Richard Ortner, President, 1998–2017
Boston Conservatory at Berklee
Born in Great Neck, New York, Richard Ortner has shared his lifelong passion for music and advanced training in the performing arts with the most renowned senior professionals of our age, the best and brightest young artists and students, and the widest possible audiences.
Ortner’s piano studies began at age five and were reinforced by an excellent public school music program. He accompanied choruses both in junior and senior high school, and became the choir director of the Long Island Federation of Temple Youth. Following high school he attended The Cooper Union, where he studied architecture, but he continued to pursue his interest in music with piano studies (with Richard Faber of the Juilliard faculty) and by producing and hosting two classical music programs for WNYU (New York University) radio. He returned to studying music full time when he transferred to NYU, earning a B.A. in music in 1971. Ortner then began what he refers to as his “real musical education,” three years as an usher at Carnegie Hall. (This also marked the start of his activities as a concert producer: after persuading the management of Carnegie Hall to turn over the Recital Hall, free of charge, he organized the very first Carnegie Hall Ushers Recital, which the New York Times reviewed enthusiastically. Later, he organized the first concert of the Washington Square Chamber Music Society at NYU.)
It was at Carnegie Hall that Ortner first met Leonard Bernstein and his manager Harry Kraut, both of whom encouraged Ortner that the next step in his burgeoning interest in orchestra management -- learning “how music gets to people” -- must be a position at Tanglewood, the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s renowned summer home. From there, Bernstein said, he could get an incomparable overview of every facet of orchestra operations, from concert production and finance to facilities management, programming, fundraising and Board relations. “Oh, and by the way, there’s a pretty good school there, too,” Ortner relates Bernstein saying.
The school, of course, was the Berkshire Music Center (later the Tanglewood Music Center), and in the summer of 1973 Ortner became a Guide at Tanglewood, manning the information booth and filling various backstage posts for both the BSO’s Tanglewood Festival concerts and the full range of BMC activities. One year later, in 1974, he was invited to become assistant administrator of Music Center, beginning a remarkable 23-year career with the Boston Symphony Orchestra.
At that time, artistic direction at Tanglewood (both the festival and the academy) was accomplished by the unlikely ‘troika’ of Leonard Bernstein, Gunther Schuller and the young Seiji Ozawa, who had just been appointed music director of the BSO. Ortner became administrator of the Music Center in 1984 (with the appointment of pianist Leon Fleisher as Artistic Director), and along the way also served as assistant manager of the BSO Chamber Players, coordinator of the Chamber Music Prelude Concerts, a director of the BSO Credit Union, and was involved in numerous other special projects - including the design and construction of Ozawa Hall.
Ortner has served as a panelist at the National Endowment for the Arts, Chamber Music America and the Aaron Copland Fund for Music; a speaker at the Harvard Graduate School of Education; and a frequent guest lecturer on music and education, including moderating the 2006 Harvard symposium on “Working with Bernstein.” He was a member of the founding Board of Governors of the Boston Arts Academy (and chaired the BAA's Board of Trustees for two years). He has also served on the Board of Overseers of the Handel & Haydn Society, the Board of Visitors of the Fenway Community Health Center and the Planning Task Force for the Boston’s New Center for Arts and Culture.
Ortner was appointed president of The Boston Conservatory in July 1998.
Roger Brown, President
Berklee President Roger H. Brown brings a rich array of professional and life experiences to his job. Skills accrued playing recording sessions as a drummer in New York, administering United Nations humanitarian operations in Southeast Asia and Africa, and founding a company with his wife that now employs more than 24,000 people and serves more than 80,000 families have contributed to his effective leadership at the world's largest college of contemporary music.
Immediately after earning his bachelor's degree in physics from Davidson College (Phi Beta Kappa), Brown spent a year in Kenya teaching math and moonlighted by playing drums with an award-winning Kenyan gospel choir. Upon returning home, he enrolled in an M.B.A. program at Yale University, but interrupted his studies to help alleviate a humanitarian crisis on the Thai-Cambodian border. Brown administered the Land Bridge food distribution operation under the auspices of CARE and UNICEF. The effort that Brown, his future wife Linda Mason, and others staged fed 25,000 people per day and within six months had averted starvation for countless Cambodians. Subsequently, Brown and Mason coauthored a book about the operation titled Rice, Rivalry and Politics: Managing Cambodian Relief.
