Tyesha Simpson pens an Open Letter to Berklee

tyeshasimpsonMany of us have had our challenges attending Berklee, whether it be academic, artistic, or personal challenges. Bravely, senior Tyesha Simpson penned this open letter to Berklee on her Facebook page and gave us permission to repost it here. Let us know in the comments if it resonates with you:

Dear Berklee,

Once upon a time you were a dream to us. A dream that felt so untouchable. And then we somehow touched you. As we opened our acceptance letters of hope, we cried because we knew that this chapter would be something that could only take us further than we’ve ever been in our musical journeys. But here we are entering what was supposed to be our last year of college but now our second semester of “taking time off” cause we can’t seem to afford to come back. Come back to a school that made us feel so welcomed and cared for at one point. A point that seems so faint to us now. Or maybe we actually are going into our last year of Berklee but not as joyful as we thought we would be, but actually stressed and depressed because we never got the big scholarship we worked so hard for all these years. The Berklee performance center shows we devoted so much time into day in and day out. Some nights not even sleeping because we are arranging shows for you.. Practicing backgrounds for you… Practicing dance moves for you. Spending too much time forgetting about ourselves. But where were the leaders at that were supposed to remind us to take time to focus on ourselves because none of this Berklee world really exist once you graduate? I don’t think there’s a class for that, huh? What about the international students that leave their families across the world to come here to live their dreams but can’t fully live because they can’t even make a true living… Not just because student jobs on campus barely pay but because a lot of them are only getting $2,500 worth of scholarships per semester when a year at Berklee is $40,000 a year and that’s not counting the $18,000 a year you pay to stay on campus. How does this work, Berklee?

As a Berklee student, I wake up and I thank God that I’m here and that even though I’m not where I want to be financially, I still get to study where I dreamed of being at one time. And The best part is that I get to meet beautiful students every day! And not because Berklee made them beautiful but they learned that on their own.

No colleagues, we are not Berklee but know that Berklee thinks that they are us. And in order for Berklee to change, we have to realize that it doesn’t change without us. They feed off of someone making it big from Berklee, even if that person struggled getting any help from them while they were here. They DO NOT own us… Nor our music! We have the power to say no. We are here because we pay to be here. (But even if we weren’t here, we can still be who we dream of becoming!) That puts us in control of us. Not the other way around. Remember that you are NOT oppressed by Berklee unless you allow your mind to be. Take what you can while you’re here but know that you are a unique artist created by God. NEVER give up because of where you stand at Berklee. This is a small piece to your big journey in life. Berklee is not the end of your world. This is supposed to be a place of learning and gaining confidence but somehow more kids come out sad and unprepared for the world of music. Something is wrong here. When will you choose to listen to us? Your students are hurting and they’ve been hurting for a long time now!

Sincerely,
An artist that happens to go to a music school who’s name I don’t even know anymore. Xoxo
Class of 2017 ❤️✌🏾️ Let’s finish strong.

WHAT DO YOU THINK OF TYESHA’S LETTER? SOUND OFF IN THE COMMENTS!

About the Author

domjones
Dom Jones is a dual major in Music Business and Songwriting, and her work has been published in Huffington Post, Teen Vogue, Blavity and Ebony.com. She released her debut album, Wingspan, in 2014 and her follow up EP, Blackbird in 2016. Find out more about her at iamdomjones.com
  • disqus_LMUpvoHmBc

    Maybe I’m missing something, but I don’t really get it, other than the material regarding finances. I don’t get the idea of doing stuff ‘for’ the institution. I don’t get the implicit expectation of a career in a failed industry. I don’t understand the assumption that it is abnormal for students to be stressed at any institution.

    I agree that it doesn’t seem uncommon for students to be unprepared for their futures, but where’s the rigorous analysis of the curriculum or admissions or the administrative structure accompanying that? I understand that the poster is emotional, but why should that qualify it as a good enough argument to turn into an article and share?

  • Dan Perez

    The cost is a legit gripe, absolutely. I dunno if I’m reading this right, but a lot of the letter seems like complaints about some of the best parts of the education. Other than the cost, which, again, is ludicrous for an industry where an income earned solely within the field is considered successful if it meets the median national income… which wouldn’t pay for a year at the school! This is partly a Berklee problem, but also a symptom of a greater education lending issue that applies American higher education across the board. That Berklee is so high on the list of most expensive private colleges is pretty appalling. The rest of the letter, though, leaves me kinda scratching my head.

