On Tuesday, October 7, Boston’s Berklee College of Music will begin accepting applications for a new online music degree program that will commence in the fall semester of 2014. Berklee is the first non-profit music institution to offer online bachelor’s degree programs, and at less than half the price of traditional, on-campus studies, the programs offered are relative bargains with tuition of just $16,500 per year.
Learning from the Music Industry’s Woes
“Berklee has learned a lesson from our front row seat observing the music industry, namely, lead the change or be a victim of it. With an online degree, we can expand access to the powerful tools of contemporary music making to many more students,” Berklee’s president, Roger H. Brown told the school’s online newspaper on October 2.
Brown was referring to the ever-growing influence of technology in modern music production, where digital files and computer modulators make sound boards and compact disks look like hundred-year-old relics. Berklee began offering online courses 12 years ago, not long after Napster, Inc. revolutionized online music file sharing and nearly killed the traditional recording industry. Since then, over 30,000 students in 144 different countries have taken online music courses via Berklee Online.
Entrepreneurs in Music Education
The school’s entrepreneurial approach that is reflected in its online offerings precedes the era of modern technology. Back in the 1960s, when vinyl records ruled and FM radio was cutting edge technology, Berklee became the first music school to teach jazz, and was reportedly the first to recognize the electric guitar and rock music. The school added film programs in the late 1970s and degree programs in electronic music in the 80s.
Noteworthy students of Berklee who studied through the Berklee Online program include two members of the death-metal group Nine Inch Nails (Robin Finck, Alessandro Cortini), Dave Matthews Band member Stefan Lessard, Amy Heidemann of the pop duo Karmin, and Annie Clements of the popular country band, Sugarland.
Education in Demand
Despite the fact that the music industry was turned upside down by technology and industry profit margins have shrunk dramatically, human interest in pursuing a music career is growing. Demand for a place in the Berklee’s music program is at an all-time high, with applications for enrollment up 300 percent over the last ten years, Berklee Online reports. Berklee’s president Brown says the online degree program will help the school reach more students, and that with online offerings, “we [Berklee] have created a multifaceted global search for talent.”