculumproduction, writing, performance, music therapythat are really unique," Kusek says, "that you can't get at a conservatory, that you can't get at a university or community college."
Berkleemusic.com's online career center hosts a variety of resources that extend the learning experience and stimulate personal and professional growth. Musicians can post gigs, review salaried job listings from across the industry, access career development resources, and make the most of interactions with like-minded artists, performers, educators, and recording professionals.
"It's not just about learning and classroom stuff, but also about professional development and practical experience that in combination give people a real shot at a meaningful life in music," says Kusek.
Berkleemusic.com members can also sign up for electronic agents that will search the databases regularly for what they are interested in. They will also be able to promote themselves using the web's multimedia capabilitiesbios, reviews, tour calendars, photos, MP3s, links to related sitesand access resources such as sample resumes and contracts, and tips on interviewing and auditioning. After all, part of a Berklee education is helping students find a place to put it to work.
"Having instant access online to current career information will put students at the front of the line for the best opportunities," says Executive Vice President Gary Burton.
Berkleemusic.com is going to be introduced to the public in a number of ways, including advertising, direct mail, music media, and the word of mouth generated by the Berklee community. Strategic partnerships with companies such as Coda, Digidesign, Guitar Center, and Numark will ensure that the word gets around. And once the buzz gets out there, the demand will take over.
"Berklee can look back right now and see how it helped shape the individuals that made a difference in the music of today," Kusek says. "Berkleemusic.com is another way that we can shape the future of music and musicians working together into the next few decades. People are hungry for this."