Berklee College of Music is accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC). NEASC is the regional accreditation agency for schools and colleges located in the New England region of the United States.
In 1945 pianist, composer, arranger and MIT graduate Lawrence Berk founded Schillinger House, the precursor to the Berklee School of Music. Located at 284 Newbury St. in Boston's Back Bay, the school specialized in the Schillinger System of harmony and composition developed by Joseph Schillinger. Berk had studied with Schillinger. Instrumental lessons and a few classes in traditional theory, harmony, and arranging were also offered. At the time of its founding almost all music schools focused primarily on classical music, but Schillinger House offered training in jazz and commercial music for radio, theater, television, and dancing. At first, most students were working professional musicians. Many students were former World War II service members who attended under the G.I. Bill. Initial enrollment was fewer than 50 students, but by 1949 there were more than 500 students. In 1954, when the school's curriculum had expanded to include music education classes and more traditional music theory, Berk changed the name to Berklee School of Music, after his 12-year-old son Lee Eliot Berk, to reflect the broader scope of instruction.
Lawrence Berk placed great emphasis on learning from practitioners, as opposed to academics, and generally hired working musicians as faculty members. Several of the school's best-known musician-educators arrived after the school's name change. In 1956, trumpeter Herb Pomeroy joined the faculty and remained until his retirement in 1996. Drummer Alan Dawson and saxophonist Charlie Mariano became faculty members in 1957. Reed player John LaPorta began teaching in 1962. Like many of Berk's ideas, this practice continues into the present. Although far more emphasis is placed on academic credentials among new faculty hires than in the past, experienced performers such as Gary Burton, Pat Metheny, Arif Mardin, Emin Findikoglu, Hasan Cihat Orter, Aydin Esen, Joe Lovano, and Danilo Perez have served as faculty over the years.
Another trend in the school's history also began the mid-1950s. During this period, the school began to attract international students in greater numbers. For example, Japanese pianist Toshiko Akiyoshi arrived in 1956. Multiple Grammy-winning producer Arif Mardin came from Turkey to study at the school in 1958.
In 1957, Berklee initiated the first of many innovative applications of technology to music education with Jazz in the Classroom, a series of LP recordings of student work, accompanied by scores. These albums contain early examples of composing, arranging, and performing by students who went on to prominent jazz careers, such as Gary Burton, John Abercrombie, John Scofield, Ernie Watts, Alan Broadbent, Sadao Watanabe, and many others. The series, which continued until 1980, was a precursor to subsequent Berklee-affiliated recording labels. These later releases provided learning experiences not only for student composers and performers, but also for students in newly created majors in music engineering and production, and music business and management.
Berklee awarded its first bachelor of music degrees in 1966. Members of the first graduating class to receive degrees included Alf Clausen, Stephen Gould and Michael Rendish. Gould taught film scoring at Berklee and is currently the Program Director for the Educational Leadership PhD program at Lesley University. During the 1960s, the Berklee curriculum began to reflect new developments in popular music, such the rise of rock and roll, soul and funk, and jazz-rock fusion. In 1962, Berklee offered the first college-level instrumental major for guitar. The guitar department initially had nine students, and today it is the largest single instrumental major at the college. 1962: Guitarist Jack Petersen accepted an invitation by Lawrence Berk, founder of Berklee, to design and chair the first formal guitar curriculum at Berklee College of Music. Berk discovered Petersen through his affiliation with the Stan Kenton Band Clinics. Trombonist Phil Wilson joined the faculty in 1965. His student ensemble, the Dues Band, helped introduce current popular music into the ensemble curriculum, and later as the Rainbow Band, performed world music and jazz fusions. In 1969, new courses in rock and popular music were added to the curriculum, the first ever offered at the college level. The first college course on jingle writing was also offered in 1969.
The school became Berklee College of Music in 1970 and bestowed its first honorary doctorate on Duke Ellington in 1971. Vibraphonist Gary Burton joined the faculty in 1971, helping to solidify the place of jazz-rock fusion in the curriculum. As Dean of Curriculum from 1985 to 1996, Burton led the development of several new majors, including music synthesis and songwriting, and facilitated the school's transition to technology-based education. Curriculum innovations during the 1970s included the first college-level instrumental major in electric bass guitar in 1973, and the first jazz-rock ensemble class in 1974.
