Reinhard Stephan, Jazz & Rock Schulen managing director

Reinhard Stephan, Jazz & Rock Schulen managing director

“In our school history, the most important partnership is the partnership to Berklee,” said Jazz & Rock Schulen managing director Reinhard Stephan. Berklee helped provide an instructional foundation for the Jazz & Rock Schulen when it began—and now, the study-abroad program is helping the school amplify its presence on the global scene

As Stephan described it, J&RS had a strong spiritual connection to Berklee from the start. When he cofounded the school in 1984 with 4–5 teachers and fewer than 40 students, “we didn’t have an educational institution for jazz, rock, pop in Germany.” Five years later, when the school added a college-level certificate program, Stephan and his fellow directors based it in part on the Berklee model, which they saw firsthand on a tour to the States.

The official relationship between the two schools started in the mid-’90s. Larry Monroe, now Berklee vice president for academic affairs/international programs, “was looking for a German partner” in Berklee’s international network of like-minded educational institutions, Stephan said. “I think we just came at the right time. . . and we liked each other.”

Some 15 years later, the relationship benefits both parties, Stephan said. The study-abroad program—which he proposed for Freiburg after seeing it work at Berklee’s partner school in Athens—is a prime example. About three years ago, J&RS renamed its postsecondary program the International Music College Freiburg, part of an effort to cultivate a higher profile internationally and draw a wider range of students. A stumbling block, however, was that the school taught entirely in German. Stephan knew that English-language curricula would help attract students from the U.S., Asia—even neighboring France and Switzerland. But how to spare the time and effort?

That’s where the study-abroad program came in. To keep the visiting Berklee students on track to graduate, the Jazz & Rock Schulen would have to create new English-language classes and bring on some new teachers. Stephan grasped that the process would result in the expanded international capacity J&RS sought. Bingo. The perfect mutually helpful project.

Music is a universal language. . . but constructive criticism isnt. Florian Enderle, a Jazz & Rock Schulen faculty member, conducts an ensemble of three Berklee students and two J&RSers in English.

Music is universal. . . constructive criticism isn't. Florian Enderle, a Jazz & Rock Schulen faculty member, conducts an ensemble of three Berklee students and two J&RS'ers in English.

Going forward, Stephan hoped to not only continue developing the study-abroad program but to send more students in the other direction via “an agreement which allows students finishing our school to continue at Berklee,” he said. The two schools may soon meet in the middle as well, at Berklee Valencia. Once the campus opened, it would be easy as flan for Freiburg students to take a summer course in Valencia, or transfer altogether if they wanted to focus on Berklee Valencia’s planned specialties in technology, business, or film.

Finally, Stephan said, “I think we should make more use of the Berklee International Network itself,” connecting to the 13 other member schools directly for creative projects and graduates’ careers. “Why not use this kind of network worldwide for job possibilities?”