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Berklee College of Music – Advice for Entering Students

I received a question from a student about to enter Berklee College of Music.  Do you have any advice for someone entering Berklee College of Music?

Before entering Berklee, I went on the Berklee alumni forum on LinkedIn and asked a very similar question.  Does anyone have any advice for a student entering Berklee?  The responses I got were overwhelmingly focused on two things: 1. Practice and 2. Network.

This makes a lot of sense, since most of work you will be getting in the future will be via word-of-mouth.  Make sure you are as well connected as possible, and make sure you are able to produce high quality work.

I’d like to tackle the question in three parts:

  1. Things I wish I knew – What are some things I could have done before arriving at Berklee?
  2. Things that worked for me – What were some of the things I did at Berklee that have helped my career thus far?
  3. Things I would like to redo – If I were to go back, what are some things I would do differently?

Things I Wish I Knew

A dollars and cents thing to consider is transferring credits from another, cheaper school.  In my case, and in the case of many others, I took classes at Bunker Hill Community College while attending Berklee.  This allowed me to get my liberal arts credits out of the way.  I transferred close to an entire semester worth of credits and used them to take more music-related classes instead of liberal arts classes.  If you choose this route, it’s wise to talk to the Registrar’s Office beforehand to figure out how many credits can be transferred, and what outside classes they will allow.

Things That Worked for Me

I entered Berklee with an open mind.  I knew nothing about music theory, and I couldn’t even play Latin percussion, which was now my “primary” instrument.  Going in with a humble mindset worked out great.

As you might have realized, there wasn’t an option to learn more taiko at Berklee.  As a result, I ended up learning a lot of new skills such as composition, recording, and music production.  This has allowed me to eliminate weaknesses become a much more well-rounded musician.

Many musicians use their time at Berklee to become better at what they already do.  An example would be a guitarist getting a degree in Guitar Performance.  While I’m not opposed to this, I’d like to emphasize that becoming more well-rounded has helped me a lot in my career.

Things I Would Like to Redo

I didn’t do a lot of research on the faculty at Berklee before I arrived.  I should have sought out the professors I wanted to connect with much earlier.  I could have written a short email stating how much I admire the person’s work, and that I would be attending Berklee soon.

I also didn’t take any private lessons outside the Berklee requirements.  Perhaps this would have been too ambitious a workload, but if you have a winter or summer off, try taking a few lessons.

Looking back, there aren’t too many things I regret about the time spent at Berklee.  Perhaps I could have done more – but I also recall how late I stayed up to complete projects, and how tired I was at the end of each semester.  It’s hard to imagine pushing myself any further, and maybe that’s why I have very few things I’d like to redo.

Conclusion

I hope this post has been helpful.  These are just a few of the things that immediately came to mind.  If you have any further questions, please let me know.  And if you’re a student applying to Berklee, I can point you in the right direction regarding the audition and interview process.  Please feel free to reach out.

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