Debbie Cavalier has been named the new CEO of Berkleemusic, the online continuing education division of Boston's Berklee College of Music. Cavalier fills the spot left by the departure of former Berkleemusic CEO Dave Kusek in April.
"All around us there are all kinds of disruptive technologies happening and new forms of online courses," Cavalier tells Billboard.biz. "We're looking at all that and exploring new ways to deliver online education."
Launched in 2002, Berkleemusic is an online, continuing education program that offers online courses and certificates on subjects such as music production, songwriting and music business. Its enrollment stands at more than 30,000 students from over 150 countries. In contrast, the Berklee College of Music is a four-year program that offers degrees.
Berklee was doing continuing education as far back as the 50s and 60s, says Cavalier. "There were 25 lessons where students learned from their homes how to arrange music for dance bands and things that were popular in the day, and students would send in their assignments via the mail. Assignments were graded by Berklee faculty and then the next lesson would be sent out."
Distance learning is far more high-tech now. Berklee's online students use web-based tools to receive instruction, upload their assignments and give and receive feedback from other students. Today's students range from hobbyists to professional musicians. Cavalier says the classes are filled with teachers, doctors, soldiers on active duty and record label executives. She adds that some touring musicians, such as Stefan Lessard from the Dave Matthews Band and members of Sugarland and Karmin, take online courses from the road.
"It's really an exciting mix of musicians from all walks of life," said Cavalier of today's online enrollment. "They all have a passion for music. They're all fitting in this education with jobs and families."
Cavalier joined Berklee in 1998 as the managing editor of its Berklee Press publishing division. She became dean of continuing education for the Berkleemusic online program when it launched in 2002. She is a Berklee alumna and the principle behind the award-winning children's band, Debbie and Friends.