Episode 12: Creating Pathways for the Contemporary Performing Artist

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Performing arts education pioneers Berklee College of Music and The Boston Conservatory are merging, creating a comprehensive training ground for music, dance, theater, and related professions. Richard Ortner, president of The Boston Conservatory, and Roger Brown, president of Berklee College of Music, discuss what it means to create an institutional platform for collaboration, to get students to the next level of career preparedness, and to employ music as a tool for social change.

Roger Brown (left) & Richard Ortner (right)Roger H. Brown is Berklee’s third president in the institution’s history. Under his leadership, the college has expanded scholarship support by 400 percent; created an international campus in Valencia, Spain; built its first ground-up custom facility boasting 173 residence hall rooms, a state-of-the-art recording complex, and a dining hall/performance venue; and established a suite of institutes including the Berklee Global Jazz Institute under the direction of jazz pianist Danilo Pérez. The college has expanded its global reach to attract students from 105 countries, markedly improved gender diversity, dramatically increased admissions selectivity, and created the world’s largest online music education system. During his tenure, the City Music Program, which offers educational opportunities to economically disadvantaged young musicians, has expanded outside of Boston, now serving more than 29,000 young middle school and high school-aged young people. Brown has also been a leader in humanitarian initiatives in Africa and Southeast Asia. He is an avid drummer.

Born in Great Neck, NY, Richard Ortner has shared his lifelong passion for music and advanced training in the performing arts with the most renowned senior professionals of our age, the best and brightest young artists and students, and the widest possible audiences.

Ortner’s piano studies began at age five and were reinforced by an excellent public school music program. He attended The Cooper Union, where he studied architecture, but he continued to pursue his interest in music with piano studies (with Richard Faber of the Juilliard faculty) and by producing and hosting two classical music programs for WNYU (New York University) radio. He returned to studying music full time when he transferred to NYU, earning a B.A. in music in 1971. Ortner then began what he refers to as his “real musical education,”  three years as an usher at Carnegie Hall.

In the summer of 1973 Ortner became a Guide at Tanglewood, manning the information booth and filling various backstage posts for both the BSO’s Tanglewood Festival concerts and the full range of BMC activities. In 1974, he was invited to become assistant administrator of the Music Center, beginning a remarkable 23-year career with the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Ortner became administrator of the Music Center in 1984.

Ortner was appointed president of The Boston Conservatory in July 1998.

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