    Learning dance moves and doing arrangements is part of the education, and the sleepless nights and hard work absolutely will be a part of life as a working musician after leaving school, for those who can do enough of it for little, no, or negative money to get a career started. Like any gig, a BPC show is hopefully a blast to play, but the real work is in the preparation. Learning how you learn, training yourself to manage your time effectively and accumulate a wealth of repertoire you can keep under your belt is part of the education you are getting. It’s a feature, not a flaw.

    If you don’t feel you’re learning or meeting enough people to make it worth it, there are always jam sessions, private lessons and open mics, but that school offers a particular environment and opportunities you won’t find anywhere else. The institution does make its name on successful alumni, but that’s the tip of the iceberg. When you make the inevitable mass exodus to NYC, Nashville or LA after graduation, you’ll find a tremendous community of classmates all over, people to live with, people to gig with, people to start projects with, etc. The school fosters the students and the students make the school.

    Doing project bands and BPC shows if you’re on scholarship is not oppression. It’s free, extra experience you get to have.

  • Jenine Irabagon

    Sometimes students feel that it is really difficult to voice their opinions regarding educational and financial struggles. I think it was really brave of Tyesha to write this open letter to Berklee. Berklee is not just “any institution” it is a music school. Music/art majors are constantly pressured to create, while other majors take their classes, pass them, and then they get their degree. Musicians and artists aren’t always guaranteed jobs after they have graduated, even if they did go to the top music school in the world such as Berklee. Harvard’s tuition this year is $45,278 and Berklee tuition is a little less than that, but you can expect Harvard graduates to get jobs right away. What makes musicians and artists who go to college to study their craft different, when they work just as hard as med school students? I think what Tyesha is trying to tell her colleagues to not let “Berklee” just define who they are as a musician, that they are more than where they got their education.

  • disqus_LMUpvoHmBc

    I can appreciate the bravery involved if it was indeed involved of course, but I still don’t see what that has to do with its quality as an argument relating to the matters it attempts to concern itself with.

    Music and art majors are NOT the only ones pressured to create – this is a bizarre misconception. Of course it is a primary mode of our academic existence, but we are not expected to write 20,000 word dissertations the way many philosophy majors are. Is that not also creating, or is only artistic creation valid creation in your view? What about research conducted by physics majors? The creation of knowledge is also creation.

    Secondly, I am not saying it is music students who are different, but the music industry. Of course this is not a foregone conclusion, but any examination of the industry I have found yields similar conclusions about its financial structure, etc. Willing the institution to create jobs will not create them. A lot of history PhDs are unemployed, and other humanistic creators. This has nothing to do with any ‘value’ of their field other than monetary as part of a corrupt economic system.

  • Andrea

    I really don’t understand the point of this open letter. What exactly is it that she wants? Is she complaining about the cost of Berklee? If that’s the case, you get what you pay for. Any school worth its weight is expensive. Is she looking for guarantees that after graduating from Berklee she will have success in the music industry? There are no guarantees in life. No to mention, this is the music business. There are no guarantees in this business – or any other business. But Berklee prepares you more than any other school will. Is she complaining about lack of support from staff? If so, it’s not clear. I don’t get what she’s trying to say or the point she’s attempting to make. What changes does she feel that Berklee needs to make? This is quite an unfocused and confusing open letter.

  • Andrea

    I really don’t understand the point of this open letter. What exactly is it that she wants? Is she complaining about the cost of Berklee? If that’s the case, you get what you pay for. Any school worth its weight is expensive. Is she looking for guarantees that after graduating from Berklee she will have success in the music industry? There are no guarantees in life. No to mention, this is the music business. There are no guarantees in this business – or any other business. But Berklee prepares you more than any other school will. Is she complaining about lack of support from staff? If so, it’s not clear. I don’t get what she’s trying to say or the point she’s attempting to make. What changes does she feel that Berklee needs to make? This is quite an unfocused and confusing open letter.

  • Brendan Gill

    For those who don’t understand, the point of the letter is mainly to get across a point that a lot of kids who dream of going to Berklee and get accepted don’t realize until it’s too late. This open letter isn’t to bash Berklee. The purpose of the letter is to help students see that while Berklee is a great school, it should never be an end all be all. A lot of freshmen come to Berklee enamored with the idea of being there rather than thinking of it as a place to help you learn. Then after weeks of devoting themselves to being apart of Berklee they realize that they haven’t done what they needed to stay at the school or finish. You could say a person is naive for believing that in the first place but after going through Berklee I understand how it can happen, and it happens so often.

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