In-Kind Donations

  Fender Musical Instruments has provided 600 amplifiers to Berklee.
  Photos by Phil Farnsworth
  Piano student Ruby Biloskirka-Conley plays Berklee's new Steinway piano

The Berklee-trained studio assistant has spent months fetching coffee and plugging in gear. But now the album production is in crunch time. The producer looks over to the assistant and says, "We need some drum fills in the bridge." The assistant pulls out her laptop. Using a program called KitCore, she quickly adds the perfect fill. The producer listens and says, "Sounds great, perfect, actually. You saved the day!" The rest is history.

This type of scenario can happen when Berklee provides the most forward-looking facilities and technology for students. And the college can't do it alone. All students now have KitCore on their computers because its creator, the alumni-founded company Submersible Music, generously donated the software.

KitCore lets musicians add great drumming to their compositions by manipulating samples of famous drummers in all genres. "You can take a groove by one drummer and have it played on a different drummer's drum set," explained David Mash, the college's vice president for technology and education outreach. Berklee students in particular can use it when learning sequencing for song production, for arranging class assignments, or even as accompaniment to their practicing. Without Submersible's donation, "We would not have been able to provide this" across the board, Mash says. "It's a great gift and will affect every student at Berklee."

A program like KitCore gets broad usage, but also in heavy use at Berklee are amplifiers. "A music college puts special demands on its guitar, bass, and keyboard amps," says Sandro Scoccia, Berklee's director of performance technology. In ensemble and practice rooms, they're on for 18 hours a day. They have to work.

This year Berklee took a big step to improve the number and health of its amplifiers with help from Fender. The renowned musical instrument company has supported the college since 1998 through both scholarship assistance and a loan program of over 400 Fender amplifiers. Recently, Fender gifted these loaned amplifiers and made a substantial donation of new amplifiers. The college now has more than 600 amps on hand. "I think this will make the experience for students dramatically different," says Scoccia.

In turn, Berklee is donating the Fender amplifiers replaced in the latest gift to local organizations. James McCoy, Berklee's Director of Community and Governmental Affairs has been involved in providing 100 Fender amplifiers to schools and community organizations in the Boston area and beyond as part of Berklee's commitment to supporting underserved youth through music programs.

In-kind donations such as the Fender and KitCore gifts are crucial to keep Berklee on technology's leading edge. "We need to remain state-of-the-art in our facilities," says Beverly Tryon, director of corporate and foundation relations. "It takes the support of our friends in the music products industry for Berklee to create the best possible learning environment for our students."

Not that the best technology is always the newest. This past year, Berklee's Piano Department became the grateful recipient of a gorgeous Steinway grand piano donated by Trustee Bill Lynch and his wife Beth. The sweet-toned Steinway is among the handful of top pianos at Berklee that put students "over the moon" when they get to play them, according Piano Department Chair Stephany Tiernan. For faculty instructors, she says, "It is much easier to demonstrate piano technique, sound production, and expressive devices such as dynamic phrasing, articulation, and pedaling on a high-quality piano."

In fact, students need to learn to tailor their skills to the instrument: "They usually overplay first because it's very responsive, and then they realize they have way more control over dynamics." Tiernan says. Once they learn, however, the Steinway "makes them more aware of what's possible. They learn how to listen and turn the piano into an orchestra."

Smart companies know that helping Berklee students will help business in the end. "In-kind donations give back to the company through word-of-mouth recommendations and future sales," Tryon says. "Once students find their special sound on a particular Fender amp, they're likely to buy that amp when they can."

"That's basically the big return for every manufacturer associated with Berklee," Scoccia says. "People tend to buy what they learned on," Mash concurred. Donations like KitCore build long-term value for the company and help build the careers of fledgling Berklee pianists, guitarists, and studio assistants.

To learn more about opportunities to give, contact Beverly Tryon at 617-747-2660 or


Danielle Dreilinger is a writer and editor in Berklee's Communications Department