Monday, January 15, 2007


Is The Berklee College of Music Over-Rated Amongst Malaysians?
- Joe Chelliah

To most Malaysians who are inclined towards music and music performance either as hard core proponents or mere enthusiasts, the Berklee College of Music is regarded as the best place to study music. There is much ignorance amongst Malaysians as to the ratings of American universities as there are more than 5,000 universities and colleges that offer courses that end in mostly only undergraduate studies there. Only about less than 50 of them offer graduate courses that lead to a Masters or a PhD. This inaccurate perception does not take into account the very many factors to consider such as the type of music or level to which one wishes before coming to such a conclusion. How has this perception come about? This article is written with the intention of clearing some air about such things and especially our mono-focal views about an education at Berklee.

The Background Story in Malaysia

Dato Ahmad Merican is one of the very few recognized and remembered jazz guitarists of the early Malayan times of the 1950’s – an icon and innovator in his own right. He was with Radio Malaya in its formative days and almost single-handedly pioneered the development of local musical entertainment over RTM as its first Ketua Hiburan. He left RTM eventually and moved on to being a consultant to almost all the major TV networks and and private radio stations in Malaysia. He was probably the first Malaysian ever to have visited USA’s Berklee College of Music (BC) in the early 1970’s. This visit resulted in Johari Salleh (now a Dato’) to have become the first known Malaysian musician to have enrolled as a student at BC for a year and returned with a diploma certificate. The huge popularity and resultant reputation that BC enjoys in Malaysia today is largely due initially to these two formidable Malaysian jazzmen. Later, more current jazz stalwarts like Michael Veerapen were inspired to go and study there. One of the first organized bands that Michael performed was my own band called “The Shades of Time” in 1977. His virtuostic skills surpassed all members in my band of the time except perhaps the late Edwin Gideon (on Tenor & Piano) and Razak Rahman (Alto & Flute) who were virtuosos in their own field and rights. Michael’s name and reputation soon rose very fast as he too started to pay his share of stints in the night club and major hotel circuit routines in K.L. He also started to perform the “new” and trendy fusion jazz music (the Spyrogyra variety initially) in Malaysia with his very own first band called “The Vintage” and can be considered as being a pioneer and leader in this genre. This band had many good musicians including Lewis Pragasam, David Ah Hwa among others. Bands like the “Shades of Time” and “The Booty Boys” were already fore-runners and pointing in this “new” fusion jazz direction in Malaysia ever since the early 1970’s itself having been much influenced by the jazzy harmonies of groups like Tower of Power, Stylistics and Deodato. Michael definitely inspired many other later prominent Malaysian musicians to study at BC – Dato Mokhzani Ismail, Dato Wah Idris, Jenny Chin, Mac Chew and Aubrey Suwito, May Sian, Isabella Pek, Helan Yap, Ahmad Izham and so on. These BC graduates enjoy a much higher profile than other music graduates who had studied even up to the PhD levels in UK, Japan, France, Germany and even USA itself. This is because such is the nature of “pop” music and its commercial value and popularity. It is undeniable though that BC is a good place to study contemporary and popular music performance and commercial music production techniques up to and only the undergraduate or bachelors level except for a small number of master's graduate programs available. Facts About Berklee College of Music (BC) - Description Berklee College of Music is the world's largest independent music college and the premier institution for the study of contemporary /commercial music. The college celebrated its 50th anniversary throughout the 1995 - 96 academic year.

Brief History of BC

Berklee, a non-profit institution, was founded by pianist/arranger and MIT- trained engineer Lawrence Berk in 1945 as Schillinger House of Music. Berk changed the name to Berklee School of Music in 1954, and the school granted its first bachelor's degrees in 1966. In 1973, Berklee obtained its accreditation, and the school's name was changed to Berklee College of Music. Enrollment. More than 3,800 students attend Berklee. The college also has the highest percentage of international undergraduates of any college in the United States, over 26 percent (representing more than 70 countries). Women comprise 24.6 percent of the student body. Domestic minority enrollment is African American, 6.4 percent; Hispanic, 5.5 percent; Asian-American, 4.1 percent. The five countries that supply the largest percentage of foreign students to Berklee are Japan, Korea, Germany, Switzerland, and Brazil.

