Erica Muhl brings a wealth of experience from her 30-year academic and artistic career to her role as Berklee’s president. In May 2013, Muhl was appointed as founding executive director of the groundbreaking Jimmy Iovine and Andre Young Academy for Arts, Technology and the Business of Innovation at the University of Southern California. Simultaneously, she served as dean of the USC Roski School of Art and Design, a position she held until July of 2018. Prior to joining the Roski School, Muhl served as associate dean of the USC Thornton School of Music, where she has been tenured as a professor of composition since 1990.
In July 2018, Muhl was appointed as the inaugural dean of the USC Iovine and Young Academy as it became the university’s 20th professional school. Under Muhl’s guidance, the academy has emerged at the forefront of the drive to expand the reach of higher education beyond traditional disciplinary silos and toward new pathways for learning and discovery. The school’s unique educational model, and its strong student outcomes, have been highlighted in the Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times, London Times, Forbes, Billboard, Variety, Wired, GQ, Chronicle of Higher Education, Inc., Business Insider, Tech Crunch, and MIT Technology Review. In the fall of 2017, the academy launched its first graduate degree, the Master of Science in Integrated Design, Business, and Technology program, which has set new standards for online cross-disciplinary instruction. The school reached another education milestone in fall 2020 with the Master of Science in Product Innovation program, which redefines product design for the 21st-century marketplace.
Throughout her career as a creative artist, scholar, teacher, and administrator, Muhl has remained committed to maintaining rigorous standards of academic excellence while seeking to forge new paradigms and models for higher education. She has worked steadily to catalyze the field toward change, in particular as a staunch public advocate for multidisciplinary and integrative programs that nurture innovative thought through an emphasis on creativity as fueled by technology and entrepreneurship.
Muhl has presented talks and keynotes and served as a panelist at national and international conferences, symposia, and seminars focused on the future of education, including South by Southwest EDU; Adobe MAX; the Arts, Media and Entertainment Leadership Institute; the Education Writers Association Higher Education Seminar; the National Federation for Municipal Analysts Annual Conference; Microsoft Summit ("Learning in the Digital Age"); and the National Association of Music Merchants National Conference. She has also been a featured guest at Apple’s elite internal institute, Apple University. In addition to her work in higher education, Muhl has served as a speaker and consultant for K–12 education, including as part of a team at the University of Southern California that designed the capstone events for the 2018 Apple Distinguished Schools Learning Series.
Prior to her move into higher education administration, Muhl maintained an international practice as a composer of contemporary concert music. Major critics have praised her music, describing it as "strong and poetic," "ravishingly beautiful," “haunting,” and "fearless.” Paul Hertelendy, one of America’s most esteemed music critics, wrote, "Muhl has a fine ear and an iridescent palette...[Her work] is a contemporary foray into impressionism, mysticism, veiled allure, and the shimmering colors of a concert orchestra."
Her works have been commissioned, performed, and broadcast by leading organizations such as Minnesota Opera, the New World Symphony, Italy’s Orchestra della RAI, Venezuela’s National Philharmonic Orchestra, the Orchestra of St. Luke’s, Cuarteto Latinoamericano, the Arditti Quartet, National Public Radio, Mexican National Television, and Radiotelevisione italiana (RAI); and featured at national and international festivals and competitions, including the Aspen Festival, the International Festival of New Music in Caracas, the International Forum of New Music in Mexico City, the Festival Nuovi Spazi in Rome, and the International Percussion Competition in Luxembourg.
Muhl has served as assistant conductor for Los Angeles Opera Theater, Seattle Opera, and the Pacific Northwest Wagner Festival’s complete Der Ring des Nibelungen. She has regularly conducted her own works, including the recording of "Consolation" with Cleveland Chamber Symphony contained on her album Range of Light (Albany Records, 2004).
She has received grants and awards from such organizations as the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the National Endowment for the Arts, and Opera America, and has held residencies and fellowships from, among others, Italy’s Civitella Ranieri Foundation, the Charles Ives Center for American Music, the Atlantic Center for the Arts, the American Academy in Rome, the Cultural Ministry of Venezuela, the Richard-Wagner-Stätten in Dresden, and the State of Saxony, Germany.
Muhl was born and raised in Los Angeles, where her father, Edward, was head of production for Universal Pictures and her mother, Barbara, worked as an author and amateur soprano. Muhl was trained both as a composer and conductor, with much of that training completed in Europe. At age 16, she was invited to study with renowned teacher Nadia Boulanger at the American Conservatory in Paris. After returning to California to earn her Bachelor of Music, she traveled again to Europe for graduate studies at the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia in Rome and the Accademia Musicale Chigiana in Siena, studying with prominent Italian composer Franco Donatoni. In 1991, she completed her D.M.A. at the University of Southern California Thornton School of Music. Along with Boulanger and Donatoni, her primary teachers in composition were Aurelio de la Vega and Daniel Kessner. She also credits as primary mentors composers Joan Tower, Bernard Rands, and Chinary Ung. In conducting, she worked with Walter Cataldi-Tassoni, longtime conductor and stage director for Rome Opera and himself a student of Mascagni, and the legendary Fritz Zweig, a student of Humperdinck and a close colleague of Richard Strauss and Otto Klemperer.