Forty Years at Berklee: Steve Lipman

By 
Mark Small
August 25, 2010
Steve Lipman

After 40 years of distinguished service to Berklee, assistant vice president of student affairs Steve Lipman retires this month. Working under the college's three presidents over the course of four decades, Lipman has labored tirelessly to bring the best musicians to the college and to raise Berklee's profile domestically and internationally.

Lipman began his long association with the college in 1966 when he enrolled as a music education major. After his graduation in 1969, Lipman had been working as a public school music teacher for a year and a half when Berklee founder Lawrence Berk phoned him.

Lipman recalls, "Larry Berk called me and said, 'I think you need to come in. Berklee is on an upwardly mobile path. Our enrollment is going to mushroom. It's going to be a world-class institution, and I think you'd want to be along for the ride.'" Lipman joined the staff in 1970 to assist the dean of students creating schedules for faculty and students. Simultaneously he was a part-time faculty member teaching harmony, ear training, and ensembles. Lipman later helped Berklee set up an admissions office to handle the increasing number of applications beginning to flow in.

For years Lipman processed applications and sent out acceptance letters to prospective students. "It was a long and exciting period of identifying great talent and watching that talent blossom and grow," he says. In the course of his work, Lipman sent acceptance letters to such notable alumni as Kevin Eubanks, Melissa Etheridge, Juan Luis Guerra, Branford Marsalis, and Steve Vai, to name just a few.

Lipman was also instrumental in launching the Berklee Alumni Representative (BAR) program that organized visits by alumni representatives to high schools and conferences. In conjunction with Gary Burton and Larry Monroe, Lipman launched the Berklee International Network of music schools (BIN) in various countries. Lipman also helped to promote awareness of Berklee by connecting the college with the Grammy in the Schools Program and by establishing a summer concert series on Martha's Vineyard called Vineyard Vibes.

Lipman has seen many changes take place over the 45 years since he was a student. "Today, Berklee students are interested in student clubs, of which there are probably 50 or 60," he says. "There's a student government, a student newspaper, and two student-run record labels. There's also a full complement of academic offerings. There is a far more collegial environment at Berklee today than when I was a student."

Being in the middle of explosive growth at Berklee was professionally fulfilling for Lipman. "I was enormously fortunate," he says. "This is an example of being at the right place at the right time. It has been a very rewarding career. I found it easy to be passionate every single day."

Read the complete interview with Steve Lipman on the Berklee Today website.