Lead Sheet: A Time for Review

As Berklee enters its seventh decade, it's taking on many exciting new initiatives. While looking forward, the college has also engaged in some serious self-reflection. In the spring of 2006, Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Larry Simpson formed the Curriculum Review Initiative (CRI) Committee, comprising 23 faculty and administrators and the author as committee chair, to conduct a review of the college's curriculum. During our initial inquiry phase, we sought responses to these three questions:

  1. In order for Berklee to continue to be the finest college of contemporary music in the world and to prepare our students for successful careers in music and as world citizens, what should every Berklee graduate know, and what experiences should they have while at Berklee?


  2. Are Berklee students getting the necessary knowledge and experience?


  3. How can faculty and administrators ensure that all Berklee students receive the essential knowledge and experience to have successful careers in music and as world citizens?

The CRI Committee posed these questions to faculty, staff, administrators, students, parents, alumni, industry professionals, and peers at other arts institutions. The initiative began with a town meeting of sorts, where the committee asked members of the Berklee community for input on the curriculum. Faculty, staff, students, and alumni received surveys, and an online discussion board was set up to ensure that all ideas got a hearing. Department and division education committees also gave their input. Members of the CRI Committee also hosted alumni dinners for focus groups assembled in Los Angeles, Nashville, New York City, and Boston. Committee members visited the campuses at Rhode Island School of Design, California Institute of the Arts, and Harvard University. Nicole Guttenberg, who holds a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction, has helped the CRI team organize the effort and conduct research.

The CRI Committee also established three joint committees (1) the Foundations Committee, which examined students' first-year and core curriculum experience; (2) the Experiences and Transitions Committee, which examined curriculum following the students' first year and leading to the selection of a major; and (3) the Majors Committee, which looked at major-specific curriculum. Next, five subcommittees investigated particular curricular concerns and initiatives. Their areas of focus included graduate school, diversity in the curriculum, online teaching, liberal arts, and technology. The joint committee and subcommittees have worked closely with Berklee stakeholders to examine each topic extensively. Emissaries from the CRI committees met with several campus groups, from the Student Government Association to the Faculty Coalition for Activism and Music, to gather ideas about the curriculum and suggestions for improvement.

The opinions have poured in, reflecting respondents' desire for Berklee to become an even more impressive institution in the future. The first phase of the CRI Committee's work will report on recommendations for the curriculum, but the initiative will continue next year as work groups enact the suggestions of the CRI Committee and the Berklee community. The committee is still seeking input. Send your ideas or comments about the curriculum to me at kjuusela@berklee.edu or to the CRI Committee's director, Nicole Guttenberg, at nguttenberg@berklee.edu.