In 1979, Berklee founder Lawrence Berk stepped down as president. The board of trustees appointed his son, Lee Eliot Berk, to replace him. Under new leadership, the school underwent further growth and diversification of its curriculum. The college offered the world's first undergraduate degree program in film scoring starting 1980. Beginning in 1981, the string department curriculum expanded to include many stylistic idioms besides classical music. In 1986, the world's first college-level major in music synthesis was offered, followed by the world's first college songwriting major in 1987. Instrumental majors also expanded to include the first college hand-percussion major in 1988.
The number of international students has grown steadily to 24.2% of total enrollment in 2010 and 28% as of the 2012-2013 academic year.
Berklee expanded its community outreach efforts in 1991 with the launch of City Music, a program designed to make music instruction available to underserved youth in the Boston area. On a more global scale, Berklee partnered with selected music schools around the world to form the Berklee International Network in 1993. Another new major, in music therapy, was offered beginning in 1996. In 2002, the school began offering classes online through Berkleemusic.com, now called Berklee Online. Other curriculum developments included the incorporation of a hip-hop course in 2004.
In 2004, Lee Eliot Berk stepped down as president of the school his father had founded, and Roger H. Brown was installed as the college's third president. Under Brown's leadership the college's enrollment has grown and diversified, admission has become highly selective, and significant increases have occurred in the retention (above 80% in 2016) and graduation rate (above 60% in 2015). In 2006, mandolin and banjo were accepted as principal instruments for the first time. The college also initiated an Africana Studies program, the Berklee Global Jazz Institute, and an American Roots Music Program. In October 2013, Berklee Online launched its online degree programs, and began accepting applications for the Bachelor of Professional Studies in two majors: music production, and music business. In January 2014, the College launched the Berklee Institute for Creative Entrepreneurship (Berklee ICE), a new campus center which offers courses, workshops, research and an incubation environment to encourage music businesses startup companies.
In June 2015, Berklee College of Music and The Boston Conservatory announced that the governing boards for the two schools had approved plans to pursue a proposed merger. On January 19, 2016, the two schools announced that they would be merging. The agreement was signed the next day, with Berklee College of Music being renamed Berklee, and the Conservatory being renamed The Boston Conservatory at Berklee.
Students at Berklee are exposed to a range of instruments, musical styles, and career options, so they can explore possibilities and find their own paths. Toward that end, Berklee offers student musicians courses of study toward a fully accredited four-year baccalaureate degree or professional diploma. Students may combine many of Berklee's 12 majors, depending on the nature of the program. The dual major program requires a five-year course of study and is available to both degree and diploma candidates.
Majors offered in Berklee are Composition, Contemporary Writing and Production, Electronic Production and Design, Film Scoring, Jazz Composition, Music Business/Management, Music Education (degree only), Music Production and Engineering, Music Therapy (degree only), Performance, Professional Music, and Songwriting.
In Fall 2010, Berklee's Liberal Arts Department introduced new minors that Berklee students can pursue aside from their major. These include Acoustics and Electronics, Audio Design for Video Games, Conducting, Drama, English, History, Instrument Repair, Music and Society, Performance Studies in Latin Music, Philosophy, Psychology, Theory of Jazz and Popular Song, Video Game Scoring, Visual Culture and New Media Studies, and Writing for TV and New Media.
Berklee offers a study abroad opportunity for its students in Boston. The program takes students to Berklee College of Music in Valencia, Spain to study a range of offerings from performance and music business as well as filmscoring and other aspect of music technology.
In June 2014, Berklee announced that it was launching two new graduate degree programs at its Boston campus, with the first classes entering in Fall 2015. The two graduate degrees available are a Master of Arts in Music Therapy and a Master of Music in Contemporary Performance.
Their mission is to provide opportunities and scholarships to Bolivian students to attend the finest art schools in the world. This project, now a non-profit organization, was established because of Luis Gamarra. Gamarra, a Berklee College of Music student in Boston, MA, refused to settle with the fact that he was the only Bolivian student at Berklee. Gamarra wanted to introduce Berklee to Bolivia and provide opportunities for the Bolivian artists. He wants as many artists as possible to have the same opportunities he has had by being able to study at such a prestigious school. Berklee Institute for Creative Entrepreneurship also helped Sonidos Bolivianos broadened their spectrum of sponsors and partners and Sonidos was the first startup BerkleeICE worked with.
