Student Clubs Offer Friendship, Experience, and Even a Little Magic
The average Berklee student has a packed schedule. Besides their regular coursework, students spend their time taking private lessons, participating in (often multiple) ensembles, studying, and—oh, right—practicing. But hundreds of students at the College and the Conservatory also participate in at least one student-run club. With more than 80 student clubs catering to a wide variety of interests, from barbershop singing and sound design to anime and ultimate frisbee, there’s truly something for everyone on campus.
“Student clubs at Berklee can be whatever you want them to be,” says Sarah Nissenbaum, president of the Women Musicians’ Network (WMN). Founded by faculty member Lucy Holstedt in 1998, the club seeks to foster positive relationships, mutual support, and musical collaboration among students who identify as women. The group holds weekly meetings and puts on a gala show each fall at the Berklee Performance Center featuring original work by student performers, composers, and arrangers.
Listen to Lucy Holstedt talk about the history of WMN on Sounds of Berklee:
“It’s so great to have a supportive space like this,” says Nissenbaum, who performed in the 2018 showcase and helped run the WMN social media before becoming copresident this year. “And I’ve learned so much from working on the show, both onstage and behind the scenes.”
Nissenbaum emphasizes the club’s spirit of openness: “We don’t have an application process,” she says. “Students can just show up. We’re always looking for everyone’s ideas. The mindset is: let’s take all our skill sets, and together we can create something magical.”
Magic was one of the watchwords for the Audire Soundtrack Choir and Orchestra's fall show, Ewoks, Wizards, and Miis, Oh My! Produced by a team of students, including managing director Hallie Kaszas and music director Daniel Jones, the show featured student arrangements of soundtracks from the Harry Potter and Star Wars series, plus 1990s Disney classics such as The Little Mermaid and Aladdin, and several scores from video games such as Minecraft.
“I’ve been involved with Audire since my first semester,” says Kaszas, who handles many of the planning and coordinating logistics for the group’s shows. “It can be such a good place for new students to meet upperclassmen and have a routine, a place to come outside of class.”
Community is a key part of many student clubs, some of which work to build connections across the various parts of Berklee. Tara-Jean Canlon, president of the Musical Theater Club (MTC), emphasizes the connections she has made, and helped foster, as a result of her work with the club.
“In some ways we are the merger fully realized,” says Canlon, a senior theater major at the Conservatory who has been involved with MTC for several years. “Our work helps show that we are the same school. There’s a different energy at the College than at the Conservatory, and we get to fuse those two here. People from both places learn from each other. It’s an environment where we can produce semi-professional shows with education and passion.”
The MTC puts on three full-length shows each year, plus a gala fundraiser at the Berklee Dining Hall. This year’s gala, held in November, raised $2,500 to support the club’s operating expenses.
“We have to pay for so many things—show rights, venues, sets, costumes, lights, and technical equipment,” says Canlon. “Figuring that out, and producing the shows, has been such a great educational experience, even though it is sometimes really scary to do it all ourselves.”
“Students can just show up. We’re always looking for everyone’s ideas. The mindset is: let’s take all our skill sets, and together we can create something magical.”
—Sarah Nissenbaum, President, Women Musicians' Network
Clubs provide a way for students from all across Berklee—different instruments, departments, and divisions—to form deep connections while pursuing their mutual interests. Sometimes, that leads to industry ties outside Berklee, says Shiqi (Melody) Qiao, copresident of Berklee’s Chinese Music Industry Club.
“China is the seventh largest music market in the world,” says Qiao, who was instrumental in putting on the group’s third annual Berklee China-U.S. Music Summit this fall. “We want to connect the Chinese and U.S. music industries, and give students the chance to make connections with experts in the industry.” The summit brings dozens of Chinese music executives, performers, and other professionals to campus for panel discussions, networking events, and a gala concert at the Berklee Performance Center.
Watch Chinese superstar Tia Ray perform with students at a concert organized by Berklee’s Chinese Music Industry Club:
“We want American students to come and learn, too,” says Qiao. “We are building a platform for students to help their future careers, and tighten the relationship between the U.S. and Chinese music industries.”
All four of these clubs, and many others at Berklee, are open to all students: the most important ingredient is a willingness to show up. View the full list of student clubs at berklee.edu/student-activities/student-clubs.