Berklee, Boston Conservatory seal merger plan

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BOSTON – The Berklee College of Music, Boston’s musical education powerhouse, will merge with the classically oriented Boston Conservatory to expand academic offerings to students in both schools, the two institutions said Tuesday.

The boards of both unanimously approved the move in votes last month, the schools said in a statement. The combined entity will retain the Berklee name, with the smaller college to be called the Boston Conservatory at Berklee, when the merger becomes effective, expected in June. The agreement to merge will be formally signed Wednesday, culminating discussions that began last year.

The combined school will offer about 5,000 students courses in performing arts, including modern and classical music, theater, dance and related commercial and technical subjects, the schools said. Berklee currently has about 4,200 students, based on full-time equivalent numbers, while the conservatory has about 820. The conservatory, founded in 1867 and based in the Fenway, says it is the oldest school of its kind in the U.S.

“This merger is a bold step into the future of performing arts education,” David Scott Sloan, the chairman of the conservatory’s trustees, said in the statement. “We expect our students will draw upon global cultures and cutting-edge technologies to synthesize completely new art forms.”

While the two schools have long collaborated, the combination will give students at both easier access to current courses as well as new hybrids that combine disciplines and explore new areas, the schools said. They cited Berklee’s leading studies in improvisation and contemporary music, technology, music business, music therapy, sound design, production, film scoring and online education, along with the Conservatory’s expertise in classical music, opera, dance, movement, acting and musical theater.

“The strategic underpinning of the merger is the belief that music, movement, and digital technology are converging to give artists powerful new means of creative expression in the theater, on the concert stage, and through established and emerging platforms,” the schools said.

Berklee, whose campus is anchored at the intersection of Boylston Street and Massachusetts Avenue in Back Bay, began in 1945 and quickly established a reputation for training budding musicians in jazz and other forms of popular music in the latter half of the 20th century. Graduates have won more than 250 Grammy awards, the music industry’s highest accolade.

The schools are also combining their respective fundraising campaigns, which together are trying to raise about $121 million.

Steps that still need to be accomplished include an accreditation review and obtaining approval from various academic and other organizations. Both schools are nonprofit institutions. They said they expect to complete all required pre-merger steps by the end of April.