The State of the College

During his annual state of the college address on November 19, 2009, President Roger H. Brown told the Berklee community that the college has held its own in the current economic climate, meeting the goals outlined in the 2005 strategic plan, and going forward.

"I think the single most important thing we've done recently was deciding that every student should be auditioned and interviewed before we admit them," Brown noted. "That sent a signal to the world that a new era was beginning at Berklee and that it would be much harder to get in. The process also gives us more information on who the applicant is and offers prospective students contact with staff and faculty." Brown noted that during 2009, 6,000 applicants worldwide auditioned for entrance to Berklee.

Financial aid for students has expanded. "There was a dramatic increase in scholarships, from $10 million in 2004 to $25 million in 2009," Brown noted. As well, in the fall of 2009, Berklee's first recipient of the Africa Scholars Program award, Victor "Blue" Dogah, a hand percussion player from Ghana, matriculated. And in the fall, three recipients of scholarships funded by SGAE (the Spanish equivalent of ASCAP or BMI) also entered Berklee. "Our hope is that musicians from other parts of the world will learn a lot at Berklee and also share their musical culture with others here."

Regarding the diversity of the student body, in 2004, 26.7 percent were women; today, the number has increased to 30.5 percent. The number of African-American and Hispanic students attending Berklee has also increased. "A lot of colleges make compromises in their admissions standards to achieve their diversity goals," Brown said. "But we haven't. The quality of our entering students overall has gone up dramatically as we've been able to make Berklee a more diverse place."

In discussing the college's curricular changes, Brown noted that Berklee now recognizes banjo, mandolin, and marimba as principal instruments. Two faculty members currently teach classes in turntablism. Other news included the launch of the Berklee Global Jazz Institute at the January Panama Jazz Festival. Renowned Panamanian pianist and faculty member Danilo Pérez has been appointed as the artistic director of the program that will place students in a musical environment with a special emphasis on developing creativity. Brown also noted that Matt Glaser, the former chair of the String Department, has begun directing the American Roots Music Program. The program represents an effort to connect students to the roots and traditions of the American music mosaic.

Brown noted that the Quincy Jones Musiq Consortium teamed up Professor Bill Banfield with David Baker to develop an innovative curriculum exploring the history of American popular music that will be offered in American schools.

Regarding facilities, Brown said, "We've bought some buildings that will change the face of Berklee over the next 20 years." He spoke of properties at 155 and 168 Massachusetts Avenue and hopes of making the latter an eight-story dormitory building. He also cited changes to the block of Boylston Street between Massachusetts Avenue and Hemenway Street and the new Liberal Arts Department building at 7 Haviland Street.

Brown also discussed the Giant Steps Campaign, the college's first capital campaign. "We have a goal to reach $50 million. We have now raised $39 million and have $11 million more to go. It's tough in this economy, but we'll get there."

He mentioned, Berklee's online school. "It has been very successful," Brown said. "We have 8,000 students taking courses from 100 faculty members and have won awards for five consecutive years for best online courses in America."

The Berklee City Music Program, which provides mentoring and scholarships for underserved urban youth, represents another success. The program has recently expanded to 14 cities across America. Among the successful students who have gone through the program is Sean Skeete, who recently became the assistant chair of the Ensemble Department.

Brown indicated that the strategic plan for 2009 to 2012 emphasizes creativity and innovation avoiding complacency about past accomplishments. "This is what differentiates us from other music schools," Brown said. "We want to be at the cutting edge, creating the next important things to happen in music."