Plans Announced to Open a Pan-African Music School in 2017

By 
Allen Bush
October 7, 2015
Press release
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Berklee President Roger H. Brown guided His Excellency Ali Bongo Ondimba, president of the Gabonese Republic, around the Berklee campus recently, accompanied by a group of students from Africa. The students also performed for President Ondimba.
Photo by Mike Spencer

Roger H. Brown, president of Berklee College of Music, and His Excellency Ali Bongo Ondimba, president of the Gabonese Republic, announced the signing of an MOU (memorandum of understanding) between Berklee and the government of the Central West African nation of Gabon to create a pan-African music school in the capital city of Libreville. The school will be called the African Music Institute (AMI).

The AMI will focus on contemporary popular music, traditional African music, and African dance for 300 students, and create a path for students to eventually study at Berklee’s Boston campus. Groundbreaking is scheduled for early 2016, and the first class will enter in September of 2017.

“We are supporting the creation of a new school for contemporary music in Africa, one that will be a source of students who will come to Berklee to enrich not only their experiences, but those of our students, as well,” said Brown. “Our mission statement acknowledges the unique role of the African cultural diaspora in the major musical styles underlying our curriculum, including jazz, blues, R&B, rock, gospel, Latin, and hip-hop. With this new school and more students coming to Boston from Africa, we’ll have a direct line right to the source.”

Plans for the school include a state-of-the-art recording studio for student projects and collaborations with international visiting artists, study and rehearsal spaces, an auditorium and concert hall, a museum documenting the history of West African music, and a dance studio.

The AMI will join Berklee’s International Network (BIN) of 19 partner institutions in 18 countries that identify and prepare students with extraordinary musicianship and musical ideas for Berklee. Students at the AMI may study the first two years of the Berklee curriculum in Libreville, and then transfer to Boston with all of their earned credits. This makes a college degree more affordable for African students, and helps Berklee attract more African musicians.

The relationship between Berklee and Gabon began with Berklee alumnus Frederik Gassita, one of the country’s most prominent musicians, who has long dreamed of providing a Berklee-style education in African for local musicians. Gassita was among the MOU’s signees, who also included Pacôme Moubelet Boubeya, Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research in Gabon, and Larry Simpson, Berklee's senior vice president for academic affairs/ provost.