Majors Offered

Only four-year first degrees are offered in Performance, Jazz Composition, Music Production & Engineering, Film Scoring, Music Business/Management Composition, Music Synthesis, Contemporary Writing & Production, Music Education, Songwriting, Music Therapy, and Professional Music. Four-year diplomas, which give students the option to forego liberal arts courses to focus solely on contemporary music studies, are also offered in all majors, except Music Business/Management, Music Education, and Music Therapy. Master's Programs Graduates of the college's Music Business/Management major can enter a special an accelerated MBA program at Boston's Suffolk University, which waives nearly a semester's worth of requirements, based on their Berklee course work in the major. They can be eligible for transfer credits for graduate studies in other universities and colleges that offer graduate programs at the Masters and Doctorate levels.

I Have Never Seen Berklee College Of Music Ever Listed In Any Ranking or Rating Of American Colleges And Universities. There are many available online. One such much respected survey and ranking is The Gourman Report which is used by most human resource recruiting agencies. Like all ratings there is some bias of course. Here is one:

Top 100 World Universities (1-99)

1 Harvard Univ
2 Stanford Univ
3 Univ California - Berkeley
4 Univ Cambridge
5 Massachusetts Inst Tech (MIT)
6 California Inst Tech
7 Columbia Univ
8 Princeton Univ
9 Univ Chicago
10 Univ Oxford
11 Yale Univ
12 Cornell Univ
13 Univ California - Los Angeles
14 Univ California - San Diego
15 Univ Pennsylvania
16 Univ Washington - Seattle
17 Univ Wisconsin - Madison
18 Univ California - San Francisco
19 Johns Hopkins Univ
20 Tokyo Univ
21 Univ Michigan - Ann Arbor
22 Kyoto Univ
23 Imperial Coll London
23 Univ Toronto
25 Univ Coll London
26 Univ Illinois - Urbana Champaign
27 Swiss Fed Inst Tech - Zurich
28 Washington Univ - St. Louis
29 Northwestern Univ
30 New York Univ
30 Rockefeller Univ
32 Duke Univ
33 Univ Minnesota - Twin Cities
34 Univ Colorado - Boulder
35 Univ California - Santa Barbara
36 Univ British Columbia
37 Univ Maryland - Coll Park
38 Univ Texas - Austin
39 Univ Paris 06
39 Univ Texas Southwestern Med Center
41 Vanderbilt Univ
42 Univ Utrecht
43 Pennsylvania State Univ - Univ Park
43 Univ California - Davis
45 Univ California - Irvine
46 Univ Copenhagen
47 Rutgers State Univ - New Brunswick
48 Univ Manchester
49 Univ Pittsburgh - Pittsburgh
50 Univ Southern California
51 Univ Florida
52 Univ Paris 11
53 Karolinska Inst Stockholm
53 Univ Edinburgh
53 Univ Munich
56 Tech Univ Munich
57 Australian Natl Univ
58 Univ North Carolina - Chapel Hill
58 Univ Zurich
60 Carnegie Mellon Univ
61 Ohio State Univ - Columbus
62 Univ Bristol
63 McGill Univ
64 Hebrew Univ Jerusalem
65 Univ Heidelberg
66 Uppsala Univ
67 Osaka Univ
68 Purdue Univ - West Lafayette
69 Univ Oslo
70 Brown Univ
71 Univ Leiden
72 Univ Sheffield
73 Univ Helsinki
74 Univ Arizona
75 Univ Rochester
76 Moscow State Univ
76 Tohoku Univ
78 Case Western Reserve Univ
79 Univ Melbourne
80 Michigan State Univ
81 Univ Nottingham
82 Univ Basel
83 Boston Univ
83 Ecole Normale Super Paris
83 King's Coll London
86 Stockholm Univ
87 McMaster Univ
87 Rice Univ
87 Univ Goettingen
90 Indiana Univ - Bloomington
91 Texas A&M Univ - Coll Station
92 Univ Birmingham
93 Univ Utah
94 Nagoya Univ
94 Univ Freiburg
96 Arizona State Univ - Tempe
97 Lund Univ
97 Univ of Iowa - The place I studied in 1984
99 Tokyo Inst Tech
99 Univ Bonn
99 Univ Strasbourg 1

Copyright © 2007 Institute of Higher Education, Shanghai Jiao Tong University, All Rights Reserved.

1 comment:

Mohd Shahril said...

Only 3 university from asia.. all japanese.. number 20,94 and 99...