State of the College

On November 18, President Roger H. Brown gave his "State of the College" address at the Berklee Performance Center. In the one-hour presentation, Brown covered a range of topics, including the recent Latin Grammy Awards presentation that brought the total number of awards that Berklee alumni have earned over the past 10 years to 53.


Brown also reviewed the vision statement, which was created in 2005, that lists the college's goals through 2015. The primary focus of the statement is to position Berklee as the world's leading institute of contemporary music. According to Brown, the second strategic plan that has been implemented to reach these goals involves five major steps, chief among them is inspiring the creation of new musical ideas.

"That will involve doing things outside the classroom and finding devoted and creative students, people who will take risks," Brown said. "We need to be willing to take some risks too. The most important thing is to bring the right kind of students to the college."

Brown spoke about the decision five years ago to audition and interview every applicant to Berklee at locations across the globe. Surprisingly, that policy resulted in a nearly 300 percent increase in applications. Whereas Berklee used to admit 77 percent of those applying, now less than a third of applicants are accepted. "We are doing the best we can to bring in the people who can do the work and who might create the next new musical ideas," Brown said.

Regarding financial aid and scholarships for Berklee students, Brown said the college offered $9 million per year to students five years ago. "This year it is up to $28 million," he said. "We're increasing it as fast as we know how. I feel very proud of the progress we've made, but we still need to raise more money to support our students."

Brown detailed that while the college's endowment declined in the 2008 stock market collapse, Berklee lost less than many other institutions did. Through the efforts of the investment committee and budget cuts, the college has been able to rebound.

He mentioned curricular changes that include pilot programs such as an Artistry Creativity Inquiry Seminar for 300 entering students and a change to make private lessons 50 minutes rather than 30. Also, nine minors are now available for students and have become very popular.

Brown also discussed the plans for new construction at 168 Massachusetts Avenue (for more details, see page 5). He stressed that permits and financing for the building have not been finalized, but if all goes as hoped, the building could open as soon as 2013.

He also spoke about the satellite campus in Valencia, Spain. "The idea for this campus," Brown said, "is rooted in Berklee's commitment to being global: the world's leading institute of contemporary music. You don't do that by being only in the United States." This additional campus will present opportunities for students in other parts of the world to have a Berklee experience and for students at the Boston campus to have an additional site for study-abroad programs. (For further details, see article on page 6.)

Brown also cited the "Rethink Music Conference" to be held at the Hynes Convention Center April 26-27. A $50,000 prize will be awarded for the best new business model for compensating musicians for their creative work. Berklee's partners in the conference will include the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard Law School, the Harvard Business School, and MIDEM. "We hope this will put Berklee at the center of the conversation about changes happening in the music industry," he said.

Brown concluded by saying that Berklee just admitted the strongest student body in the college's history and that, despite the economic downturn, innovation at the college has continued. "There are a lot of cool and exciting things happening at Berklee every day."