Recharging the Power Station

By Roger H. Brown

The city of New York has joined forces with Berklee and Pete Muller, a Berklee trustee, in a public-private-nonprofit partnership to establish a center for Berklee in New York at the historic Power Station Studios on West 53rd Street. The facility was most recently known as Avatar Studios. Berklee will operate the studio—where artists like Bruce Springsteen, Paul Simon, Esperanza Spalding, Herbie Hancock, Tony Bennett, Pat Metheny, Lady Gaga, David Bowie, Madonna, Bob Dylan, the cast of the musical Hamilton, and many others recorded iconic albums—while renovating and transforming it into a state-of-the-art recording and video production facility for the city’s music, theater, television, and film industries.

The original name of the studio will be revived as Power Station at BerkleeNYC. The project was spearheaded by trustee Pete Muller, an accomplished singer-songwriter who started out busking in the New York City subways, recently performed at the Montreux Jazz Festival, and is a pioneer in quantitative investing.

This project was made possible through three significant philanthropic gifts—one of which is the largest in Berklee’s history. We believe more will be forthcoming. These will constitute the Berklee New York Fund, which will provide the resources to operate educational programs, renovate and reimagine the studios, and fund other efforts.

This new home for Berklee brings enormous opportunities to expand the college’s presence in New York, and create continuing education, career strategy, and skills acquisition programs for musicians, composers, producers, music business students, and engineers. Other planned programs will explore the intersection of music, dance, theater, and technology; artist incubation; and internships for Berklee College of Music and Boston Conservatory at Berklee students.

There is much work yet to be done to determine an ideal blend of professional recording, educational programming, and community outreach. In the coming months, the facility will undergo a two-phase refurbishment period, financed by the largest philanthropic contribution in Berklee’s history. Stephen Webber, who over the past several years has led the technology programs at Berklee’s campus in Valencia, Spain, will direct the effort to transform the technology and the physical plant, while developing a professional vision and educational programs.

In addition to the studio renovation, the building’s lower level will be converted into a flexible-use practice/performance venue featuring a professional stage and state-of-the-art sound, lighting, and projection equipment. It will also include a virtual reality/augmented reality studio and a video control room that can capture and post-produce video from throughout the building.

Stephen Webber has been named as the executive director of BerkleeNYC, and will contribute to Berklee at large as dean of strategic initiatives. Many thanks go to Webber, senior vice president for finance and administration/chief financial officer Mac Hisey, vice president for innovation and strategy Panos Panay, and Jeff Wilkins, strategic adviser to the Muller family office, for their dedicated work in helping to make this a reality.

We are especially grateful to Pete Muller for his vision in seeing the possibilities of this historic collaboration.