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Berklee College of Music Celebrates 60th Anniversary

When aspiring music students think of furthering their education, one of the first schools that come to mind is the Berklee College of Music in Boston, Massachusetts. Not only does Berklee turn out scores of professional musicians every year, many alumni have become famous recording artists. As VOA's Doug Levine tells us, Berklee, which recently capped its 60th academic year, is now one of the top destinations for international students.

Besides having a first-rate curriculum, Berklee College of Music has become a stepping stone for many wanting to enter the music business. Four-year degrees are offered in almost anything music-related, including Music Therapy, Film Scoring and Music Business.

The courses, its faculty, location and reputation have made it especially attractive to students from other countries, giving Berklee College of Music President Roger H. Brown a reason to ponder the school's future.

Coming to the Berklee from the private sector in 2004, Brown, a lifelong musician himself, says the influx of international students is having a definite impact in and out of the classroom.

"We have more international students than almost any other American college," he said. "Almost a quarter of our students come from other countries. Seventy-eight different countries are represented. In the first place, we have a very complicated, multicultural environment right here in Boston. So, to understand what our student's needs are and our faculty's needs are and create a culture that works for people who are trying to get a great education, understanding something about the world is critical. But maybe even more importantly, when you get different musical traditions merging and clashing and interacting, you get new ideas."

Once known for its focus on jazz, drawing the likes of Quincy Jones, Gary Burton and Branford Marsalis, Berklee maintains its commitment to nurturing all styles of music. Roger Brown says one thing that won't change is its openness to new ideas.

"The secret sauce here is not one form of music or the other. It's about creating music," he said. "So whatever someone wants to create, we look at it as our job to help give them the tools and skills to realize their vision, to not dictate to them what genre they should like but to say, 'Here's how to unleash your creative abilities.'

"Some of the most exciting music that will be created in the 21st Century is likely not to be homegrown in America," he added. "It will be the fusion of a Brazilian trumpet player with a Chinese keyboard player who might meet here at Berklee, and create some new form of music that no one has even anticipated yet."

More than 800 Berklee College of Music graduates received degrees at the school's 2006 commencement. President Roger Brown presented four Honorary Doctor Of Music Degrees, including one to singer Melissa Etheridge who graduated from Berklee in 1980.