Berklee Today

Lead Sheet

Looking Back, Looking Ahead

An Educational Legacy
By President Lee Eliot Berk

Right from the start, I have been at the heart of what is one of today's really great colleges. What is somewhat unusual is that it has been a family experience all the way.

Joining the staff at Berklee after law school was much more than an exciting professional opportunity; it was a decision to contribute to the continuation of my family's life's work. Lawrence Berk, my father and the founder of Berklee, was of course there at the start. My mother Alma started to work professionally at Berklee from the time I entered high school and founded Berklee's Department of Public Information. During most of my own years at Berklee, one or both of my parents were actively involved in the college.

About a half-century ago, my father came home for dinner one night. He said that the founding chair of our Brass Department, Fred Berman (the father of current Berklee Trustee Rhoda Sapers), had come into his office that day to share a dream he had about the school being named Berklee, in honor of his son, Lee.

Before you jump to any misplaced conclusions about the appropriateness of this unexpected honor, let me remind you that the magnitude of this distinction related to a Berklee that was far distant from what Berklee would ultimately become, and that was not apparent at that time. The fathers of John Nicholas Brown and Ezra Cornell (who founded Brown and Cornell universities, respectively) would definitely not have been entranced by the idea of the naming opportunity my father's school was contemplating.

As it turned out, and happily for me, this was a great naming opportunity. You can see for yourself what passed for a serious and thorough branding study in those early days at our institution!

Larry Berk and the founding pioneers of Berklee hadn't found in conservatories the educational opportunities they felt could meet their professional needs. I expect we can trace the roots of our "Nothing Conservatory About It" branding campaign all the way back to their early frustrations. They brought a huge entrepreneurial spirit to organizing formal jazz education and a strong commitment to continually expanding music-education opportunities.

I have loved every minute that I have spent at Berklee expanding music education opportunities. Pursuit of that dream has taken us from the creation of new fields of study in music to the establishment of a music-study publications division, from the establishment of a City Music Program for talented urban teens to relationships with other schools all over the world who share our vision, from the offering of worldwide scholarship tours to the embrace of the Internet to offer distance learning everywhere on the face of the planet.

Since marrying my wife, Susan, 28 years ago, I have had the good fortune to have a spouse who has provided enormous love and support and has shared a wide array of Berklee experiences with me and made many friends for Berklee. We greatly appreciate the many interactions we have had with trustees, faculty, staff, students, parents, alumni, and friends of Berklee who have meant so much to us. We also appreciate the incredible music that so many from Berklee have contributed to the culture of our time.

I have been truly blessed with both personal and professional families that have provided a very special life indeed. And I am very proud of the educational legacy that the Berks have established at Berklee College of Music and that our daughters Nancy and Lucy have shared with their grandparents and parents. I know Berklee will continue to go from success to success and garner much-deserved accolades in higher education, the music industry, and society at large.

Lock In Tuition Costs
by Vice President for Administration and Finance David Hornfischer

Recognizing both the importance of higher education and the difficulty parents face in paying tuition costs, Berklee College of Music and other private or independent colleges and universities across the country have joined a nonprofit organization that offers financial relief. The Independent 529 Plan, an outgrowth of recent federal legislation (Section 529 plans), makes it possible for parents to buy Berklee tuition credits for their precollege-age children at today's prices-or less. This unique plan guarantees the option to prepay tuition at hundreds of colleges at the same rates or less as those being paid at the same institutions today.

While many prior plans were restricted to public colleges within the state providing the plan, the Independent 529 Plan is more attractive because these arrangements apply to any one of over 300 private colleges across the nation. College-bound youth can attend any school on the continually expanding list of participating institutions and benefits may also be transferred to other family members.

Through the plan, parents purchase certificates to be used to pay future tuition costs. After their child is accepted at a member college, the certificate can be used to pay the percentage of tuition that was prepurchased. Future tuition increases will no longer be a concern. The colleges own the investment risk on the funds, and the funds grow tax-free.

With mutual funds and other college savings options, many parents invest in stocks or other securities in hopes that the returns (excluding any tax liability) will ultimately enable them to meet their goals. There are concerns that the market will turn just as the funds are needed for college. Because the Independent 529 Plan guarantees a distinct tuition benefit at each member college, volatile investment markets present no risk. A year of tuition purchased today ensures that a student will get a year of tuition no matter how much tuition rises in the intervening years. The plan also assesses no sales, application, or maintenance fees to the purchaser.

Independent 529 Plan certificates are applicable to undergraduate tuition and mandatory fees. (Room and board and graduate-school tuition are not covered at this time.) In the event that a student decides not to attend a participating college, a refund adjusted for the investment performance of the program is available. For full details, visit or call (888) 718-7878.

NEASC Renews Berklee's Accreditation

Berklee has received official notice about its accreditation status from the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC). Last spring, a nine-member visiting team spent four days at the college evaluating its compliance with the NEASC Standards for Accreditation. They wrote a 33-page report that was received, along with the college's response to that report, by NEASC. Late in October, the commission mailed its final decision to President Berk.

The college has been reaccredited for 10 years, the maximum period that NEASC accredits any institution. Berklee was also given five specific areas to address and report on in a fifth-year interim report to NEASC due in Spring 2008. Those items include the following:

  • Developing a long-term enrollment strategy that supports additional enrollment with the availability of sufficient resources, particularly space
  • Developing and implementing a systematic and regular process of program review
  • As part of the review of the general education program, assessing student learning in general education, consistent with the institution's definition of an educated individual
  • Ensuring the quality of student advising, particularly for freshmen, women, and students of color
  • Attaining the institution's own goals for increasing the diversity of the faculty and student body

For further information, contact Bob Myers at