More Stories Behind 160 Massachusetts Avenue

Sometimes seeing is believing. Walking around the unfinished studios of the 160 Massachusetts Avenue building, trustee Bill Kaiser looked past construction clutter in the technology center and envisioned the masterpieces that these blank canvases would soon become. A self-proclaimed tech junkie with his own meticulously designed home studio, Kaiser lit up as he passed box upon box of state-of-the art equipment ready to be installed. He was inspired but conflicted.

The Ark and The Bridge

Kaiser hadn’t previously considered making a gift by naming a room in Berklee’s new 160 Massachusetts Avenue building. But he was drawn to its beautiful studios and inspired by the impact they would have on the Berklee community, on Boston, and through technology, on Berklee’s campus in Valencia, Spain. And then it came to him that a donation would be the perfect way to honor the two most influential people in his life: his parents. The gift would combine four of his greatest passions: music, education, technology, and family.

“Our students are some of the most creative and talented people on earth, and we wanted to have facilities worthy of them.”
—Berklee president Roger H. Brown

As the technology center neared completion, Studio 2 became “The Ark,” in honor of Donald H. Kaiser, Bill’s father. “Dad has loved singing, performing, and listening to music his whole life,” Kaiser observes. “He continues to share his love of music with his children and grandchildren.” The Ark is 1,400 square feet, and Berklee’s second-largest recording studio. It features a Neve 88RS console with 48 channels and automation, a Bosendorfer seven-foot grand piano with Disklavier capability, and space for some 30 musicians. (See photos on page 23.)

Studio 3 became “The Bridge,” in honor of Barbara L. Kaiser, Bill’s mother. “Mom was often whistling and humming around the house,” Kaiser recalls. “She has supported our father by attending hundreds of his band concerts during their 70-plus years of marriage.” The Bridge features 1,045 square feet of recording space and is especially suited for small-ensemble recordings. It features an SSL Duality Console, a Yamaha C7 grand piano with Disclavier capability, and space for 12 to 15 musicians.

Kaiser is just as impressed by the studios’ beauty as he is by their technology. “In a beautiful studio like The Ark or The Bridge, there’s a juxtaposition of technology and design that feeds my soul. You don’t usually get those two things together. [Walters-Storyk Design Group] created visual perfection in addition to technical perfection.” Kaiser imagines that students and faculty alike will be glad to spend many hours in these inviting state-of-the-art spaces.

Berklee honored Kaiser and his generosity during a dedication ceremony of the The Ark and The Bridge in May. 

The Shames Family Scoring Stage

Current chair of Berklee’s Board of Trustees, Jeff Shames, has served on the board since 2004. Shames’s visionary leadership has guided Berklee through several pivotal projects, including Berklee Valencia, Berklee Online, and 160 Massachusetts Avenue. His participation on the board’s campus planning committee was influential in turning Berklee’s vision for its first purpose-built facility from a dream into a reality. When Jeff recently announced his commitment to a new capital gift, the college was delighted to recognize his contribution through the largest studio in the college’s history. 

The Shames Family Scoring Stage is 2,200 square feet and can host up to 50 musicians. It has a large-scale analog recording console (Neve 88RS) with 60 channels and automation, a Steinway D nine-foot grand piano (another first in the college’s history), complete wiring for surround sound formats, and recording to picture capability (for film scoring and contemporary writing and production majors). 

In addition to this gift, Shames has also been generous to the Berklee City Music Program, the Berklee Fund, and Berklee’s last capital campaign, Giant Steps. 

The Boch MCL Lab

Ernie Boch Jr. ’82 is perhaps best known for his success as the president and CEO of Boch Enterprises, his auto business empire, but he is also a talented musician. Boch can attest that much has changed at Berklee since his days as a student. He had the opportunity to envision and implement many of those changes during his tenure on the board of trustees from 2005 to 2011. With his recent capital gift, recognized through the Boch Mastering/Critical Listening Lab (Boch MCL Lab, for short), Boch continues to make an impact on his alma mater and helps to ensure that Berklee remains a leader in contemporary music education.

