Berklee Riffs: Opening Week at the Bookstore

Danielle Dreilinger
September 21, 2010
The Berklee Bookstore: a place to get school supplies, textbooks, and maybe even giant musicians (click to expand photo).
A week into classes, employee Peter Thompson still has boxes to unpack.
There's nothing like that early-semester new-supplies glow.
Photo by Danielle Dreilinger
Photo by Danielle Dreilinger
Photo by Danielle Dreilinger

Berklee isn't your ordinary college—but music students need books too. (Especially when they have a serious liberal arts requirement.) On Friday evening the first week of classes, a dozen people waited for the cashier at the Berklee Bookstore.

The basement stacks were surprisingly tidy—the 14 used copies of The Nazi Seizure of Power stood more or less upright. Perhaps it was due to employee Peter Thompson, who rushed back and forth along the aisle. "It never ends, the first couple weeks of classes," he said between unpacking yet more boxes and answering questions from yet more students.

Bookstore staff needed almost two months to get ready for this week, said manager Frank Moore, ordering about 800 different titles in all. That might not sound like much. . . but it includes about 400 copies of popular texts such as History of Western Music and Tonal Harmony. The store also stocked up on Berklee merch, such as the popular Champion hoodies, available in gray and black and priced to sell.

With only half an hour left before the store closed for the night, students stood in front of the 800 titles and furrowed their brows. Erin Lee, in her final semester, rummaged through the required and recommended books for Songwriting 3 and History of Rock 4, deciding which to buy. "I'm looking for something brand-new looking even if it's used," she said.

New student Cynthia DeJesus went above and beyond. Along with the workbooks for Harmony, Ear Training, and Arranging, she bought some off-the-list vocal technique guides and Real Books. "For my jazz lab we have to learn new music every week," she explained. Looking at her purchases, she had that early-in-the-semester glow, excited "just seeing how much I'll learn in this one book."

High season at the bookstore is short. In a few short weeks the basement will be closed off again. Come mid-October, "if books are still unsold we plan on sending them back," Moore said. After all, he'll need two months to prepare for spring.

Berklee Riffs offer snapshots of day-to-day life at the college.