Berkeley Connect in Music

MusicThe Berkeley Connect program opens up the extraordinary resources of the university to you: the extraordinary students on our campus. By joining, you will become part of a community of like-minded faculty, mentors, and students that will provide a supportive environment in which to exchange and discuss ideas and goals. Berkeley Connect will help you to make the most of your time at the university as you learn more about the major in Music. We’re excited to get to know you!

Message from the Director

Nicholas MathewPracticing and honing musical skills is a solitary, even lonely, activity; performance on the other hand is a rewarding experience that endeavors to connect the performer’s musical passion and expression with other human beings’–either with other musicians in an ensemble, or the audience, or composers. Musical activity is a collective effort, many say its purpose is to communicate, but can it exist without being communicative?  When the pandemic upended our lives, this hardship brought new perspectives and challenged us to better understand the meaning of music-making, and why we do what we do. Developing these kinds of insights—whether from a performer’s, composer’s or an audience/listener’s perspective—will shape our music paths into the future.

At Berkeley Connect, under the guidance of your mentor, you will explore a variety of topics in a relaxed environment. Topics will include: How can music express our roots/identity? In what ways? How do you define it? How will the pandemic have positive or negative impacts on our daily music making?  How does pop culture shape our view of musical aesthetics? Pondering and talking about the big questions gives us a deeper understanding of Music, helps us grow individually, and brings us together so we can thrive in a supportive community.

I invite you to open your heart and mind to this unique environment, and share your imagination and passion so that we can strengthen our voices and help each other on our Musical journeys.

Nicholas Mathew
Professor of Music

Faculty Director, Berkeley Connect in Music

Program Description

Berkeley Connect links undergraduate students with experienced mentors in Music. These mentors lead small groups of 10-20 students in regular meetings; they also meet with students one-on-one to provide guidance and advice. The core of the Berkeley Connect program is a one-credit, pass-fail course that is designed to create a community of students with similar intellectual interests. There is no homework associated with Berkeley Connect: no exams, no papers, no quizzes Instead, small group meetings focus on sharing ideas and learning new skills within the Music major as a way to foster friendships and provide a supportive intellectual community for Berkeley undergraduates. The only requirement for joining Berkeley Connect in Music is that you have an interest in the field of study. You do not have to be a major in order to participate! Undeclared freshmen and sophomores are welcome, along with entering junior transfers and juniors and seniors who have declared the major.

Every semester, Berkeley Connect sponsors a wide range of activities and events for participating students. They include:

  • small-group meetings led by your mentor;
  • one-on-one meetings with your mentor;
  • special events, including informal lectures by professors and guest speakers, and panels on career options, graduate school admissions, and other topics;
  • and visits to Berkeley resources.

At the heart of Berkeley Connect is the relationship between you and your mentor. The Berkeley Connect mentors are advanced graduate students or recent PhDs in Music, who are chosen both for their demonstrated commitment to undergraduates and for their scholarly achievement. They are dedicated to providing the kind of close-knit community and one-on-one attention that can be hard to find at a large university.

When you sign up for Berkeley Connect, you will join one of several small groups of participants in Music. Your small group will be led by your mentor, and will meet every other week during the semester for an hour-long discussion session. Discussions will focus on key intellectual issues within Music as well as key skills you need to succeed in the major. Above all, the small groups will focus on building connections among students, so that each group becomes a supportive community for all participants.

You will meet with your mentor one-on-one at least twice during the semester, to talk about anything you choose related to your academic life—questions you have, challenges you are facing, resources you are seeking, goals you are seeking to achieve. Your mentor will also hold open mentoring hours throughout the semester, during which you are free to show up and continue these conversations, or just check in.


Nicholas MathewThe pianist and writer Nicholas Mathew is a Professor of Music and Richard and Rhoda Goldman Distinguished Professor in the Humanities.  He is the author of several books and articles, mostly on the history of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Euro-American music.  Most recently, he has toured with the Haitian baritone Jean-Bernard Cerin in a concert of Haitian and Louisiana creole art and folk song.

Berkeley Connect Mentors

Ryan GourleyRyan Gourley is a PhD candidate in Music.

Where did you grow up?

San Antonio, Texas

Where did you go to college and what was your major?

Brown University - Music Major

How would you describe your research in a sentence or two?

My research explores the diverse forms of Soviet and post-Soviet popular music. I'm interested in the ways that music circulates across borders.

Semester Activities

During a semester in Berkeley Connect in Music, you will participate in one-on-one conversations with your mentor, small-group discussions, special events and field trips.

Recent discussion topics have included:

  • What is “good” music? Who gets to decide?
  • Music and identity
  • Music and technology
  • How music helps us thrive

Berkeley Connect discussion sessions are informal and interactive, with time allowed for students to check in, talk about their experiences on campus, and reflect on current events that create the context for their academic studies.

Recent special events and field trips have included:

  • Meet a composer
  • Attend a campus concert

How to Sign Up

To sign up, enroll in a Berkeley Connect section when course registration opens.  To participate in Berkeley Connect in Music, you enroll in a section of Music 98BC (primarily for freshmen and sophomores) or 198BC (primarily for juniors and seniors). Both are offered for one unit, taken on a Pass/Not Pass basis. Participation is NOT restricted to declared majors.

You may enroll in Berkeley Connect more than once (some students choose to participate for a full year by enrolling in both the fall and spring semesters), and you may enroll through more than one department. You may NOT enroll in more than two sections of Berkeley Connect in one semester, or enroll in more than one section in the same department in the same semester.

Contact Us

Please see our FAQs.  If you have additional questions about Berkeley Connect in Music, please contact:  Nicholas Mathew, Faculty Director, at

You can also contact the central Berkeley Connect office  at berkeleyconnect@berkeley.eduor (510)664-4182.

Links & Resources