Berklee Blogs

First-hand accounts of the Berklee experience

Author: Shelly Atwood (Page 3 of 5)

Karen Cowley talks about Five-Week


180 international students from all corners of the globe attended the Five-Week Summer Performance Program this past summer. We first heard from Karen Cowley when she attended the Berklee in Dublin program this past April. Cowley won a scholarship to Five-Week there, and we followed her to get the inside scoop on her experience at Berklee: classes, activities, performances, and adjusting to life in Boston. Enjoy!

Shelly Booth: Can you tell us about your top two favorite classes? What topics are you studying, and what’s the most useful advice your teachers have given you?

Karen Cowley: It’s hard to pick only two top favourite classes. . . .

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The dessert cart of the Berklee songwriting experience

We sent our mole—recent grad/employee Jacqueline Smith, that is—to take a look at the four-day summer Songwriting Workshop.

Songwriting Workshop
Hello, my name is Jacqueline Smith. I’m a songwriter who graduated from Berklee recently. I’ve worked in the Summer Programs Office for four years, and attended the Five-Week Performance Program before I came to Berklee. Last August, Shelly asked me to cover the Songwriting Workshop for our new blog. In this post, I share my experience with you!

The way the schedule was set up was like a buffet, if you will. There were something like seven classes at once during each two-hour session, each taught by a different faculty member. It was almost overwhelming! There were classes in everything from business and publishing, to finding the right chords for your melody, to dissecting the poetry of lyric writing. All of the classes repeated at least once so that you could try to get a taste of anything.

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A closer look at the Vocal Summit


Hello! My name is Brandon H. Allen. I’m a fifth-semester music business major here at Berklee with a concentration on voice. I am also a student employee here in the Office of Summer Programs. I’m blogging here to share some valuable lessons from the 2009 Vocal Summit. If you’ve never been to a Berklee summer program, you don’t know what you’re missing! There is a great deal to learn, even if you’re not a high school student and have been playing your instrument for years. I realized even though I’ve been singing all my life and had been here two years, there were still things that I needed to learn, and other things that I needed to hear yet again. It was quite refreshing and it “lit the fire” in me again so to speak. Here are some of the key points I picked up in two classes I was able to sit in on:

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Not your average band camp: An introduction to Berklee Summer Programs

A new perspective on the student experience

Hello, I’m Shelly and I work in the Office of Summer Programs at Berklee. I’m here to give you the scoop on who we are, and introduce you to our new blog. Our goal is to give you a more in-depth look into the summer student experience. That’s right, we’re getting hip!

Allow me to introduce myself briefly: I’ve been working in this office for three years, after I graduated as a music business major from Berklee in 2006. In Summer Programs, I handle administrative and customer service needs, but I also wear many other hats and have enjoyed working off-campus at Berklee in L.A. and Berklee in Dublin, where I can see the results of our work in action! Berklee summer students are a truly talented, inspirational group of musicians. They are serious about music, and so excited to interact and meet each other. It is a vibe like none other.

2009 was another great year for Summer Programs at Berklee. Some of our readers may not know what Berklee has to offer. Others have read every page of our website in anticipation of auditioning. For you, this blog will offer a more personalized perspective on the summer experience, more than we’ve ever offered before.

What is summer at Berklee all about?

Music for Video Games students in class

Music for Video Games students

Our enrollment totals 2,300 students in the summer. The majority of are high-school–age, from the U.S. and 65 countries. We do see about 20% of students over the age of 19. Our largest programs are the Five-Week Summer Performance Program and Guitar Sessions, enrolling on average 900 and 500 students respectively. Yes, that is a lot of people!

Coming to a summer program is a great way to see where you stand musically—to receive feedback and become immersed in a community of musicians who are as serious about music as you are. You may be studying classical music, and looking to explore new genres. Can a flutist play jazz or rock? Of course! Are you the leader of your band also? You’re probably ready to get out of the basement. The bar is raised at Berklee. Almost all students are the top musicians from their hometown. Isn’t that exciting? At the same time, do not let this discourage you! Certainly, do not be intimidated or afraid. Chances are, everyone at the program feels exactly the same way you do.

Student performs for an open-mic critique

A student performs for an open-mic critique.

If you’re anything like I was in high school, aspiring to come to Berklee, then you’re ready to go. You’re ready to learn anything and everything about music. I don’t mean to sound like a saleswoman, at all! It’s just that Berklee has formed one of the largest music communities in the world, providing the teachers, programs, and tools to keep you ahead of the game.

So where do summer programs fit in at Berklee? All of them, with the exception of Berklee in L.A., currently take place on-campus. Berklee faculty members teach, making classes a great introduction to the Berklee experience. The Five-Week Summer Performance Program is a good example. It is like a mini-semester. You’ll know for sure whether Berklee is for you after attending Five-Week.

Berklee in L.A.

Berklee in L.A.

Check back every week to read interesting perspectives from students, faculty, and staff members involved with Summer Programs. Join us on Facebook and you’ll see an announcement when we post. We’re excited to have this new outlet to give you an inside perspective. We look forward to sharing our thoughts and hearing what you think—comments are welcome.

—Shelly

Business—not as usual

One of my favorite parts of the Berklee in L.A. program is the music business panel that Don Gorder, Chair of the Music Business department, coordinates. On Tuesday night, five Berklee alumni who work in the music industry volunteered their time to come and talk to students about how to start their careers. They offered great advice for young musicians.

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