While in Southeast Asia, Brown made recordings with musicians in refugee camps to preserve their traditional Cambodian music that Khmer Rouge rulers had suppressed.
After returning to the U.S. and finishing his studies at Yale, Brown and Mason served as codirectors of a Save the Children Federation initiative for famine relief in Sudan. The innovative program served more than 400,000 people, is estimated to have saved more than 20,000 lives, and became the blueprint for future large-scale U.N. relief efforts.
After several years abroad, Brown returned home in 1986 with a desire to serve American families. To that end, Brown and Mason launched Bright Horizons, now the largest worldwide provider of worksite childcare and early education. Bright Horizons operates more than 750 high-quality child development centers for employers worldwide. In 1996, Brown and Mason received the Ernst & Young/USA Today Entrepreneur of the Year award. They are recipients of the White House's Ron Brown Award for Corporate Leadership. In 2012, Brown and Mason were honored as Visionary Social Entrepreneurs at the Social Venture Network’s Hall of Fame Celebration. In 2013, Bright Horizons was named among Fortune magazine’s 100 Best Companies to Work For for the 14th time.
After 16 years of successfully leading Bright Horizons, Brown decided to turn his sights to higher education and accepted the position as Berklee's third chief executive in 2004.
During his tenure, the college has created the world’s largest online music education system (including MOOCs that have reached more than 1.7 million students and the launch of online degree and certificate programs that serve a global base of musicians from more than 150 countries), expanded its global reach to attract students from 105 countries, and created Berklee's Presidential Scholars and Africa Scholars programs that provide full scholarships to top musicians from around the world. He has overseen the expansion of the City Music Program beyond Boston in an effort to provide educational opportunities for talented but economically disadvantaged urban youth. The program now has partners in cities across America and abroad, reaching more than 29,000 students. As well, Brown has led Berklee to adopt a more selective admissions policy that requires an interview and audition for all applicants to the college. Along with that effort, Brown oversaw the creation of a new advising program to support all entering students. Under Brown’s leadership, the amount of scholarship and financial aid available to Berklee students has increased by 400 percent, growing from $9 million to $41 million.
Brown has helped the college enhance the student experience by establishing semester-abroad programs and by expanding the Boston campus through real estate acquisitions and the construction of a 16-story facility at 160 Massachusetts Avenue that boasts 173 residence hall rooms, 23 practice rooms, six two-story common areas, a fitness center, a 400-seat dining hall, and a state-of-the-art 10-studio music production complex. Brown worked with the city of Valencia, Spain, and the Generalitat Valenciana to create a Berklee campus in Valencia that now offers both study abroad and graduate programs. Under his leadership, the college has launched a suite of educational institutes that offer focused areas of study including the Berklee Global Jazz Institute, Berklee Institute for Creative Entrepreneurship, Effortless Mastery Institute, American Roots Music, Popular Music Institute, and Mediterranean Music Institute. After completing Berklee’s first capital campaign, Giant Steps in 2011, which raised $54.5 million, Brown launched the institution’s second campaign, Soundbreaking in 2014, which aims to raise $100 million for the college. In 2016, he oversaw Berklee's merger with the Boston Conservatory to create the world’s most comprehensive and dynamic training ground for music, dance, theater, and related professions. Brown has been recognized for his accomplishments at Berklee with the Cruz de Honor from the provincial government of Valencia, Spain, and with the March of Dimes Franklin Delano Roosevelt Humanitarian Award.
About his aspirations, Brown says, “Berklee has produced artists who have won a collective 266 Grammy Awards, composed some of the great film scores of our time, written jazz and rock standards, used music as a healing force as pioneers of music therapy, and transformed the way people play their instruments and teach contemporary music. We have the opportunity to be a powerful force in the world to help train the next generation of leading music entrepreneurs, teachers, and artists.”