Berklee Today

Development Grant Program Grows to $30k

Associate Professor Melissa Howe recently received a faculty
development grant to study improvisation and viola technique
by Mark Small

Next fall, Berklee will increase funding for its faculty development
grant program to $30,000, a six-fold increase over previous years.
The grant program provides opportunities for faculty members to
continue their own education and energize their teaching with new

Karen Zorn, Berklee's associate provost and administrator of the program, is excited about the planned increase. "When I got here four years ago, there was a total of $5,000 allotted for faculty grants," said Zorn. "Next year, it will be $30,000 and the year after that it will go up to $50,000. We have a very busy faculty, but they want to keep on learning. These grants help fund their artistic development and ultimately affect the quality of education for Berklee students."

Faculty members have received grants to fund scholarly research, present new music, pay for private studies in preparation for entrance into an advanced degree program and musical as well as nonmusical lessons.

"There has been a lot of success with faculty members studying with the greats in their field," said Zorn. "We grant money for people to take private lessons with the guitarist or pianist in New York that they've always wished they could afford to study with. Melissa Howe, a classical violinist and violist in the String Department, got a grant to take private lessons with an array of great teachers so she could learn more about improvisation and also enhance her viola teaching."

A creative proposal was funded for Professor Neil Olmstead of the Piano Department to study tai chi in an effort to help him rethink his physical approach to playing the piano. "He wanted to go to an outside discipline to learn how to move efficiently, what motions are wasteful, and, in general, how pianists can better control the motions of their bodies," said Zorn. "It really opened up new avenues for him, providing information his students couldn't get from the average piano teacher.

"Matthew Nicholl, who teaches classes in Brazilian music, received a grant to study Portuguese. Arthur Welwood of the Composition Department received a grant to pay for preparing parts for a new concerto that will be premiered in the fall. Sheila Katz, who teaches history in the General Education Department, was tying together some loose ends in her study of the Middle East and Jewish history. She sought funding to go to Cuba with some other Americans who wanted to study life in Cuba's unique Jewish community. This is just a small sampling of the projects we've funded."

The program helps faculty to bring something extra to their classrooms and also introduces many of them to the process of writing grant proposals. Receiving a grant hinges on some important criteria. The main requirement is that applicants make the case that the activity will improve their teaching. The proposal also must be clearly articulated and well ordered. The budget for a project must include the amount of money the recipient plans to contribute to the endeavor. "These are really matching grants," said Zorn. "This helps us to spread the money further and ensure that the projects will be worthwhile. When people commit their own money to a project, it tends to make the effort become very focused.

"Grants have ranged from $500 to $1,500, which may not seem like a huge amount
of money," said Zorn. "But when combined with the funds contributed
by the recipient, this could enable them to undertake a project
costing as much as $3,000. With increased funding for the program,
I hope to see grants being made for as much as $5,000. Faculty members
will be able to realize their dreams of bigger and better projects."