The first week of your first semester in Berklee is called the Orientation week which serves the sole purpose of getting all the new students acclimatized to their new college, finish their schedules, inform them about the inner workings of Berklee and let them have some fun with many different events and parties.
There are several events from campus tours to concerts, from block parties to peer-advisor meetings… Oh and in case you’re wondering what the latter means: Every student will be assigned to peer advisor – an upper semester student – who will be your helpful partner throughout the first semester.
…are being held during orientation week in order to asses your playing skills and playing style in order for the faculty to chose the right ensemble for you. Your playing will be evaluated in four criteria: Sight reading, Instrumental Skill (technique), Improvisation, and Rhythmic Interpretation (time feel). Each of the criteria is graded from 1-8 representing skill levels of the average student from the 1st to the 8th semester. These four grades will be averaged for the overall ensemble rating.
This is how a rating could look: 4563 This means: Reading = 4, Instrumental skill = 5, Improvisation = 6, Rhythm = 3. The average would be 4.5 meaning an overall ensemble rating of 4.
The Entering Student Proficiency Assessment test is a test designed to test your knowledge in Harmony and Arranging and contains tasks from all of the first 4 semesters in the respective classes. This test is used to determine in which level of these classes you will be placed. If you are placed in Harmony 3 for example you skip the first two classes (Musical Application and Theory and Harmony 2) and get credit for these classes as well!
Remember! This test isn’t a test you can fail at. It is designed for the purpose of placing you in classes at a level that is appropriate for your current skill level – everyone will eventually end up in Harmony 4 😉
PRIOR TO CHECK-IN WEEK you will have to take an online EAR TRAINING test designed to assess your appropriate placement in one of the 4 Ear-Training classes. You also have the option to take the MTEC (Music Technology) test-out that will give you 50 multiple choice questions about music technology and will let you skip the “Introduction to Music Technology” class when you reach a score above 80%.
Your first semester schedule…
Will be designed FOR you, that means that by default you don’t have any influence on your schedule except if you have 1 or 2 credits to spare because you were able to skip some classes required of freshman students. What classes you will be put into depends largely on your ESPA results and ensemble rating.
HOWEVER if you’re in a special situation – like me since my plan was to only stay for one year – you might consult the office of the registrar to drop a class you really don’t want to take. You can then use your spare credit to pick another class but you will have to speak directly to the chair of the department administrating your desired course to register for it. You will be able to elect classes online from your second semester on.
Your schedule WILL consist of the following classes:
Private instruction on your principal Instrument (1x / week 1h), Ensemble (1x / week, 2h) Ear Training (3x / week, 1h), Writing & Communication or English as a second language (3x/ week, 1h), Harmony/MAT (2x week, 1h), Arranging (1x / week, 2h), Artistry Creativity & Inquiry (1x / week, 2h), Intro to MTEC or equivalent (1x / week, 2h)
If you want more information please consult Berklee’s POLICY HANDBOOK. This is really the go-to reference for any questions you might have about college regulations!