In June 2015, Gamarra, along with Sonidos Bolivianos and other Berklee students and faculty, traveled to Bolivia to not only organize and conduct student auditions but to also create a video of the various encounters with the musicians. This was Berklee’s first trip to Bolivia to conduct auditions. Sonidos Bolivianos performed Bolivias National Anthem for their launch video. The National anthem was arranged by Juan Rosales, Berklee College of Music alum. The video was filmed in Salar de Uyuni, the largest salt flat in the world. The artists wore elaborate traditional Bolivian headpieces. Grammy nominee Eddy Navia played the charango, a traditional folkloric instrument in the video. The video garnered more than 50,000 views on the first day it was launched. It was also featured on CNN, Berklee’s website and local Bolivian News channels. The Bolivian mobile phone company ‘Tigo’ dispatched the song to all of its customers free of charge.
Since Gamarra began this organization, another Bolivian student has joined the student body at Berklee.
Berklee's admission process is holistic. It focuses primarily on the audition, the interview and the applicant's previous academic record.
Berklee offers three different terms for entering full-time students: the traditional fall semester, spring, and summer. Unlike other colleges, entering students may choose their own entering semester. Typically, the deadlines are November 1 (early action) and January 15 (regular action) for fall semester, July 1 for spring semester, and December 1 for summer semester.
As part of the application to the college, applicants are required to complete a live audition and interview. An integral part of selecting the entering class is the audition and interview experience, designed to show applicants' strengths while helping the school to assess applicants' talent and potential to succeed in Berklee's dynamic environment. Although there is a general format for the audition and interview, each experience is unique. Berklee considers all applicants for both admission and scholarship through the audition and interview process. Starting in 2014, the College will audition some applicants online using high speed internet technology.
Berklee College of Music's acceptance rate for Fall 2012 semester was 19.2%.
As of the 2013–2014 academic year, total enrollment at Berklee was 4,402. Of students enrolled in degree programs, 29% were female, 11% were African American, and 10% were Hispanic. Students from 100 countries outside the U.S. accounted for approximately 30% of the student population. South Korea, Japan, Canada, Mexico, and China were the top five countries of origin. In addition to students attending the Berklee campus in Boston, in the 2012–2013 academic year, approximately 5,000 students took online courses through Berklee Online.
Berklee remained at its original location at 284 Newbury Street from its founding in 1945 to 1966, when it moved into the larger 1140 Boylston Street building, the former Hotel Bostonian. Beginning in 1972 an era of more rapid expansion began with the purchase of the Fenway Theatre and the adjoining Sherry Biltmore Hotel at 150 Massachusetts Avenue. The theater was renovated and opened as the 1,227-seat Berklee Performance Center in 1976. The former Biltmore Hotel provided additional classroom and practice room spaces and residence halls. It also houses the library, which was renamed the Stan Getz Library and Media Center in 1998. The 150 Massachusetts Avenue building is also the site of the Berklee Learning Center, which when it opened in 1993, was the world's largest networked computer learning facility for music education.
The Genko Uchida Center at 921 Boylston Street opened in 1997 and houses the offices for enrollment, admissions, scholarships and student employment, the registrar, financial aid, bursar, rehearsal and classroom space, and the 200-seat David Friend Recital Hall. At 939 Boylston Street, Café 939, the nation's only student-run, all-ages night club, hosts a full program of student performers, local and national acts, and community programs.
As of 2014, Berklee occupied 25 buildings primarily in the Back Bay area of Boston, near the intersection of Boylston Street and Massachusetts Avenue. Within these buildings were 40 recording studios, 5 film/video scoring and editing facilities, and 9 music synthesis facilities. The studios of the five-channel, commercial-free Berklee Internet Radio Network (BIRN), which launched in 2007, were also housed on campus. A new Liberal Arts building at 7 Haviland Street was dedicated in 2010. It houses the Liberal Arts, Music Therapy, and Music Business Departments, as well as the Africana Studies program.
