The State of the College

Berklee's strategy calls for putting an enriching student experience at the heart of everything we do. It's the filter through which we look at every potential idea. But first we must decide who gets the chance to be a student here. One component of our strategy involves conducting auditions and interviews for every single Berklee applicant. In the past, we auditioned and interviewed only those seeking scholarship support.

Last year, 6,000 people auditioned; that's double the number of applicants we auditioned in 2005. Audition teams went to such places as Africa, Russia, and Panama - to name a few - and 22 American cities. I appreciate the faculty members who have helped us do this. Some people have asked, "Isn't this process really expensive?" My answer is that while the process can be costly, if it helps us get the right students to Berklee, it's absolutely worth doing. The new audition policy has made the admissions process more selective and rigorous. It's a way to make sure that every student who enrolls at Berklee has the aptitude and creativity required to be successful here.

It's interesting that, despite all the chaos in the economy, the number of applications to Berklee for next fall was 30 percent higher than those received last year. We've debated why more students now apply to Berklee than ever before. It could be our audition program that reaches out to people all over the world, or it could be the news that we have more scholarship money available. Whatever the reasons, it's good news that we should celebrate.

We've found that there are more entering students placing higher in music-writing skills than there were five years ago. The number of students who placed into the entry-level writing skills course has decreased, and the number placing into Arranging I and Arranging II has increased. As well, more entering students are placing out of Harmony I and starting directly with Harmony II and Harmony III. Probably the most dramatic trend, though, is in ear training, where an astounding 20-plus percent of this year's entering class placed into Ear Training IV. This is all good news, and I think it indicates that the audition process has helped us find very qualified, very talented students who have very good ears, among other skills.

We have also created an advising program for all entering students. Auditioning, interviewing, and advising are probably the most important parts of our strategic plan. We decided not to have the student body grow but to limit the number of students who come to Berklee. We pick them more carefully and invest in advising them when they get here to make the curriculum more manageable, help with the social adjustment, and help them connect with other people. We have 63 peer advisers who put their hearts and souls into this effort. Entering students tell me that the advising program has been very helpful.

Recently, we launched Giant Steps, Berklee's capital campaign, with the goal to raise $50 million. We're a little less than halfway through the campaign, and we've already raised more than $33 million. The funds will help us to increase scholarship awards, support campus expansion plans, and enable Berklee to continue developing innovative initiatives, such as the national expansion of the Berklee City Music Program, establishing the Berklee Valencia campus, expanding our online school, and more.

The above is a brief overview of some of the college's ongoing initiatives. Despite the financial problems worldwide and the meltdown in the student loan markets, we reached our enrollment target of 4,000 students on campus last fall. Enrollment in our online school has increased 43 percent over the previous September's figures. So far we feel very optimistic about's winter semester. In some ways, this is an indicator that, despite the state of the economy, perhaps what we do at Berklee is unique and powerful enough that people will continue to seek us out.

Most important, we need to keep the long-term view of 20, 50, even 100 years from now. During the 1930s, Harvard implemented merit-based admissions, the University of Chicago created its great books curriculum, and Yale built its architecturally stunning law school. Berklee has enormous opportunities and we are absolutely distinctive. So during this downturn, we are obliged to work even harder to realize our potential.

Without hard times, musicians would never have created the blues. Who knows what music might come out of this period?