Two of New England’s biggest arts institutions are teaming up. After months of rumors, reports, and speculation, Berklee College of Music — Vanyaland’s partner for events at South By Southwest in Austin, Texas, and New York City’s CMJ — has announced their merger with the Boston Conservatory.
The news was made official this morning via berklee.edu, and the merger agreement is slated to be signed tomorrow during a public celebration at Berklee Performance Center.
Says Jeff Shames, Berklee Board of Trustees chair, in the press release: “From our first discussions with the Conservatory leadership, we have felt a kinship around shared responsibility to our students and the future of the performing arts. Aligning with the Conservatory allows all of us to envision and then to create a combined institution that will give students a broad array of innovative tools. We intend to collectively invest in the new Berklee—regardless of discipline, program, or genre—and hope to create significant artistic breakthroughs. We see tremendous opportunities for all of our students to benefit from our combined resources, in a powerful new model of 21st-century performing arts training.”
Adds David Scott Sloan, Boston Conservatory Board of Trustees chairman: “This merger is a bold step into the future of performing arts education. As we bring together the superb performing arts disciplines of The Boston Conservatory and Berklee, we expect our students will draw upon global cultures and cutting-edge technologies to synthesize completely new art forms. The Conservatory has been pioneering music, dance, and theater education for nearly 150 years, and as part of the new Berklee, we are creating a dynamic institution that will provide students with access to worldwide opportunities in performance and related fields that is without peer.”
We’ll let Berklee provide the details:
Performing arts education pioneers Berklee and The Boston Conservatory have formally agreed to merge, creating the world’s most comprehensive and dynamic training ground for music, dance, theater, and related professions.
Following unanimous approval by each institution’s board of trustees, the merger agreement will be signed in a public celebration on January 20, at the Berklee Performance Center. The provisions of the merger are the result of a six-month period of exploration undertaken by the two schools after signing a June 2015 Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). Input was gathered from many key institutional stakeholders, including faculty, staff, students, parents, alumni, and industry leaders. The combined institution, located in Boston’s historic Back Bay and Fenway neighborhoods, will be known as “Berklee,” with the Conservatory becoming “The Boston Conservatory at Berklee.”
At this time the two institutions have begun the necessary regulatory and accreditation review and approval process, expected to be completed by early summer 2016. Once the relationship is formalized, eight Boston Conservatory trustees will join the Berklee Board of Trustees, expanding it to 43 members. Soundbreaking: The Campaign for Berklee, with a goal of $100 million, will join with the Conservatory’s 150th Anniversary Campaign, Exceeding Expectations, creating a combined goal of $121 million. Over the next five years, the new institution will make significant investments in new program development, business process review, capital improvements, and communications.
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. The combined institution is poised to become the leader in exploring new and original art forms, breaking down boundaries that isolate genres, and unleashing the tremendous creative potential of the global arts community.
The merger will allow both schools to leverage their individual strengths in co-designing new courses and hybrid programs not possible elsewhere. These new offerings will give Boston Conservatory students enhanced access to Berklee’s leading studies in improvisation and contemporary music, technology, music business, music therapy, sound design, production, film scoring, and online education. Likewise, Berklee students will benefit from access to the Conservatory’s expertise in classical music, opera, dance, movement, acting, and musical theater.
The merger also allows for the creation of new summer and study abroad programs at the Berklee campus in Valencia, Spain, which is housed in the Palau de les Arts Reina Sofia, the city’s iconic opera house. In addition, Boston Conservatory faculty will have the opportunity to develop courses for Berklee Online, the largest nonprofit online music school in the world. Both schools are committed to expanding online education as a component of addressing college affordability.
While Boston Conservatory and Berklee students have collaborated informally for decades—as seen with the Berklee Indian Ensemble, the Neapolitan Orchestra, and the Berklee Silent Film Orchestra—the June 2015 announcement of the potential merger sparked a new surge in student-initiated collaborations. The student government associations from both schools have created a joint group, Bridge the Gap, to program and publicize initiatives that bring students from the two institutions together. Among these are various music and dance projects, instrumental duos, and musical theater stagings. In fall 2015, Boston Conservatory students began hosting programs on the BIRN, the Berklee student-run internet radio station; in March 2016, the Berklee Equinox Festival will explore the nexus of classical music and improvisation, with a series of concerts and workshops at both The Boston Conservatory and Berklee that will celebrate their musical commonalities and shared creativity.