Berklee College of Music has named its first female president, Erica Muhl, a composer and West Coast native who has led music and arts schools at the University of Southern California.
Muhl, 60, will take the helm in July, when Roger Brown’s 17-year tenure as president of the Boston music school is scheduled to end.
Muhl is currently the dean and founding executive director of the Jimmy Iovine and Andre Young Academy for Arts, Technology and the Business of Innovation at USC. The academy was launched in 2013, with a $70 million gift from music entrepreneurs Iovine and Young, known professionally as the rapper Dr. Dre.
Berklee board members said that at USC Muhl developed multi-disciplinary programs within the arts and focused on increasing the diversity of students and faculty at the school. Berklee officials noted that the USC academy’s 2019-2020 class included 56 percent undergraduate and graduate students of color and 24 percent who were from underrepresented minorities. Berklee’s student population, by contrast, is 59 percent white.
“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, chairwoman of Berklee’s Board of Trustees and a member of the presidential search committee.
Muhl is a composer and conductor whose works have been commissioned and played around the world. She has worked at USC for 30 years, first as a professor and more recently as an administrator.
“Erica has been a central pulse of the operation,” Iovine said in a statement about Muhl’s leadership of the academy. “Dre and I had an idea to fuel innovation through a new style of education . . . she has realized our vision.”
Muhl’s tenure at USC has been marked by controversy. In 2015, while Muhl was the dean of USC’s Roski School of Art and Design, all seven of the master in fine arts students withdrew in protest of curriculum and funding changes and called for Muhl’s resignation, according to the school’s student-run newspaper.
After the controversy, Muhl increased the number of tenured faculty at Roski, and applications to the school grew, the student newspaper reported.
At Berklee, Muhl will take over a college with campuses in Boston, New York City, and Valencia, Spain, and a growing online presence.
In recent years the college has been shaken by allegations of sexual harassment by some well-known faculty members.
Berklee has expanded its sexual misconduct policy to prohibit relationships between students and faculty and added staff in the equity office, while requiring consent and bystander intervention training for new hires.