Historically Black Spelman College in Atlanta has established a student exchange program with the Berklee College of Music in Boston. The mission of the Berklee-Spelman exchange program is to promote educational opportunities in music and liberal arts to female-identifying students of African descent; to facilitate cultural and social integration through the study of music performance, theory, and history, with a specific focus on jazz and contemporary music; and to increase the participation of African American women in jazz.
The Berklee-Spelman exchange was conceived several years ago by its founding director, Tia Fuller, a Grammy-nominated recording artist, saxophonist, bandleader, and professor in Berklee’s ensemble department. Fuller, a magna cum laude graduate with a bachelor’s degree in music from Spelman College, collaborated with Paula Grissom-Broughton, an assistant professor at Spelman College, to develop the program.
Professor Fuller’s inspiration stemmed from a life-changing musical experience at the historically Black all-women’s college. Specifically, she was influenced by Joe Jennings, who founded the college’s jazz program in 1983 and directed the Spelman College Jazz Ensemble for 30 years.
“Ultimately, it is my goal to reinstate the jazz ensemble and instrumental program at Spelman College. The exchange program is allowing young women of color to have the balance of experiencing Black excellence at an HBCU and the diverse musical community of Berklee,” Professor Fuller said.