Lead Sheet

The State of the College

Excerpted from a presentation made by President Roger H. Brown on November 1, 2007.


I've talked with many Berklee alumni who passionately recall their fond memories of the college. And with equal passion, many have proposed ways we can make a great place even better. We developed a Vision for Berklee in the Year 2015 that has informed all of our work over the past two years. Let me update you on key progress from this past year.

Perhaps the most far-reaching decision has been to audition and interview every college applicant: last year, the process involved a total of 4,377 applicants. We have also limited total enrollment at Berklee to 4,000 on-campus students, and as a result, we have become far more selective about whom we admit. While in the past Berklee admitted roughly 75 percent of applicants, it now accepts about 33 percent.

As we have made the audition process more intensive, we have also enjoyed a dramatic expansion in scholarship support. Over the past four years, we have doubled total scholarship awards from $9.5 million to more than $19 million per year. This amount includes presidential scholarships that cover not only tuition but also room and board for outstanding students with demonstrated financial need.

The demographics of the college have changed as well. Korea now surpasses Japan as the number-one source of international students attending Berklee. Latin America now has more students represented than does Western Europe. The numbers of women, African Americans, Latinos, Asians, and Native Americans attending Berklee have reached all-time highs. Most encouraging is that over the past two years entering-student ensemble ratings as well as placement in advanced harmony and ear training have improved tremendously as Berklee has limited the size of the student body.

As we have invested more in selecting our students, we have also invested in students once they arrive. We created a new advisory program for entering students that involves both upper-semester peer advisers and faculty members. Students have given resoundingly positive feedback about this effort.

Through our Curriculum Review Initiative, the college has reached out to alumni as well as to faculty, students, and other stakeholders to ensure that when students arrive, our curriculum is as strong and appropriate for the evolving music industry as possible. The first year of inquiry yielded 20 recommendations, including such proposals as adding a master's degree and integrating the teaching of jazz harmony and traditional harmony.

The world of music is more global than ever, and I believe it is particularly important for North American students to get out and gain exposure to other parts of the world. To that end, we have created a study abroad opportunity in Athens, Greece. Students report that the program is a life-changing experience. With its rich classical history, its vibrant folk music traditions, and an active nightlife with many performance opportunities, Athens has proved the perfect site for this effort. Many students have even become first-call players in the clubs of Athens.

We are considering a bold move to create a 1,000-student campus in Valencia, Spain, to dramatically expand students' options for study abroad programs. The provincial government of Valencia and Sociedad General de Autores y Editores (SGAE), the leading royalty organization in Spain, have invited Berklee to open this campus with strong collaboration from each party. The facility would concentrate on music technology and music business, enabling Berklee students from technology-intensive majors to study abroad, and the program would attract students from throughout Europe, Latin America, North Africa, and the Middle East to this crossroads of music.

We also continue to help students pursue careers in music, a core value dating to the founding of the college and a central goal of former President Larry Berk. Internships are a prime source of employment opportunity and help refine students' knowledge and aspirations. I am delighted to report that we have dramatically expanded our offerings with a residential internship opportunity in Los Angeles, one coming soon in London. Over the past two years we've seen a 74 percent increase in the number of students pursuing internships and a large percentage of these internships resulting in job offers for students.

Our number-one priority is the expansion of our Boston campus. To that end, we have expanded our library, created a new coffeehouse called Caf? 939 with a 200-capacity performance venue, renovated our percussion department classrooms, expanded our counseling center, and consolidated our entire information technology department in one location. We have aggressively investigated the purchase of additional space to house students; improve faculty office spaces; create new classrooms and practice rooms; and build a fitness facility and student center. We have purchased or leased three new midsized facilities in 2007 and are considering other locations for expansion in 2008.

In the meantime, we have expanded our LiveWell program, which allows students to exercise at local gyms and take dance, yoga, and martial arts classes. Many of our students not only are excellent musicians but also have athletic and other abilities, and these efforts help sustain their health and well-being even as they maintain maniacal practice and performance schedules. Since 2005, participation in these efforts has grown by more than 300 percent.

The highly successful Berklee City Music Program (BCMP) reaches aspiring young musicians in inner cities where music education isn't readily available. We have developed the PULSE music method, a digital music curriculum that enables partner schools in Los Angeles, Seattle, Memphis, Philadelphia, Springfield, MA, and Washington, D.C., to deliver the same successful experience we have pioneered in Boston. More than 25 BCMP students currently attend the college on full scholarship. As our partners implement the curriculum in multiple locations, we expect that number to increase. BCMP has enabled alumni to use music in an engaging way and make a difference in young people's lives. Virtually every program involves alumni who teach or administer the program.

Finally, over the past year our online extension school, Berkleemusic.com, has grown rapidly, serving musicians who can't attend the college in person. Last year more than 6,000 students took an online course. Rick Peckham's Guitar Chords 101 course won an award for best new online course in America. We also approved the transfer of up to six credits of online study as elective credits at the college and achieved accreditation from the organization that accredits the main college.

Perhaps most exciting is that students tell us they see the results of all this hard work. In 2002 we conducted a student satisfaction survey, and in 2007 we repeated it. We have seen strong improvements in virtually every category. Our largest gains were in the categories of "student centeredness," "campus support services," and "registration effectiveness." These ratings reflect success in our efforts to improve the student experience at Berklee.

While basking in the glow of our New England sports franchises (the Red Sox, the Patriots, and the Celtics), we intend to ensure that Berklee is as ambitious and successful in our pursuits as they are in theirs.

Photo: President Roger H. Brown