Café 939 at Berklee Opens

  On April 2, Café 939 opened in a historic building at 939 Boylston Street in Boston, opposite the Hynes Convention Center. A Massachusetts Cultural Facilities Fund grant of $200,000 aided Berklee in the renovation project.
  Photos by Phil Farnsworth

On April 2, Berklee officially opened Café 939, a state-of-the-art, all-ages, student-run music venue and coffeehouse, which offers emerging student, alumni, and other musical acts an intimate, personal performance space. Located at 939 Boylston Street, opposite Boston's Hynes Convention Center, Café 939 hopes to attract musicians and music fans from all walks of life. While most music rooms claim a specific musical niche, Café 939 will embrace nearly all styles, ranging from rock, jazz, folk, and world music to bluegrass, hip-hop, electronica, avant-garde, and beyond.

"It doesn't matter if you play the saw, accordion, or electric sitar, as long as you're good, this could be the room for you," says Jacqueline Indrisano, event manager for Café 939. "We want this to be a place where all are welcome and anything can happen."

The 200-person capacity venue is equipped with professional PA and lighting systems, video and DVD capabilities, and flexible seating to accommodate a variety of performances. Berklee music business/management majors handle the booking, marketing, and publicity of all shows. Other students work as ushers, box-office clerks, and stagehands.

Café 939's coffeehouse is open daily. It features large, comfortable sofas and chairs as well as a history room whose walls are covered with old photos and materials chronicling the college's past. The menu includes a variety of coffees, teas, sandwiches, salads, and pastries.  

In addition to being a student-run entity, Café 939 sets itself apart from other music venues and defines itself as a musical endeavor in other ways. In partnership with Marsalis Music, the record label founded by Branford Marsalis '80, Café 939 will present Marsalis Berklee Jams periodically during the college's academic semesters. Marsalis conceived the national initiative to provide meaningful interaction between established musical acts and dedicated student musicians. The program will consist of mini-residencies that include classroom interaction and culminate in performance/jam sessions in which the visiting band follows its opening set by inviting student musicians on stage to play in subsequent sets.

On April 2, and April 3, the Miguel Zenón Quartet served as the inaugural musical act and launched the Marsalis Berklee Jams series. During the day, Zenón's quartet presented master classes open only to Berklee students. At 8:00 P.M. on both nights, the venue opened to the public for performances by the quartet and jam sessions with top students. The quartet's visit to Café 939 coincides with the April 1 release of Zenón's third Marsalis Music album, Awake.

Regular evening programming will be booked Wednesday through Sunday. Featuring up-and-coming student performers, the New Brew, a free lunchtime concert series, is currently running Tuesdays and Thursdays from 1:00 P.M. to 2:00 P.M., and a weekly jazz brunch is planned for the summer. Send booking inquiries to

  On April 2 and April 3, saxophionist Miguel Zenón and his quartet launched the Marsalis Berklee Jams series.

The coffeehouse section of Café 939 offers a menu that includes a variety of coffees, teas, sandwiches, salads, pastries, and more. It is open from 7:30 A.M. to 9:00 P.M. Monday and Tuesday; from 7:30 A.M. to 11:00 P.M. Wednesday through Friday; from 10:30 A.M. to 11:00 P.M. on Saturday; and from 10:30 A.M. to 9:00 P.M. on Sunday.

Berklee is grateful for a Massachusetts Cultural Facilities Fund (MCFF) grant of $200,000 that aided in the transformation of the historically significant Boylston Street building into Café 939. The MCFF grants are available to Massachusetts nonprofit cultural organizations undertaking building projects to increase tourism, create new jobs, and expand arts and cultural activities in the state.

"As a non-alcoholic venue, Café 939 welcomes music lovers of all ages and will give Berklee students an opportunity to share their music with the world," says President Roger Brown. "As well, our students who book and manage the room will get a chance to learn the skills needed to create the great live-music venues for the next generation."