In early 2011, Berklee College of Music announced its master plan of building 3 new buildings along the Massachusetts Avenue. The first building, a 16-story mixed-use building at 160 Massachusetts Avenue that include 370 dorm rooms, a two-story cafeteria, a performance center, 14,000 square feet (1,300 m2) of recording studios, and retail space, opened in February 2014. Boston Globe architecture critic Robert Campbell described it "as very good building." The building received the American Institute of Architects' 2015 Housing Award, being named one of the best 10 residential projects of the previous year. The second building is going to be built on top of the existing 130–136 Massachusetts Avenue (The Berklee Performance Centre). The new building is expected to house additional 450 students, as well as a performing center, in its 24-story tall structure. The third building is planned to be at 161–171 Massachusetts Avenue, which is expected to contain more academic and administrative space for the Berklee College of Music. Berklee speculates that the new building will be open for Spring 2014.
Berklee València is the college's first international campus, housed in the Palau de les Arts Reina Sofia. Queen Sofía Palace of the Arts is the final structure built of a grand City of Arts and Sciences concept designed by the Valencia-born and internationally known architect Santiago Calatrava, which began construction in 1995 and was opened on 8 October 2005.
Berklee València campus focuses primarily on graduate programs in the following areas: Contemporary Performance; Music Technology Innovation; Global Entertainment and Music Business; and Scoring for Film, Television, and Video Games.
Berklee Boston undergraduates have the opportunity to study at the València campus. Designed for students in music business, performance or music technology majors, the program offers students access to facilities and a chance to experience the European music industry.
This center expands international opportunities for Berklee students through a variety of initiatives that include internships for those candidates with the most talent and qualifications, and networking opportunities in the València signature areas of study.
Students, experienced Berklee educators, visiting musicians, and new faculty from Spain and beyond meet in Valencia to explore the many fusions of global music prevalent in and around the Mediterranean rim. The institute will help make Berklee in Valencia a hub for the study, evolution, and proliferation of the many musical genres associated with the Mediterranean region, including flamenco. Javier Limón serves as the Artistic Director of the Berklee College of Music's Mediterranean Music Institute.
Berklee's campus in València regularly offers unique programs in contemporary music. These include clinics, workshops, and seminars as well as short, concentrated sessions in areas such as performance, flamenco, film scoring, music business, technology and production, and education.
Berklee Online is the online extension school of Berklee College of Music. The school delivers access to Berklee's curriculum to students around the world.
Berklee Online's online music courses, multi-course certificate programs, and Bachelor of Professional Studies online degree programs are accredited and taught by the college's faculty and industry professionals. The school also provides free Berklee online music resources through massive open online courses (MOOCs) including Coursera, EdX, and Kadenze.
From 2005 to 2012, the University Professional Continuing Education Association (UPCEA) awarded Berklee Online with its Best Online College Course Award. Since its inception, Berklee Online has taught more than 30,000 students from 144 countries.
Former Berklee Online students include members of Nine Inch Nails, Dave Matthews Band (Stefan Lessard), Karmin (Amy Heidemann), Sugarland (Annie Clements, Brandon Bush, Thad Beatty), and Train (band).
Berklee's online music courses are 12 weeks in duration, and are accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC). Students can opt to take courses for-credit or non-credit.
The courses cover all areas of music education including music production, performance, songwriting, orchestration, music business, music theory, and more. All courses are authored and taught by Berklee faculty or industry experts. Berklee Online offers three types of multi-course certificate programs ranging from one to three years of training: Specialist (3 courses), Professional (5 to 6 courses), and Master (8 to 12 courses).
In October 2013, the online school began accepting applications for its 120-credit online degree in two majors: Bachelor of Professional Studies in Music Production and Bachelor of Professional Studies in Music Business. In November 2014, Berklee Online added three new degree majors to its Bachelor of Professional Studies program: Electronic Music Production and Sound Design, Music Composition for Film, TV, and Games, and Interdisciplinary Music Studies, a major that allows students to build their own program based on their musical interests and goals. The college is reportedly the first nonprofit music institution to offer regionally accredited bachelor's degrees online.
Berklee Press is the publishing arm of Berklee College of Music and has been publishing music instruction books since the 1960s.