Berklee Today

New Dean of Writing Division Named

  Kari Juusela
  Kari Juusela
  Tim Tew Digital

After a two-year search for the new dean of Berklee's Professional Writing Division, Kari Juusela assumed the post in August. Juusela, a 1977 Berklee graduate, comes to the college from Stetson University in Deland, Florida, where he was associate dean and Almand Chair of Composition. Juusela earned his bachelor's degree in performance from Berklee, his master of music in theory and composition at Georgia State University, and his doctorate at the University of Maryland.

A multi-instrumentalist and prolific composer, Juusela has written music in a variety of genres and styles. His works have won numerous international competitions and awards including the Vienna Full-Length Opera Competition, the International Red Stick Competion, London Chamber Groups Piece of the Year Competition, the San Francisco American Art Song Competition for Composers, and more. Entries in his catalog range from opera, orchestral, and chamber pieces to more experimental explorations for computer-generated tape, electric cello and video, santoor and chamber orchestra, to solo guitar, wind trio, and choral music.

Juusela was born in Finland to a musical family. His father, an accomplished pianist, and his mother, an opera singer, met as music students at the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki. After being stricken with polio, Juusela's father switched from music to a career in finance and took a job at the International Monetary Fund in Washington, DC. He relocated his family to the United States where Kari Juusela spent his youth.

Playing various instruments growing up-including piano, violin, electric bass, and later cello-gave Juusela a range of musical experiences. Like many of his generation, he was drawn to pop music and played in his school orchestra. Attending his mother's rehearsals with the Opera Society of Washington broadened his musical palette. "Like everyone else my age, I was drawn to the music of the Beatles," says Juusela, "but I had also been exposed to the operas my mother was singing. I remember hearing a contemporary opera, Bomarzo, by Alberto Ginastera with choirs singing in quarter tones and a lot of dynamic and rhythmic stuff. I really loved it even though I didn't understand what was going on."

After a stint touring with professional rock bands following high school, Juusela decided to enroll at Berklee. "I loved Berklee and played bass in as many ensembles as I could. I played with Dave Mash's group Ictus and with Mike Metheny and other faculty members and alumni."

Juusela's career plans were interrupted when he was conscripted into the Finnish Defense Forces. "As a Finnish citizen, I had to go into the army," Juusela recalls. "That brought me into a totally different world. While my Berklee friends were doing exciting things and heading off to New York, I was schlepping a gun around in Finland." After a year of service, Juusela returned to America and moved with his wife to Atlanta, Georgia, where he decided to pursue a teaching career. He earned graduate degrees that would qualify him to teach at the college level and landed a faculty position at Stetson University in 1993. After six years as the Director of the Theory and Composition Department, Juusela was named the associate dean of Stetson's music school, where he served until last summer.

As Dean of Berklee's Writing Division, Juusela sees opportunities to further explore his interests in jazz, classical, popular, and world music. "The Writing Division has so many different types of composers on its faculty. To take various influences and create a new musical language through the cross-pollenization of styles would be really exciting to me. With so many diverse teachers, performers, and composers in one spot, Berklee is in a perfect position to lead the world in a synthesis of musical styles. I hope to see students come here and take all of those influences and write music that is truly unique."