A Nod to the Past and a Look Forward

In October of 2009, Senior Vice President and Provost Dr. Lawrence J. Simpson delivered a town hall meeting to the Berklee community outlining changes to the college's core curriculum. As recommended by the executive committee of the Curriculum Review Initiative (CRI), the changes will affect all Berklee students in a meaningful way and are set to be phased in beginning in the fall 2010 semester and continuing throughout the 2011-2012 academic year.

Central to the recommendations is the integration of coursework, including creating connections between classes as well as between major courses of study and the core music curriculum and the liberal arts program. Building on the long-standing relationships between all core music subjects as crafted at Berklee's inception, CRI's recommendations make a nod to the past - where faculty taught across divisions and departments - and a look forward to our students' future in which business and technology are integral to a professional musician's career.

Following the 2003 New England Association of Schools and Colleges major evaluation period, Berklee embarked on a major program review to assess all programs of study. In parallel to the program review, the Office of Institutional Research and Assessment completed a significant outreach to alumni via a targeted alumni survey. In 2006, using the information gleaned from the program review and alumni survey, Berklee undertook a comprehensive curriculum review.

These small yet significant changes will create a more cohesive music core for all students. A combination of harmony and writing skills in the first semester - in conjunction with a performance core that connects private lessons, ensembles, and labs - will solidify and ground the students' understanding of the natural connections and relationships within their music studies. In addition, changes to ear training, traditional studies, and music technology components will realign every course within the music core to provide greater focus on integration. This will help students to see the relationships and make connections within the core.

Perhaps the most significant CRI recommendation is the change in the study of music history and music and society. Through a new music history requirement, students will now study the history of Western art music, global music, music of the African diaspora, and American roots music. Courses in music and society will offer insight into the role of culture in the development of art and will become a liberal arts curriculum requirement.

Technology and business subjects will now be threaded throughout the core, liberal arts, and major courses. As a point of entry to career and creative aspirations, a first-semester seminar will connect with the majors and the liberal arts program and book-end with a senior seminar. This will provide every student with a more complete sense of the career of a professional musician.

Minor courses of study have long been a request among students and faculty alike. As of the fall 2010 semester, many significant, specialized tracks of study can be indicated on a student's transcript. Minors developed by faculty, chairs, and deans will reflect the extensive expertise Berklee offers as the leading institution of contemporary music education.

Beginning in September 2010, these curricular changes will be implemented and will reflect a community effort to improve and expand Berklee's curriculum. The changes are small but significant. The fundamentals of a Berklee education remain strong, and CRI's recommendations will build on a foundation that provides students with the knowledge and skills they need to succeed in careers as contemporary musicians in the 21st century.