Michael Shinn

Dean of Music

Michael Shinn joined the Conservatory in 2017 as dean of music. In this capacity, he oversees the Music Division faculty and students, directs artistic planning and strategizing for the division, and works closely with the vice president for Academic Affairs in leading curricular innovation. As the voice of the division, Shinn represents all matters pertaining to the community in Berklee-wide committees, as well as in all external partnerships.

One of the first collaborations Shinn brought to the Conservatory was with the Silkroad Ensemble, which has impacted the student experience in myriad ways ranging from performance collaborations at Symphony Hall to artistic risk-taking in the classroom. This long-term residency has been especially beneficial for students during the pandemic, as Silkroad artists have led modules connecting health, wellness, and mindfulness with artistry and creativity. To support both students and faculty during remote work, Shinn also established relationships with industry leaders in music technology and audio and video production. As a result, Boston Conservatory students are now at the cutting edge in their career preparation for a new normal in the performing arts.

Shinn's diverse career in music reflects his deep passion for performance, education, entrepreneurship, and innovation in the arts. Prior to this appointment at Boston Conservatory at Berklee, he was chair of keyboard studies at the Juilliard School, where he taught piano, chamber music, piano pedagogy, and keyboard skills for both pianists and conductors. He also served as senior advisor for artistic and educational programs at Juilliard Global Ventures, where he was the professor for Juilliard’s first online course, Juilliard Piano Class: Sharpen Your Artistry.

Based on the belief that musicians must successfully communicate through spoken word in addition to performance, Shinn launched the Speaking from the Stage initiative at Juilliard, which prepares students to speak to their audiences at their graduation recitals and engage with arts lovers and future supporters. As a spokesperson for the arts, he has presented and moderated panels about the future of arts education and the role of the arts in society at SXSW EDU, the Pebble Beach Authors and Ideas Festival, Sphinx Connect, and the Yamaha Educational Leader’s Summit. 

Shinn has designed innovative lectures and courses on a variety of subjects, often focusing on his specialty, the music of Franz Liszt. In 2011, he was the artistic director of the Liszt Festival at Juilliard, a series of lecture-recitals celebrating the composer’s bicentennial that brought together world-class artists and pedagogues including Jerome Lowenthal and Margo Garrett.

Together with his wife, Jessica (also a pianist and faculty member at the Conservatory), Shinn cofounded and codirects the pianoSonoma Music Festival. Having just finished its tenth season, this unique festival brings together artists in residence, young musicians on the cusp of major concert careers, and adult musicians of all backgrounds to collaborate and perform at the Green Music Center in Sonoma County, California. For the 2020 edition, the Shinns led the festival in pivoting to a virtual experience, pianoSonoma at Your Doorstep, which was rich with artistic engagement, analysis courses, artist exchange talks, and both private and livestreamed public performances. 

Michael and Jessica Shinn are both Yamaha Artists and duo pianists who passionately advocate for new music, having given world premieres by composers such as Adam Schoenberg and Thomas Cabaniss. They commissioned the latter to write a major two-piano concerto, Double Rainbow, that will be the centerpiece of a forthcoming album featuring entirely the music Cabaniss has written for the duo. 

Shinn is also a marathon runner and triathlete.