Prep/CE Strategic Plan Core Strategies: Programs

Core Strategy: Programmatic Enhancements

Building upon Prep/CE’s rich and long-standing programs, not just adding new ones, is also an important aspect of future growth.


  1. Adding program “packages” in addition to our current a la carte offerings. Other than our certificate programs, most students register for lessons, classes, and ensembles as individual activities, and it is largely up to parents and teachers to map out a curriculum strategy. The certificate levels are thorough, and very specific, but require a substantial investment of time and energy in order to complete. There are students whose needs lie somewhere in between, and whose parents are not entirely comfortable creating an education plan for their children on their own. Therefore, we will create several “Suggested Programs of Study” which bundle lessons, classes, and small/large ensemble experiences for students whose goal is to receive a well-rounded musical education, but who do not wish to participate in the rigors of the certificate program. Such a “package” is being designed for Prep brass students, and will launch in 2011–12.
  2. Re-brand higher level certificates as a Pre-College Program. For decades, there has been a great deal of discussion regarding the role that Prep should play in the education of young musicians—whether it should mirror the selectivity of the College and serve as an “elite” program that focuses all of its resources on the most talented group of students; or if it should be, as it currently stands, an open-enrollment music school that serves students at all levels of ability.

    In order for Prep/CE to contribute to NEC’s evolution toward becoming a 21st-century conservatory, that serves not only as an educational institution but also as a proponent of innovation and creative risk-taking, its organizational culture needs to reflect the idea that music is relevant in all aspects of today’s society. Closing the doors to potential future audiences, arts advocates, amateur musicians, teachers, parents, and community leaders will only prevent us from serving that broader mission. Making the decision to cater exclusively to the highly gifted will endanger NEC’s position as a community asset, and will do little to serve the field. Lastly, the students themselves would lose the opportunity to learn a crucial lesson—that vibrant artistic communities are ecosystems, not hothouses; and that all forms of participation in the artistic process are vital to the health of the whole.

    On a practical level, NEC’s operating budget would be dealt a serious blow if Prep/CE were to drastically reduce its tuition revenue. Very talented students often require significant scholarships to pursue their education, which would further erode any financial benefit that accompanies Prep tuition.

    That being said, Prep/CE does offer unique access to a world-class conservatory, and its students derive great benefit from its resources. Our certificate programs already attract students who seek the rigor that the curriculum offers; therefore, we can build upon our existing resources to further enhance the higher-level certificates and meet the most serious students’ need for a pre-college program. This approach provides a vehicle to meet the unique needs of highly talented and motivated students, without excluding everyone else.
  3. Greater cross-collaboration with College faculty, ensembles, and performances. Greater programmatic alignment with the College will provide opportunities for more interaction between the College and Prep/CE communities, and move the institution towards realizing its full potential as a vital center of creativity, collaboration, and learning. Increasing the amount of exposure that Prep/CE students have to the full spectrum NEC’s resources has practical applications as well. To use Admissions as just one example, while the majority of Prep students do not pursue performance careers, our programs still play a valuable role as a “feeder” program for the College. See Appendix B. Integrating them further into NEC “life,” not just on Saturdays, will enhance the Admissions Office’s cultivation and recruitment effort. By the same token, more integration between CE and the College will provide an opportunity for conditionally admitted students to hone their skills through CE before enrolling full-time in the College, both boosting tuition income and helping to ensure that we do not “lose” these students to other conservatories
  4. Re-positioned Summer Programs. Summer programs at NEC, run through Continuing Education, have traditionally been an eclectic mix of offerings. Moving forward, instead of having no programmatic connection with the academic year, summer courses will serve two strategic purposes: to provide continuity with CE’s fall/spring objectives and curriculum, serving almost as a third semester; and to pilot new programs in a “lab” setting.

    In the short term, these re-imagined programs will serve a valuable programmatic purpose, but represent modest growth in enrollment; however, when the campus master plan comes to fruition, the additional space and access to year-round residence life facilities will make possible a wealth of programming opportunities.

    For example, in addition to the existing programs mentioned above, adequate facilities and careful scheduling of routine maintenance that occurs during the summer months could also transform the NEC campus into the site of the only large-scale urban summer music programs in the region. Most high-level festivals/camps, such as the Boston University Tanglewood Institute, Greenwood, and Kinhaven, are residence programs that are held in rural locations. Having a fully realized festival on campus would allow us to take advantage of multiple performance opportunities and venues throughout the city, and provide a unique educational experience for our students by providing a larger cultural context for their studies (museums, theatres, etc.).

    Such an opportunity would attract both new and existing students to our programs, our campus, and our other offerings. Residence programs are becoming increasingly expensive, so having a high-quality summer festival within commuting distance would appeal to many of our current families. It would also provide employment opportunities for interested faculty, as well as summer jobs for NEC students.
  5. Continued development of the Abreu Fellowship program. Currently, the Abreu Fellowship is enjoying many programmatic successes that are already having a positive impact on the field of community arts education. We have maintained a successful and deepening relationship with the central administration of El Sistema in Venezuela; the inaugural class of Fellows are all actively engaged in the development of nucleo programs in the United States; and the second-year Fellows are poised to assume a variety of leadership roles in this rapidly expanding field.

    That being said, the Abreu Fellowship is still in the very early stages of its development, and as such will benefit from continued assessment of and adjustment to its core curriculum. These include increasing throughlines to the college by integrating community placements with Music-in-Education internships; involving more NEC faculty in the program, which will help Fellows fulfill their stated need for more musical experiences; and aligning the recruitment and selection process with that of the College.

    In Year Four of the program, the Fellowship will undergo a major assessment, conducted by a team of outside consultants that will include arts and education leaders from around the country. At the conclusion of the initial five-year period (as stipulated in the original plan for the Abreu Fellowship), major consideration will be given to the future direction of the program, and how NEC will best serve the field of community arts education in the years to come.