A Successful Liftoff in Valencia

On July 15, a fresh crop of graduates walked across the stage at the Palau de les Arts Reina Sofia in Valencia, Spain, to receive the first master’s degrees bearing the Berklee imprimatur.
Student Jumping
Photo by Histeria Producciones

A new milestone: 74 graduates receive the first-ever Berklee-issued master’s degrees in Spain.

On July 15, a fresh crop of graduates walked across the stage at the Palau de les Arts Reina Sofia in Valencia, Spain, to receive the first master’s degrees bearing the Berklee imprimatur. Among the many noteworthy aspects of the event is that it took place in Spain and not at Berklee’s Boston campus. In addition, the new graduates who participated in the inaugural year of Berklee Valencia’s one-year graduate programs are an unusually diverse group musically and culturally. They include seasoned professionals, graduates from prestigious international conservatories, and some who earned undergraduate degrees from Berklee’s Boston campus before continuing their educational journey in Valencia. All came in search of a unique cross-cultural, musically rich experience. They arrived as strangers but leave as a tight-knit group, transformed musically and personally.

Upon hearing about the latest developments in Valencia, some questions have come to the minds of Berklee observers. Why Valencia? Why now? Why these majors? In the pages that follow, we’ll shed light on these questions and the contours of the Berklee in Valencia experience.

Pioneer Celebration

In his remarks to the charter class of Berklee Valencia at the July graduation, President Roger Brown stated, “The world’s great innovators, pioneers, entrepreneurs, and artists all have something in common with you: You are prime movers. You had a lot of courage and drive to come join a new program offered in a location new to Berklee.” Brown charged the graduates to bring courage and innovation to their work and not to lose sight of the sense of family that they had developed.

Indeed, the 74 grads from 27 different countries have forged strong musical partnerships and close personal bonds during nearly 11 months working and learning together in the fledgling program. All shared the feeling of accomplishment and camaraderie of explorers after traversing unknown territory together.

Stephen Webber, the program director for the master’s degree major in music technology innovation, also addressed the grads at the ceremony. “This is a young campus,” he noted. “It has the pulsating, youthful energy of a start-up.” Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs/Provost Larry Simpson spoke of the administration’s goal to create something in Valencia that is very different from the educational offerings of the Boston campus. “The programs you have matriculated through didn’t exist before,” Simpson said.

Becoming Truly Global

As with most audacious ventures, there were some bumps on the road to creating Berklee’s second campus. For seven years, parties in Spain and Boston worked tirelessly to see the vision coalesce. President Brown speaks of a 2005 visit to his office by Spanish composer José Mariá Cano as pivotal for solidifying the partnership between Berklee and Valencia. A modern renaissance man, Cano was a member of the Spanish supergroup Mecano and has penned a string of international hits as well as an opera. He is also a celebrated visual artist. Recalling Cano’s visit, Brown says, “He convinced me and others that a collaboration between Berklee and Valencia would be a constructive opportunity.” Fittingly, Cano was the commencement’s guest speaker at the midsummer ceremony.

Before Brown and Cano’s meeting, however, Larry Monroe, as vice president of Berklee’s Office of International Programs, was bringing Berklee to other cultures and had met with people in Spain who hoped Berklee would build a campus in Valencia. After all, Valencia has deep music traditions and a musical association with 200,000 members. Fully half of Spain’s musicians reside in the region. Its proximity to northern Africa, the Middle East, and the rest of Europe could offer musicians in these locales easier access to a Berklee education. President Roger Brown saw the initiative as an opportunity to further develop Berklee’s international profile.