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Illustration by Yuree Chang

Berklee College of Music opens campus on Saadiyat Island

In an effort to transform arts education in the Middle East, the Department of Culture and Tourism promotes the opening of Berklee College of Music in Abu Dhabi.

Feb 29, 2020

Berklee College of Music, in partnership with the Department of Culture and Tourism, has opened a new campus in Abu Dhabi. The college’s first semester begins on March. 1 and will run until May.
Located in the UAE Pavilion near Manarat Al Saadiyat, the campus boasts a performance space, rehearsal studios, a recording studio and practice and ensemble rooms, as well as a multimedia tech lab.
Berklee Abu Dhabi offers an extensive program taught by both local and international professionals in the field. Naseem Alatrash, Palestinian cellist and composer, will be the instructor for the String Orchestra program and the Middle Eastern Fusion Ensemble, while the founder of Berklee’s turntablism and DJ classes, Stephen Webber, will be teaching Music Production. The college also plans to host live performances given by students and global artists.
The program is made up of four main components — labs, workshops, masterclasses and clinics, ranging from areas such as DJ skills and music production to jazz movement principles and Middle Eastern fusion ensembles. The courses offered at Berklee Abu Dhabi are, however, not able to be counted for college credit, nor degree-granting.
According to Berklee’s press release, the college’s expansion into Abu Dhabi aims to integrate Arab music tradition into the broader curriculum of the college.
“Abu Dhabi is situated in one of the most culturally diverse and historically rich parts of the world. Berklee’s new center will be able to partake in the rich and prolific tradition of Arabic music and culture.”
Another goal of the program is to transform arts education in the Middle East by providing extended academic opportunities for those interested in the field. Berklee’s partnership with the Department of Culture and Tourism provides the college with five million USD, roughly 18.4 million AED, with the purpose of providing scholarships for aspiring artists in the region.
“This partnership…[represents] the single largest scholarship program in Berklee’s history, through which students from the Middle East/North Africa (MENA) region will be given opportunities to attend Berklee College of Music; Boston Conservatory at Berklee; Berklee's campus in Valencia, Spain; Berklee Online; and summer programs, and to have an impact on the life of Berklee internationally.”
Tracy Vavrova is Senior News Editor. Email her at
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