Perkins School for the Blind Transition Center

Berklee to Launch the Institute for Arts Education and Special Needs This Fall

Berklee will launch the Berklee Institute for Arts Education and Special Needs in the fall of 2017. The institute will provide opportunities for individuals with special needs to learn about, experience, and create in the arts. It will offer community programs, learning opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students, professional development for teachers, and partnerships with international, national, and regional organizations.

Rhoda Bernard will lead the Berklee Institute for Arts Education and Special Needs

Rhoda Bernard will lead the Berklee Institute for Arts Education and Special Needs

This one-of-a-kind institute will further the impressive work led by Rhoda Bernard, who will be its managing director, and build on the 10 years of Boston Conservatory’s successful Autism Spectrum Programs, which offer several arts education programs for individuals with autism: music classes for young children, private instrument lessons, dance classes, sensory-friendly theater and dance programs, and a choral ensemble for children and adults with autism as well as their family and friends.

In addition to local partnerships, the institute will expand its list of national and international relationships, which includes Music for Autism International, and United Sound.

Boston Conservatory at Berklee currently hosts professional development workshops and consultations on teaching the arts to students with special needs, and will continue to expand these opportunities as it grows. Its annual two-day conference, Teaching Music to Students with Autism, will take place this year from April 28-29.

The recent merger between the Conservatory and the College provides the perfect opportunity to create this institute, and to bring the vibrant array of offerings in special education and the arts to the Music Education Department at Berklee. Students will be able to earn a Master of Music degree in music education (autism concentration) or a graduate certificate in music education (autism concentration).

“The Berklee Institute for Arts Education and Special Needs will create new opportunities to teach the arts to students of all ages with special needs,” said Bernard. “With this institute, we can serve a larger population who will benefit from arts education. These individuals face many challenges, but when they come to our programs, they are celebrated for their love of music and their artistic accomplishments. Our existing programs will continue to grow while we expose new teachers, students, and communities to the power of art for all.”

Boston Conservatory at Berklee serves as a leader in the field of music education and autism; the opening of the institute will create new opportunities to expand its focus into additional areas of special education. The Conservatory was the first performing arts college to offer private music lessons to individuals on the autism spectrum in 2007 and, under the leadership of the Conservatory’s external relations director, Kim Haack, was first school in Boston to present autism-friendly performances in 2013. In 2015, it was also the first conservatory in the nation to launch graduate training programs specifically in music education and autism.

This article has been reprinted with permission and first appeared on March 1, 2017 at

Rhoda Bernard, EdD, is Chair of the Music Education Department and Director of Autism Spectrum Programs at Boston Conservatory at Berklee. For more information on the autism spectrum programs currently available, visit For information on the Institute for Arts Education and Special Needs, please visit  To contact Dr. Bernard, email or call (617) 747-2760.

Have a Comment?