The Boch MCL Lab is a 350-square-foot room with high-resolution stereo and surround-sound monitoring that will support mastering and critical listening curriculum and activities. Boch has been generous to the Berklee Fund, Berklee City Music Program, the Beantown Jazz Festival, and through scholarship opportunities.

The Fitness Center

Berklee has also received support from friends of the college for this exciting project. Fred Gretsch, president of the Gretsch Company, and his wife Dinah, company vice president and CFO, have long been generous to Berklee, supporting music business majors through the endowment of the Jimmie Webster scholarship which is awarded to an outstanding student each year. When they learned that Berklee would create its first building from the ground up, they offered early support, recognizing the impact that it would have on the students and the community. Ultimately, the student fitness center on the fourth story of the building inspired them. The Gretsch Fitness Center features treadmills, ellipticals, free weights, a stair climber, rowing machine, and an expansive view that stretches to the Fenway neighborhood and beyond. Students are grateful to have an outlet to exercise their bodies in addition to their minds. 

The Gretsch Company also generously donated drum sets (with cymbals donated by Zildjian), for practice and rehearsal rooms in the buildings, ensuring that percussion students have access to brand-new, high-quality equipment.

Jimi, Carole, James, and Donna

A number of generous donors, including Presidential Advisory Council members and parents who want to make a difference, elected to name rooms for favorite musicians. “As proud parents of a new Berklee student in 2009, we were impressed with the thoughtful way our son was welcomed into the Berklee community,” reflect Tim and Natalie Hyland. “As we met Berklee administrators and faculty members, we soon realized that there were unique initiatives, programs, and construction projects that required funding. While we hope our son, John Hyland ’13, makes his mark in the music world, we wanted to leave our mark on Berklee by helping to fund a couple of Berklee’s unmet needs.” 

The Hylands selected one of three rehearsal rooms in 160 Massachusetts Avenue to recognize their gift, naming it the Jimi Hendrix Room honoring their son’s love and passion for the legendary guitarist’s music. With drum set, grand piano, PA system, guitar and bass amps in each, the rooms are ready for ensemble rehearsals. The Jimi Hendrix Room sits alongside its two neighbors, the Carole King Room and the James Brown Room, named by Presidential Advisory Council members Cyn and Ray Barrette and Megan and Robert O’Block, respectively. Lori and Peter Comeau recognized faculty vocal instructor Donna McElroy by naming the grand staircase leading from the first floor lobby to the second floor dining and performance pavilion after her. 

Berklee thanks all donors who have generously supported 160 Massachusetts Avenue. This project was critical for Berklee to remain the world’s leading institute for contemporary music education. In Bill Kaiser’s words, “This building will have a transformative impact not only on the Berklee community but also on the city of Boston and the world.” Berklee invites you to come see—and believe—for yourself. Join us on June 13, 2014, for our Alumni Reunion and Dedication of 160 Massachusetts Avenue.

Are you interested in supporting Berklee through a gift? For information, contact Cindy Albert Link at


A Special Thank You

Berklee’s first new purpose-built facility at 160 Massachusetts Avenue will provide essential opportunities for our students and college community. We wish to thank the following donors for their leadership and generosity (they are listed chronologically). 

  • Ernie Boch, Jr. ’82
  • Donna and Jim Chambers
  • Paul and Catherine
  • Buttenwieser
  • Quincy Jones ’51
  • The Chuck McDermott Family
  • Megan and Robert O’Block
  • Teri and Morton Salomon
  • The Baxter Krahn Family
  • Virginia and Jim Scully
  • Ivan and Tina Rafowitz
    and Family
  • Lisa K. Hilton
  • The Comeau Family
  • Timothy and Natalie Hyland
  • Dinah and Fred Gretsch
    and Family
  • Cyn and Ray Barrette
  • Bill Kaiser
  • The Eisenson Family
  • Jeff Shames
  • Cindy Albert Link and
    Larry Link
  • Charles and Cynthia Hirschhorn
  • Seth Saltzman ’81
  • Sandi and David Whiston
  • Beverly Tryon