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Berklee is proud to announce Erica Muhl as its new president. Muhl comes to Berklee from a distinguished 30-year career at the University of Southern California (USC), where she was dean and founding executive director of the Jimmy Iovine and Andre Young Academy for Arts, Technology and the Business of Innovation. An accomplished composer and conductor, she will become the first woman to serve as Berklee’s president, and only the fourth president in the institution’s 75-year history. Muhl begins her term in July 2021, succeeding President Roger H. Brown, who served in the role for 17 years.
“I want to offer my deepest thanks and appreciation to Berklee’s trustees, and to the amazing Roger Brown,” said Muhl. “The institution you have all built has no equal, and I am deeply honored by your faith in my ability to continue to grow its mission, and to provide unprecedented and unrivaled learning and professional experiences across the spectrum of music, the arts, technology, and creative entrepreneurship.”
Muhl was chosen to be Berklee’s next president after an exhaustive yearlong search conducted by a committee composed of members from across Berklee’s community. “Erica’s experience as a strong, seasoned leader who has innovated and managed in times of change uniquely places her to lead Berklee into a new era,” said Marty Mannion, chair of the presidential search committee and vice chair of Berklee’s Board of Trustees. “Her enthusiasm for our mission, along with a skill set that readily embraces the full range of what we do, makes her a strong choice to lead Berklee as our next president.”
The search committee’s priority was to engage the top candidate possessing a number of qualities important to the institution, including strategic thinking and appreciation for the challenges facing higher education; ability to lead a complex organization; leadership on issues of equity, diversity, and inclusion; and a true appreciation of the life of an artist. “Erica’s deep experience in cross-disciplinary innovation in higher education—with artistry and technology at the core—coupled with her distinguished music career and lifelong dedication to students, embodies the qualities we sought and aligns perfectly with Berklee’s vision,” said Susan Whitehead, chair of Berklee’s Board of Trustees and member of the presidential search committee.
Muhl is well-positioned to take the reins from Brown and lead Berklee forward as the preeminent institute of contemporary music and the performing arts. In 2013, she was appointed founding director of the USC Jimmy Iovine and Andre Young Academy for Arts, Technology and the Business of Innovation, and, in 2018, was named dean of the academy. Muhl developed the vision, mission, and academic model for the academy, founded with a $70 million endowment from Jimmy Iovine, founder and former chairman of Universal Music Group’s Interscope Geffen A&M Records, and Andre “Dr. Dre” Young, multiplatinum-selling hip-hop artist and entrepreneur.
Under Muhl’s leadership, the Iovine and Young Academy welcomed its first class in 2014, and, in just a few years, has emerged at the forefront of the drive to expand the reach of higher education beyond traditional disciplinary silos and toward new pathways for learning and discovery. The academy launched two graduate degrees: the Master of Science in Integrated Design, Business, and Technology program, which has set new standards for online cross-disciplinary instruction, and the Master of Science in Product Innovation program, which reimagines product design for the 21st century.
“Since the founding of the Iovine and Young Academy, Erica has been a central pulse of the operation. Dre and I had an idea to fuel innovation through a new style of education,” said Jimmy Iovine. “Through Erica's leadership, hard work, and determination, she has realized our vision, building an amazing school to educate students where they really live, and one that is at the center of creativity, culture, and the global influence of connectivity that is only possible through technology. We know that Erica will do great things at Berklee. We look forward to continuing to work with her on educational experiences that matter, and that change lives.”
The highly selective Iovine and Young Academy has cultivated a diverse student population that has surpassed national averages in similar programs each year since its opening. Across its undergraduate and graduate programs, the academy’s 2019–2020 class had a gender ratio of 53 percent female to 47 percent male, composed of 56 percent people of color and 24 percent underrepresented minorities. While leading the Iovine and Young Academy, Muhl served as dean of the USC Roski School of Art and Design until 2018. At Roski, she established the school’s first committee on diversity, equity, and inclusion; implemented its first long-range diversity plan; and significantly increased faculty diversity through a strategic hiring initiative, making her well-suited to lead Berklee’s efforts to further strengthen its ongoing commitment to fostering a diverse community of artists and educators.
“Erica has an impressive background as a musician and was one of the prime movers in the creation of the Iovine Young Academy,” said President Roger H. Brown. “I believe it is one of the most innovative programs in all of American higher education, reimagining education at the intersection of music, art, media, and technology.”
Under Brown’s leadership, Berklee expanded its global presence with campuses in New York City and Valencia, Spain, and a center in Abu Dhabi; embraced the role of technology in music and performing arts; dramatically increased the diversity of the leadership and student body of the college; and became the preeminent online degree–granting music education program. The college's merger with the Boston Conservatory in 2016 created Boston Conservatory at Berklee—a powerhouse of music, dance, and theater education.
As dean, Muhl made strides for the Roski School in a number of areas. She grew the full-time faculty ranks by 27 percent through recruitment of renowned artists and scholars from top institutions, and secured tenured appointments for new senior faculty hires. She significantly increased the annual operating budget, boosted average annual fundraising by nearly 300 percent, and grew undergraduate student merit aid by 66 percent. Muhl worked closely with faculty on the launch of new or fully revised undergraduate programs in design, fine arts, and critical studies, and on the launch of the first new graduate program in more than a decade, an M.F.A. in design, which expanded the school’s footprint by establishing a new graduate design studio in the vibrant L.A. Arts District. She also worked to develop strategic partnerships with companies and organizations including Adobe, Autodesk, the California African American Museum, the Pacific Asia Museum, and the Broad Museum.
Prior to joining the Roski School, Muhl served as associate dean of the USC Thornton School of Music, where she had been a professor of composition with tenure since 1990. Throughout her career, Muhl has remained committed to maintaining rigorous standards for academic excellence while seeking to forge new paradigms and models for higher education. She has been a catalyst for change in the field, particularly as an advocate for multidisciplinary and integrative programs that nurture creative thought. She has presented and served as a panelist at South by Southwest EDU; Adobe MAX; the Arts, Media, and Entertainment Leadership Institute; and Apple University.
An accomplished composer and conductor, Muhl’s works have been commissioned, performed, and broadcast nationally and internationally by leading organizations such as Minnesota Opera, the New World Symphony, Italy’s Orchestra della RAI, National Public Radio, and Radio-Televisione Italiana. Her works have also been featured at festivals and competitions including the Aspen Festival, the International Festival of New Music in Caracas, and the International Percussion Competition in Luxembourg. Muhl served as assistant conductor for Los Angeles Opera Theater, Seattle Opera, and the Pacific Northwest Wagner Festival, and has regularly conducted her own works. She has received grants and awards from such organizations as the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the National Endowment for the Arts, and Opera America.
Muhl received her early training in composition from legendary teacher Nadia Boulanger. She completed advanced study with Franco Donatoni at the Accademia di Santa Cecilia in Rome and the Accademia Chigiana in Siena, Italy, and earned a doctorate from the University of Southern California Thornton School of Music. Muhl studied conducting under Fritz Zweig, renowned principal conductor of the Deutsche Oper Berlin.
Read more about Berklee's next president, including a video introduction, her biography, and a letter from the search committee.