Berklee Today

Berklee Beat:
BIN Summit 2000: A Glimpse of a New Era

Intercontinental jam: A percussion group in Boston works via videoconferencing technology with Petros Kourtis (upper right), a faculty member at the Philippos Nakas Conservatory in Athens, Greece.
Photo by Rob Hayes

In late May, the Berklee International Network (BIN) partners gathered in Athens, Greece to discuss new ideas and technologies that promise to open up exciting vistas for music students on several continents. This was the third biennial BIN summit. This unique educational network was established in 1993 to create mutually beneficial relationships between Berklee and other international centers of music that share Berklee's educational commitment to the study of contemporary music.

The summit brought representatives from Berklee's Boston campus face-to-face with those from Philippos Nakas Conservatory, Athens, Greece; Fundacio L'Aula de Musica, Barcelona, Spain; Rimon School of Jazz and Contemporary Music, Tel Aviv, Israel; Pop & Jazz Conservatory, Helsinki, Finland; American School of Modern Music, Paris, France; Seoul Jazz Academy, Seoul, South Korea; PAN School of Music, Tokyo, Japan; Koyo Conservatoire, Kobe, Japan; Jazz & Rock Schule, Freiburg, Germany; International College of Music, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; Escuela de Musica Contemporanea, Buenos Aires, Argentina; Academia de Musica Fermatta, Mexico City, Mexico; and Conservatorio Souza Lima, São Paulo, Brazil.

The week-long series of events was hosted by the Philippos Nakas Conservatory in Athens. Simultaneous receptions--a brunch in Boston and an evening cocktail party in Athens--were connected by videoconferencing technology, allowing college administrators and trustees on both continents to meet and greet each other.

At a number of meetings organized and chaired by Berklee's Associate Vice President for International Programs Larry Monroe, summit participants discussed a wide range of practical and innovative topics. One highlight was a real-time, interactive, intercontinental musical exchange. Musicians in Athens performed with musicians onstage in Boston via the video link. A Berklee group in the David Friend Recital Hall played "Stella by Starlight" with musicians at the Nakas Conservatory and then launched into a free improvisation. According to saxophonist Greg Badolato, Berklee's assistant vice president for international programs, who was playing in Athens, it was an incredible experience to play music with people 4,000 miles away.

Berklee's Associate Vice President for International Programs Larry Monroe and Leonidas Arniakos, managing director of Philippos Nakas Conservatory after a meeting in Galaxidi Near the Sea.
Photo by Emily Singer

Earlier in the week, to test the overall effectiveness of teaching classes via videoconferencing technology, Berklee Professor Mike Williams in Boston taught guitar classes to students in Athens. A percussion class on Greek rhythms was taught by Nakas faculty member Petros Kourtis in Athens to an eager group of Berklee percussionists in Boston. The enthusiasm at both sites was infectious. David Mash, Berklee's vice president for information technology, characterized the happenings as "a new beginning for Berklee and our international partners." Mash, David Lustig, Berklee's assistant vice president for information technology, and their staff made the link-up possible.

The experiments proved that this method of teaching music can be an effective way to provide teacher-student interaction that transcends geographic limitations. The technology used provided remarkably good sound quality. Leonidas Arniakos, managing director of Philippos Nakas Conservatory, expressed keen interest in making use of the videoconferencing technology for future distance learning and stated that the Greek Ministry of Education has committed to assist his institution as it implements the program.

Participants saw first-hand how technology will allow BIN schools to share faculty experts and broaden the educational offerings among the participating institutions. In the future, a Brazilian percussion master in São Paulo, Brazil, might be able to conduct a clinic for Berklee percussion majors. Conversely, a top jazz saxophonist in Boston may coach an aspiring bebopper in Kobe. The attendees were dazzled by the potential this technology holds. While enthusiasm was high among the BIN members contemplating implementing videoconferencing as a component of their educational offerings, all concurred that it will never supplant the experience of being on site in a vibrant atmosphere where personal relationships formed between students are a vital part of the education.

BIN summit attendees in Athens paused for a photo with President Lee Eliot Berk and Gary Burton who were in Boston. Berk and Burton led a discussion and fielded questions about future plans for the BIN schools.
Photo by Emily Singer

In a later meeting, David Lustig described in depth the workings of the four ISDN (Integrated Services Digital Network) telephone lines used for the videoconferencing link. He spoke of Berklee's desire to use videoconferencing for future BIN visits, alumni meetings, distance learning, and special festivals.

Assisted by a subsequent Boston/Athens videoconference, President Lee Eliot Berk, Executive Vice President Gary Burton, and Assistant Vice President for Operations Tom Riley discussed long-range planning with BIN partners, touching on Berklee's mission, vision for the future, and strategy to get there. BIN partners offered their ideas about ways to improve their partnerships and how to prepare students for careers in the music industry around the globe.

Before concluding the conference, BIN subcommittees were set up to further explore technology, institutional advancement, the web, articulation, transfers, scholarships, and more. Each subcommittee came up with two goals to achieve over the next 12 months. The next BIN summit is scheduled to take place in Boston in the year 2002.

— Emily Singer