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Berklee Partners with City of New York to Renovate Power Station/Avatar Studios

As Variety reported last week, Berklee College of Music is coming to New York City and will make a home in the historic Power Station studios (most recently called Avatar studios), the school and Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Monday.

The studio — where artists like Bruce Springsteen, Paul Simon, Herbie Hancock, Tony Bennett, Lady Gaga, David Bowie, Madonna, Bob Dylan, the cast of Hamilton, and many others recorded iconic albums — was in danger of closing. But according to a press release, “with the support of the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment and the Economic Development Corporation, as well as the vision of Berklee Trustee Pete Muller,” Berklee will renovate the Midtown facility and transform it into BerkleeNYC, a state-of-the-art recording and video production facility for the city’s music, theater, television, and film industries.

BerkleeNYC, with funds from MOME and the EDC, will host both free and tuition-based educational programs, performances, and resources for local musicians and will also feature a virtual reality/augmented reality studio, the release says.

Berklee plans to continue operating the studio commercially as the re-christened Power Station at BerkleeNYC, restoring the name established by original owner Tony Bongiovi — a cousin of singer Jon Bon Jovi, who launched his career largely thanks to free studio time from Tony — who founded the studio in 1977.

At a time when major recording studios are largely vacating Manhattan, this project will make the facility the last recording studio in New York that is able to accommodate a full orchestra or live Broadway cast album recording. The project was spearheaded by Muller, according to the release.

“Renovating this amazing, historic music venue is a powerful nod to New York City as a continuing center for innovative art, culture, and creativity. I commend Berklee and Trustee Pete Muller for their investments, their vision, and for the public programming space that will benefit many budding and future New York recording artists,” said Mayor de Blasio.

The project both furthers the music-related efforts of the MOME committee, which was formed in Feb. 2016, and achieves Berklee’s goal of establishing a major presence in New York. (See a rendering of the future facade below.)

A rendering of Berklee NYC in the space that houses recording studio The Power Station/Avatar.

“The Power Station is an iconic, creative hub of music,” said Berklee President Roger H. Brown. “So many influential recordings have been made there and it puts us at the nexus of the vital music, theater, and dance communities of New York City. We intend both to re-imagine the recording studio of the future and add a powerful educational program to support our many Berklee alumni who intend to live, work, and create in New York.”

Funding from MOME and EDC will establish programs at BerkleeNYC including continuing education, career strategy, grants, and skills acquisition for New York musicians, composers, producers, and engineers, the release states. Also to be offered are teacher training sessions for Berklee City Music, Amp Up NYC, and Little Kids Rock; programs exploring the intersection of music, dance, theater, and technology; talent incubation; and internships for Berklee College of Music and Boston Conservatory at Berklee students.

In addition to the studio renovation, the building’s lower level will be converted into a flexible-use practice/performance venue, including an affordable rehearsal space featuring a professional-size stage and state-of-the-art sound, lighting, and video technology. It will also include a video control room to capture and post-produce video from all over the building, a virtual reality/augmented reality studio, and flexible spaces for ensemble practice rooms and classrooms.

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