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On a high note

Berklee has big plans for the dedicated Indian music student reports Pankaj Mullick

education Updated: Apr 07, 2010 09:41 IST
Pankaj Mullick

Beyond a certain point of excellence, quality Western music education is hard to come by in India, is the refrain that one gets to hear a lot. While there is no dearth of fly-by-night operators in this sphere, formalised programmes are few and far between. For those willing to dedicate their lives to music, as opposed to hobbyists, the question is: where does one train? These aspirants want to be assured that their innate talent will be nurtured to its full potential. Such folk are usually advised to look westwards and one of the institutions that they look up to is Berklee College of Music in Boston, Massachusetts.

India focus
Students from 79 countries study contemporary music at Berklee and they form 24.2 per cent of the student population of 4,145. Though India doesn’t yet figure in the top five countries represented at the college, Berklee is working to change that. Over the years, the college has maintained associations with some stellar music institutions, such as the Performer’s Collective School of Music, which has centres in Kalkaji in Delhi, and Gurgaon. In Febraury this year, Berklee held auditions (as well as music clinics) in association with Performer’s Collective and the American Centre at Delhi and Mumbai.

“We were pleased with the turnout at both sites. What was most gratifying to our visiting team was the attentiveness of the students at the clinics; their musical preparation; their questions; their answers; and the pure joy with which these young musicians approached their music,” says Greg Badolato, assistant vice president for international programmes, Berklee College of Music, who was part of the team that came to India. “It is obvious that Berklee has lots of great reasons to want to be in India. We fully expect to return next year,” adds Badolato.

Auditions are the most significant part of the admission procedure of Berklee. An interview forms the other part of the procedure. Berklee likes to refer to this procedure as A&I, i.e. audition and interview.

“The audition is approximately 15 minutes, as is the interview. There is a total of 30 minutes face-time with a two-person audition team and a one-person interviewer,” says Badolato. Students are also given 15 minutes for warm-up and preparation, he adds.

Along with an interview, the auditions also boost the student’s eligibility for scholarships. “When students participate in the A&I, they are also fulfilling the performance requirement for scholarship consideration,” says Badolato. He adds that the amount of money allocated per scholarship can vary, and the average award is 35 per cent of tuition. The top awards provide full tuition, housing and fees and are called ‘Presidential Scholarships’. Berklee semesters start in January and September, each year.

Settling in
International students usually have special needs and the college understands that. “International students who come to Berklee will find a hospitable and respectful environment in which to study, perform and compose. Berklee offers Peer Advising to ease the transition into the Berklee community. This mentoring programme pairs each new student with an upper semester student and a faculty member,” says Badolato. The college also runs an Office of Cultural Diversity to provide support to students from diverse backgrounds and ethnicities.

One of the most important things that a student of music expects from a music college is aid and support to unlock his/her creativity. And Berklee provides ample support.

Berklee, which was founded in 1945, has 12 majors. Many of these majors may be combined as dual majors requiring five years. They include composition, contemporary writing and production, electronic production and design, film scoring, jazz composition, music business/management andmusic production and engineering.