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Giant Steps

Mere Steps from the Finish Line


For a Berklee student, four years of study is an education in music that lasts a lifetime. For the college, four years has enabled Berklee to raise over $44 million for its Giant Steps program, Berklee's first-ever capital campaign. There are only a few steps left to reach its $50 million goal.

The response has been remarkable: Berklee has received 16,000 gifts that show the value of music and of Berklee, which during these hard times has been crucial. The college's first priority has been keeping students enrolled through a massive increase in scholarships and financial aid. Without donations to the capital campaign, Berklee would have to postpone its vision for the future. Giant Steps contributions have already begun to pay educational dividends. Here are some of the benefits so far.

As an urban college, Berklee is always short on space. The opening of the new building at 7 Haviland Street in early 2010 finally allowed breathing room and increased visibility for the Liberal Arts, Music Business/Management, and Music Therapy departments. It is also home to the English as a Second Language program, two student publications, and an Africana Studies room. Generous donors supported an endowed music therapy scholarship and resource room and an office for the chair of the Liberal Arts department. "The building will change how we teach, how students learn, and how the faculty interacts," predicts Darla Hanley, the dean of the Professional Education Division.

Berklee students always seek more time and places to practice. One donor wanted to address this issue and funded 90 hours of additional practice-room time a week. Since January 2010, 15 rooms in 150 Massachusetts Avenue have been open on weekends and on weeknights between 1:00 A.M. and 3:00 A.M. Additional gifts have funded a computerized signup system and an analysis of the college's use of practice space. Best of all, the dollars have paid the salaries of students staffing the effort.

You can't provide a great education without nurturing teachers. The Newbury Comics Faculty Fellowship program supports creative projects. Michael Bierylo, an associate professor in the Electronic Production and Design Department, for example, immersed himself in Berlin's cutting-edge electronica scene; Sally Blazar, an associate professor in the Liberal Arts department, traveled widely exploring concepts of identity among cultures; Professor of Guitar Dave Fiuczynski recorded sophisticated microtonal pieces and paid students to perform in the sessions; and several faculty members explored new technological tools to create music.

Berklee has increased travel funds to enable student groups to play on the stages of the Kennedy Center, Newport Jazz Festival, the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival, and elsewhere. A donation from a friend of the college supports touring jazz musicians during this academic year. In addition to gaining invaluable exposure and connections, student musicians become Berklee ambassadors. "The best way for people to know Berklee is to hear our students perform," says Rob Hayes, the assistant vice president for external affairs.

The official Giant Steps campaign has only $6 million to go, and the future is challenging and exciting. Over the next three to five years, we'll continue to work on our strategic plans and cultivate external funding to keep Berklee competitive. We need everyone's help to take the next leap forward.