Tonya Butler Named Chair of Music Business/Management

Butler is the first woman and the first African American to lead the department.

December 17, 2019

Tonya Butler

Image by Kelly Davidson

Berklee College of Music has appointed Tonya Butler as chair of the Music Business/Management Department. She will succeed Don Gorder, the department's founder and current chair, in August 2020.

Since her arrival on campus in 2017, Butler has made a positive impact on the Berklee community. The seasoned music industry veteran has coordinated visiting artist seminars, moderated panels, counseled students, and cultivated partnerships across departments. She also teaches three courses, including Music Business Management and Leadership through Berklee Online.

“Tonya has the experience, tenacity, and academic savvy to take the reins of the Music Business/Management Department and lead it to new heights,” says Gorder. “She is a consummate educator, revered by students and colleagues alike, with a firm resolve to keep the department at the forefront of music business education. It’s comforting for me to know I’m leaving the department in such good hands.”

As chair, Butler will oversee the launch of a new Bachelor of Arts in Music Business program, create the opportunity for every Berklee student to incorporate music business into their education, and continue to serve students through early academic advising. 

“My truth is relationships, collaborations, bridge-building, and program development," says Butler. "That’s what I’ve always done, and that’s what put me on Berklee’s radar.”

An accomplished educator and entertainment attorney, Butler came to Berklee from Minnesota State University, Mankato, where she directed the Music Industry Studies program. She previously served as coordinator of music business at the University of Memphis and as course director of entertainment marketing and media distribution at the Los Angeles Film School.

"We are fortunate to have Tonya Butler as the new chair of the Music Business/Management Department,” says Darla Hanley, dean of the Professional Education Division. “It's an exciting time as we appoint the first woman chair of Music/Business Management—and the second chair in the department's history. Tonya brings a wealth of experience as an educator, administrator, entertainment lawyer, author, and award-winning public speaker. She is a strong leader and role model for our students."

Butler has presented numerous seminars on taking personal responsibility for one's career based on her book, The Music Business is Corrupt…or Maybe You Just Can’t Sing? She is a former voting member and two-term governor of the Memphis chapter of the Recording Academy, and the cochair emeritus of the College Music Society’s committee on music business and industry engagement.

Butler earned her Juris Doctor degree from California Western School of Law and a Master of Laws degree in entertainment and media law from Southwestern University School of Law/Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge, England. 

For Butler, who came from humble beginnings in Watts, Compton, and Inglewood, California, being named chair is a huge acknowledgement and accomplishment. “I want young women and women of color to say ‘I can do that,’” Butler says. “I want to be living proof that with faith and perseverance, the unlikely, the unexpected, and even the unprecedented are possible.”

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