The quality and diversity of the student body is a defining characteristic of the institution. Under President Roger H. Brown’s leadership, the institution adopted a more selective admissions policy, and audition requirements have strengthened the institution’s ability to identify students who will succeed. Since 2004, female enrollment at the college has increased by 84 percent, international enrollment has increased by 72 percent, African-American enrollment has increased by 46 percent, and Hispanic/Latinx enrollment has increased by 115 percent. Scholarship support for students has increased by more than 570 percent since 2005, and Thrive, a recently launched strategy to provide additional scholarship support to high-performing upper-semester students, is leading to improved student retention and graduation rates. Student services have been reorganized around the student experience—from enrollment, campus life, and health and wellness to diversity and inclusion, counseling and advising, and career preparation.
Faculty and Curriculum
Hiring prominent faculty members and department chairs who are leaders in their field and diversifying the faculty and chair group to more closely reflect student diversity have been priorities under Brown’s leadership. Of the institution’s 42 department chairs, 36 percent are women and 30 percent are African American. Recent appointments include highly regarded artists, educators, songwriters, and performers.
Academic minors, including creative entrepreneurship, Africana studies, conducting, dance, and Latin music studies, were introduced in 2010, providing students with a broader range of course work to deepen their educational experience. Principal instruments have been expanded during Brown’s tenure to include mandolin, banjo, qanun, and electronic digital instruments.
The college has also launched 12 educational institutes that allow students to deepen their focus in particular areas. These institutes—Berklee Global Jazz Institute, Berklee Institute for Creative Entrepreneurship, Effortless Mastery Institute, American Roots Music Program, Berklee Popular Music Institute, Berklee Institute of Jazz and Gender Justice, Berklee India Exchange, and Mediterranean Music Institute—offer a range of multidisciplinary studies in history, performance, composition, improvisation, the social power of music, and many other topics.
To date, Berklee alumni have been honored with 295 Grammy Awards, 19 Emmy Awards, five Tony Awards, and five Academy Awards. Engagement with alumni continues to deepen, with active alumni chapters in Los Angeles, Nashville, New York City, Atlanta, and Seoul, among other cities. Alumni also welcome students to their cities for spring break programs designed to introduce them to industry leaders. A recent alumni survey found that 70 percent report their primary occupation is music-related. In addition to active careers as performing artists, producers, film and video game composers, and educators, many alumni are making contributions in the technology industry as employees at Apple, Facebook, Tesla, and other leading companies.
Merger with the Boston Conservatory
In 2016, performing arts education pioneers Berklee College of Music and the Boston Conservatory formally agreed to merge, creating the world’s most comprehensive and dynamic training ground for music, dance, theater, and related professions. The strategic underpinning of the merger is the belief that music, movement, and digital technology are converging to give artists powerful new means of creative expression in the theater, on the concert stage, and through established and emerging platforms. Strong enrollment by Berklee students in elective dance courses, including hip-hop dance; the creation of the institution’s first-ever opera program, in Valencia, Spain; and the formation of countless student collaborations are among the early achievements. Applications to Boston Conservatory at Berklee are up over 50 percent in the three years since the merger. Conservatory admissions have become more selective, and Presidential Scholarships, which cover full tuition as well as room and board costs, are being offered to Conservatory students.
During Brown’s tenure, Berklee created the world’s largest online music education system (including massive open online courses, or MOOCs, that have reached more than 2.4 million students) and launched online undergraduate and graduate degree and certificate programs that serve musicians from more than 150 countries. Because Berklee Online isn’t tethered to a physical campus, anyone in the world can get a Berklee education at their own pace at a fraction of on-campus tuition.
Berklee’s global presence has grown dramatically under Brown’s leadership, strengthened by partnerships with institutions that have common goals: to develop innovative educational experiences, create career pathways for performers, nurture entrepreneurial opportunities, and support affordable avenues to higher education. Berklee’s academic partnerships with music schools stretch from South Korea to Israel to Mexico to Malaysia, allowing students to transfer course credits to Berklee—a key feature of Berklee’s affordability initiative. Berklee also enjoys a wide range of alliances with many other organizations and institutions via its network, affiliate, and special partnerships, allowing for collaboration on events, programs, projects, performing arts interchanges, cooperative or dual degrees, and career development.
Recognizing the value of deeper engagement with European, African, and Middle Eastern musical traditions, and with an eye on creating study-abroad opportunities for students, Berklee formed a partnership with the Province of Valencia, Spain, to establish a Berklee campus there. Opened in 2011, the campus offers four master’s degree programs and serves hundreds of students annually with summer programs and study abroad opportunities.
The institution continues to explore opportunities to deliver Berklee-quality music education in the global marketplace.
Diversity and Equity
The diversity of faculty and staff at Berklee continues to grow. Five of the institution’s six educational units are led by women: Boston Conservatory at Berklee; Berklee Online; Berklee’s campus in Valencia, Spain; Berklee Summer Programs; and Berklee City Music. Beginning in the first year of Brown’s tenure, the college bargained with the faculty union to strengthen policies to prevent sexual harassment and abuse, and has taken a number of measures to create a better and safer environment. The institution expanded the Center for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion; established and clarified relationship policies; and created a chief equity officer position to oversee Title IX programs and compliance and to create mandatory training for students, faculty, and staff around equity issues.
The Boston campus has been significantly improved to better meet student needs. Opened in 2014, the 160 Massachusetts Avenue building is Berklee’s first ground-up, custom-built facility, with 173 residence hall rooms for 369 students; 23 practice rooms; six two-story common areas; a fitness center; and a 400-seat dining hall that doubles as a performance space. A state-of-the-art 10-studio music production complex—among the largest of its kind in the U.S.—is located on the floors below street level.
The building at 7 Haviland Street was purchased and renovated in 2009, providing classrooms and office space for Africana Studies and the Music Business/Management and Liberal Arts departments. The renovated 150 Massachusetts Avenue complex provided new student activity space, greater accessibility, and rehearsal space for large ensembles. Boston Conservatory at Berklee spaces have been updated to meet the needs of growth in dance and musical theater programs. Additionally, the streetscape on Boylston Street between Massachusetts Avenue and Hemenway Street was completely renewed, bringing life and energy to a major pathway on campus.
In 2017, a landmark public-private-nonprofit partnership brought together Berklee, the city of New York, and a private donor to revitalize the historic recording studio on West 53rd Street, now named Power Station at BerkleeNYC. This facility, currently under renovation, provides a home for educational programming to serve Berklee students and alumni, as well as New York musicians and public school students, while continuing operation as an in-demand studio whose clients include multiple Grammy and Tony winners.
Berklee launched its first-ever capital campaign in 2008 with a goal of $40 million. Named Giant Steps, the goal was increased to $50 million with the support from the Board of Trustees. The campaign concluded in 2013, with funds surpassing $54.5 million. The follow-up campaign, Soundbreaking, concluded in 2019 and raised more than $160 million—over 30 percent more than its goal of $121 million—to support scholarships, facilities, and the creation of institutes for musical discovery and artistry.
Berklee City Music
Brown has overseen the expansion of the City Music Program beyond Boston in an effort to provide educational opportunities for talented but economically disadvantaged urban youth. The program now has partners in cities across America and abroad, reaching more than 55,000 students. He also established a partnership with the New York City Department of Education to bring music programs to more than 60,000 K–12 students in 600 New York City public schools. The Encore Gala, the annual fundraising event for City Music, has raised $30 million for the City Music Scholarship Fund, which provides financial support to students to attend summer programs and enroll full-time at Berklee.
Read the press release announcing Roger H. Brown's decision to step down.
Read Roger H. Brown's full biography.