Originally from Gainesville, Florida, Brian Cole is a man with music running through his veins. An academic, with qualifications acquired at top universities in the US, he is also a musician in the pure sense of the word, specialising in the bassoon and training extensively as a conductor. Throughtout his career he has already worked with numerous orchestras and operas across North and South America, such as the Cincinnati Symphony and Chamber Orchestras, the Puerto Rico Sympony Orchestra and the Orquesta Sinfónica de Concepción (Chile) among many others.
Still a young man, this classically trained musician was appointed Music Director of the Concert Orchestra of the Cincinnati College’s Conservatory of Music in 2004, before moving on to Puerto Rico to take up the role of Associate Dean at the Puerto Rico Conservatory of Music. Now, as Berklee College looks to open its first academy outside of its home base in Boston, Brian Cole has been headhunted to lead the academic programme, and specifically the college’s inaugural master’s degree programmes in contemporary music.
With his classical training and academic credentials he is an ideal choice, but was also on Berklee’s wish list because he is a pure musical expert with a very open-minded approach. “My training was in classical repertoires and much of my work since has involved opera, chamber music and theatre,” says Brian, “but while these continue to be passions of mine my ultimate pleasure in music is derived not from specific genres and styles but from the universal appeal of music as a diverse source of expression.”
The world’s music in one place
It is this love of the musicality contained within every single style and region of the world that also makes Brian Cole an ideal candidate for his post at Berklee Valencia, for though it started as a jazz school this is a college renowned for its diversity of styles and its openness to cultural inputs and talent from around the globe. “In Puerto Rico we developed exchange programmes of musicians to and from other parts of the Americas, which produced a wonderful interplay of musical backgrounds that often spurned a whole new wave of creativity, and it is this kind of interaction that we want to encourage here at Berklee Valencia as well.”
If anything, Valencia will prove to be an even more international environment, with students coming from across Europe, the Americas, Asia and even Africa, not to mention the influence that Spain’s own rich musical heritage and culture will have on those who come here to learn, perform and compose. “This is a highly musical country with a very distinct heritage that is borne out of historic exposure to so many different cultural influences and musical traditions, ranging from the Mediterranean and Arab worlds to the cloisters of medieval Christendom, the fiery flamenco music of the Gypsies, the sounds of Latin America and the influence of modern pop and rock. It can’t but leave a strong impression on our students, and we’re confident that it will prove fertile ground and lead them to great things.
The stunningly modernist work of Valencian-born architectural master Santiago Calatrava will provide an equally powerful source of inspiration, for Berklee’s Spanish campus is housed in the iconic Palau de les Artes Reina Sofia. Though this futuristic building speaks of modernity, Brian reminds us that the Berklee College of Music places great value in providing a broad musical base upon which students can build their careers and follow their own directions. “Classical music and musical skills still offer people in this field the ideal set of tools from which to develop and blossom, though added to this pure and traditional form of musicality is also a very clear focus on developing the technological skills that play such an important part in shaping music today.”
“We have therefore invested heavily in both traditional instruments and top-of-the-range technology, both of which find their ultimate home in our state-of-the-art studios and recording rooms. Our philosophy is to provide budding new talent with the musical and technical skills, to enthuse them and open their minds to diverse sounds and influences, and then allow them to find their own route, whatever genre or combination of genres that may be.” He cites the example of former students in Puerto Rico who created new ideas out of the interplay of classical musicianship and the modern sounds of Latin America. “I believe there will be many such cases here in Valencia, and it will be fascinating to watch the flow of creativity in a college as uniquely international as this one.”