Dear members of the Berklee community,
We are enormously pleased to announce the appointment of Berklee’s fourth president, Erica Muhl, who will assume leadership in July 2021.
The exhaustive, almost yearlong search for our next president was conducted by a diverse committee of individuals from across the Berklee community, and aimed to find a candidate who exemplified a few key criteria. We sought a clear, strategic thinker with an appreciation for the challenges currently facing higher education, with particular regard to affordability; aptitude for leading a complex organization; demonstrated commitment to, and leadership in, issues of equity, diversity, and inclusion; true appreciation for, and understanding of, the life of an artist; proven fundraising ability; and the knowledge and capacity to attract and retain talent. Erica’s deep experience in cross-disciplinary innovation in higher education—with artistry and technology at the core—coupled with her distinguished music career and lifelong dedication to students, embodies the qualities we sought and aligns perfectly with Berklee’s vision. We are confident that her background ideally positions her to integrate programs from every corner of Berklee to amplify the institution as we enter our next era.
Those of you already familiar with Erica will understand our excitement. Erica comes to Berklee from her position as founding executive director and dean of the Jimmy Iovine and Andre Young Academy for Arts, Technology and the Business of Innovation (IYA) at The University of Southern California (USC). Widely recognized as one of the most innovative schools in higher education, IYA was funded by a $70 million gift from Iovine and Young. As its founding executive director, Erica developed the vision, mission, and academic programs of the school. Utilizing the assets of a world-class university, she positioned IYA at the intersection of the arts, technology, media, and entrepreneurship, and was responsible for all aspects, including admissions, curriculum, and strategic industry partnerships. IYA welcomed its first class in 2014, and 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.
While leading the Iovine and Young Academy, she simultaneously served as dean of the USC Roski School of Art and Design, a position she held until July 2018. At Roski, she grew the full-time faculty ranks by 27 percent through the recruitment of renowned artists and scholars from top institutions and secured tenured appointments for new senior faculty hires. She significantly increased the annual operating budget, boosted average annual fundraising by nearly 300 percent, and grew undergraduate student merit aid by 66 percent. She established the school’s first Committee on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion; implemented its first long-range diversity plan; and significantly increased faculty diversity through a strategic hiring initiative. She also worked closely with faculty on the launch of new or fully revised undergraduate programs in design, fine arts, and critical studies, and the launch of the first new graduate program in more than a decade, an M.F.A. in design, which expanded the school’s footprint by establishing a new graduate design studio in the vibrant L.A. Arts District. She also worked to develop strategic partnerships with companies and organizations including Adobe, Autodesk, California African American Museum, Pacific Asia Museum, and the Broad Museum.
Prior to that appointment, she was associate dean of the USC Thornton School of Music, where she has been a tenured professor of composition since 1990. Highly experienced as a leader in academia, Erica is committed to maintaining rigorous standards of academic excellence and consistently seeks to forge new paradigms and opportunities in 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, an approach that aligns perfectly with Berklee’s vision.
Throughout her career, Erica has demonstrated a strong commitment to inclusion and diversity. Under her leadership, the highly selective Iovine and Young Academy has cultivated a diverse student population that has surpassed national averages in similar programs each year since its opening. Given her demonstrated commitment to a diverse student community, we believe she is well-suited to lead Berklee in our effort to address systemic racism, and to maintain and strengthen our ongoing commitment to fostering a diverse community of artists, educators, and staff.
Prior to her transition to higher education administration, Erica maintained an active career as a composer of contemporary music. Her works have been commissioned, performed, and broadcast by leading organizations nationally and internationally, such as Minnesota Opera, the New World Symphony, Italy’s Orchestra della RAI, National Public Radio, and Radiotelevisione italiana (RAI). Her works have also been featured at leading festivals and competitions, including the Aspen Festival, the International Festival of New Music in Caracas, and the International Percussion Competition in Luxembourg. Numerous grants and awards from such organizations as the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the National Endowment for the Arts, and Opera America celebrate Erica’s accomplishments, as do the many residencies and fellowships at organizations including 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, Germany, and the State of Saxony, Germany. She served as assistant conductor for the Los Angeles Opera Theater, Seattle Opera, and the Pacific Northwest Wagner Festival, and has regularly conducted her own works in live performance.
Erica received her early training in composition in Paris from legendary teacher Nadia Boulanger, who counted Virgil Thompson, Aaron Copland, Quincy Jones, and Leonard Bernstein among her former students. As a graduate student, she studied with Franco Donatoni at the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia in Rome and the Accademia Musicale Chigiana in Siena, followed by a doctorate from the University of Southern California Thornton School of Music. As a conductor, she was a student of Fritz Zweig, principal conductor of Deutsche Oper Berlin. Erica’s experience studying and working internationally has helped her develop the perspective necessary to lead an organization with Berklee’s global footprint.
Erica holds secondary specializations in film and film music on her doctoral degree, gained through study with leading film historians at USC’s number-one ranked film school, and Academy Award–winning film composer David Raksin. While a student, she composed the music for a number of regional and national television commercials, as well as direct-to-video content. As faculty, she regularly taught a graduate seminar in director and composer collaborations, which included in-depth analyses of the work of, among others, Prokofiev and Eisenstein, Herrmann and Hitchcock, Williams and Lucas, and the many scores that Miklós Rózsa contributed to film noir. Additionally, she is a noted expert on music copyright infringement, and has consulted for most of the major studios and labels. Her familiarity with the music, visual art, and cultural scenes in L.A., along with her experience with the film industry, will provide our alumni with an invaluable foundation as they move from our campus learning environments to their careers in these fields.
Erica has shown tremendous enthusiasm for her new role, and we feel her own words aptly illustrate her sentiment: “The institution you have all built has no equal, and I am deeply honored by your faith in my ability to continue to grow its mission, and to provide unprecedented and unrivaled learning and professional experiences across the spectrum of music, the arts, technology, and creative entrepreneurship.” We are confident that she will lead with a clear vision as we continue to build upon Berklee’s reputation as the preeminent institute of contemporary music and the performing arts.
The Board of Trustees has formed a transition team, cochaired by Chief of Staff Melissa Howe and Vice President of Community, Government, and Auxiliary Relations Robert Chambers, to create a plan for introducing Berklee’s new president to the community. Virtual town hall meetings for students, faculty, and staff will be offered soon in order to give community members an opportunity to meet Erica informally. We know everyone is very excited to meet Erica, and the search committee, as well as the Board of Trustees, are equally excited to have everyone meet her. We ask for your patience as the two presidents continue to run their respective higher education institutions during a pandemic. The transition team will keep the community updated as plans fall into place. In the meantime, we invite you to watch this video introducing Erica to our community, which contains a personal message from Erica to our faculty, staff, and students. We encourage you to read more about Erica at berklee.edu/berklees-next-president.
The success of this presidential search would not have been possible without the invaluable contributions of our talented search committee. We extend our sincere thanks to these individuals for sharing their time and energy throughout the search process, as well as their flexibility in participating during such a challenging time.
Please join us in warmly welcoming Erica Muhl to the Berklee community.
Chair, Berklee Board of Trustees
Chair, Presidential Search Committee, and Vice Chair, Berklee Board of Trustees