'We eat, breathe and dream music. We're a bunch of nerds here'

Make that an international bunch of nerds. The Berklee College of Music, aka "the MIT of pop," is respected all over the world

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In the half-century of its existence, more than 30,000 musicians from 75 countries have passed through its doors. The first school to make the study of jazz and popular music academic disciplines, the Berklee College of Music in Boston is the biggest and most important institution of its kind, turning out competent music professionals year after year. Its student body (2,700 strong) and staff (340 faculty members) dwarf other music schools and conservatories: its 830 guitar students alone outnumber Julliard's entire enrollment.

Rock and jazz musicians coexist in approximately equal numbers at Berklee, with another third somewhere in between. The curriculum exposes students to a variety of vocational possibilities besides performance. Altogether there are more than 600 courses within a dozen possible majors that range from songwriting and film scoring to music synthesis and music business management.

The students are intensely focused. "They're not just vaguely 'going to college,'" says one faculty member. "They already know what they want to do in life."

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