The State of the College

In a September 30 presentation to the members of the Berklee community in Boston and streamed live to Valencia, President Roger H. Brown made a solid case that the health of the college is strong.

Brown compared Berklee to ecosystems found in nature, defining such ecosystems as dynamic communities of living organisms—plants, animals, and microbes—that interact with nonliving components to function as a whole. The Berklee ecosystem includes: Berklee Boston, summer programs, City Music and AMP Up NYC, master’s degree programs, the Valencia campus, Berklee Online, MOOCs, the Berklee International Network, social media, alumni affairs, and Soundbreaking: The Campaign for Berklee.

The Heartland: Boston

Digging deeper into his ecosystem metaphor, Brown stated, “The pond or marsh is [Berklee’s] Boston campus, it’s the heartland.” Speaking of the college’s 11 institutes, Brown cited the Performance Wellness Institute, directed by Kenny Werner. “It helps students to practice more effectively and perform more in the moment in an unconscious way so as to not be wracked by self criticism,” he said.” Given Berklee’s high level of musicianship, Werner’s work helps students rediscover the feelings that originally inspired their love for music, Brown said.

He compared Berklee’s 17 different summer programs to sustaining elements of an ecosystem. “Thirty-one percent of our entering students have come through one of the summer programs, Brown said. “These programs also employ lots of faculty members and generate revenue for the college.”

As well, the college’s urban outreach—the Berklee City Music Network—now reaches 28,000 students and has 47 network partners. Currently there are 68 students attending Berklee on full City Music scholarships. Berklee’s partnership with AMP Up NYC has resulted in the training of 299 certified New York City teachers to utilize Berklee’s PULSE music method in their classrooms. With 41,690 New York public school students, plus the City Music participants, 69,000 students are learning the PULSE methods. “We are getting our way of thinking about music in front of lots of young people,” Brown stated.

Master’s Degree Programs

Berklee now offers four master’s degree programs in Valencia and two in Boston. As well, Berklee Online has partnered with Southern New Hampshire University to offer an MBA in music business and management. “The Valencia campus is also a vital part of Berklee’s ecosystem,” Brown said. “It has done remarkably well, and I would hold it up in comparison against any other entrepreneurial, overseas education venture.” In addition to the four master’s degrees offered there, the study-abroad component has enabled undergraduate students to have an immersive experience abroad while progressing toward their major within Berklee’s unique curriculum.

Los Angeles Campus Possibilities Brown also mentioned that Berklee is exploring the possibility of creating a small Los Angeles campus. “We have relationships with a number of music industry leaders in Los Angeles and have an ad hoc committee,” he said. “We are excited about this and have looked at a potential site. But we are about five years away from figuring this out. It will be a long road.”

Online Learning

Speaking of Berklee Online, Brown said, “We now [offer] six bachelor’s degrees in professional studies in a range of areas. There are 727 students currently enrolled in those programs.” He shared that the majority of students taking courses but not pursuing a degree are between 30 and 45 years old. Many are professionals in nonmusic fields who want to learn about music or are working professional musicians wanting to enhance their musical skills. “We are attracting people who would never come to this physical campus,” Brown said. “And that doesn’t hurt this campus; it amplifies what we are doing here.” Regarding Berklee’s massive open online courses (MOOCs) hosted by Coursera and edX, Berklee has created 18 MOOCS—including one in Spanish. To date, 1.5 million students have enrolled in Berklee’s MOOCs.

Berklee’s International Partners

The college has 19 partner institutions in the Berklee International Network (BIN) in 18 countries teaching the Berklee curriculum. There are currently 179 students on campus that transferred from a BIN school. “The president of the African country of Gabon was on campus yesterday,” Brown revealed. “He wants to create a program in Gabon run by the government that would become a BIN school. For the first time ever, we could have a partner on the African continent.”

Regarding social media, Brown related that videos on the Berklee YouTube channel are approaching 20 million views—more than any other leading American music and culture institution. “Beyond just promoting Berklee, this is a way to feature our students as they build visual and musical portfolios,” he said.

Scholarship Support

Brown spoke of college affordability, and that Soundbreaking: The Campaign for Berklee, has a goal of $100 million with the intention that one-half of that amount will be dedicated to scholarship support for students. Over the past eight years, Berklee has expanded scholarship support dramatically. In fiscal year 2015, the college devoted $44 million to scholarships and financial aid.

Brown said one of the benefits of Berklee’s diverse ecosystem is that the college has become a global laboratory for music exploration with students from 105 countries comprising 33 percent of the student body. The ecosystem fosters innovation as exemplified by Berklee’s Institute for Creative Entrepreneurship, which has brought together MIT computer scientists, Berklee music therapists, and electronic production and design majors to develop marketable ideas to help people learn to reduce stress, get more sleep, and improve athletic performance.

Berklee -TBC Merger

Brown also discussed the merger of Berklee and The Boston Conservatory (TBC). He stated that TBC could enhance Berklee’s ecosystem with its highly regarded classical music, dance, and theater programs. Berklee songwriters interested in musical theater could expand their ideas with access to people versed in movement, dance, choreography, and stagecraft. As well, TBC students could learn much from Berklee’s curricular offerings in contemporary music and technology.

“What is the challenge for the next decade?” Brown asked rhetorically. “I think the big idea for the next century of leadership and management is not creating more monocultures, but more collaborations.” Addressing the faculty and staff members, Brown said, “I think we need to make a commitment to one another to work across departments and areas of the college, and work more closely with alumni and students. We need to tear down some of the monocultural thoughts that dominated 20th-Century thinking and operate more like an ecosystem.”