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In Memoriam: Barrie Nettles

Barrie NettlesDear members of the Berklee community,

On May 3, Barrie Nettles, one of Berklee’s icons, passed away after suffering a massive stroke.

A graduate of Berklee in 1969, Barrie began teaching at the college in 1972 and retired in 2006. During his 34-year tenure, he was a foundational member of the Harmony Department, serving as chair from 1984-1993 and subsequently as professor until his retirement. He taught almost all of the harmony and arranging courses at the college, authored many of the core harmony texts and workbooks, and created the Scoring for Woodwinds course.

Prior to attending Berklee, Barrie attended the Navy School of Music. He also spent almost four years as a music therapist at Pennsylvania State School and Hospital, two years as staff arranger for the U.S. Army Band of the Pacific in Hawaii, and three years as an authors’ agent licensing Broadway musicals for amateur productions.

Barrie was admired for being a superb writer and arranger, an excellent woodwind player, especially on baritone saxophone and bass clarinet, as well as being a master carpenter who created and built incredible furniture pieces.

Ken Pullig, former chair of the Jazz Composition Department, recounts that, “Barrie was a Berklee icon. He was a very creative–and very fast!–writer, a skill he encouraged and nurtured in all his students. He was a highly respected teacher and, above all, a strong advocate for students. His priority was always the students.”

The college is fortunate to have some of Barrie’s teaching materials, including tapes, papers, textbook drafts, and exams in the library archives–collection #BCA-023 (Barrie Nettles papers, 1974-1999).

Steve Rochinski, professor in the Harmony Department, offers this beautiful tribute to his dear friend and colleague, acknowledging, “it is not easy condensing the impact that Barrie had on Berklee.”

Lignum Vita (Wood of Life)
“Barrie was always about the Music–his values of pragmatism and common sense infused everything he did, whether it was developing core materials, which have always been the cornerstone of Berklee’s unique Harmony curriculum, or mentoring young faculty by encouraging them to find the give and take within the absolute walls of Tonal gravity. His legacy was true and honest–it was built on his respect and stewardship for Lawrence Berk’s vision, and for what his teachers brought to him. Barrie never took the easy way in leaving his mark by sacrificing anything that wasn’t his to begin with. He will be missed more than he could ever imagine.”

Barrie’s wish was that there would be no service. He was cremated and buried near Hershey, Pennsylvania, where he grew up.

I invite you to share your stories and memories of Barrie Nettles in the comments below.


Jay Kennedy
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  1. Joe and Carmen Konzem

    Truly a man of many talents an extraordinary musician/instructor. Barrie was in the Army Band of The Pacific with the late Tom Anastas. I knew of that band’s super reputation, I was serving in the 27th Regimental Band on Oahu at the same time. We met at Berklee in the early 60’s, he has been a real friend. Barrie and Patsy have enriched our lives. We are so sorry he is no longer with us.

  2. David Williams. Formerly Dave Kaplan 73 75 76 alumni

    It’s odd. I was googling Barry Nettles. 1st time ever.
    I can remember Barry bringing coffee and cigarettes every morning to class back in 75 n 76.
    He was always fun and always could analyze everything.
    Barry was a good guy.
    Berklee was so much fun then.

  3. John W Corry

    When I attended Berklee in 1978, it was a most memorable experience. I had the pleasure to take Harmony classes with Barrie. And yes he did bring his cofree and cigarettes to class every morning but he taught the he’ll out of harmony to his students. He wanted us all to understand the music so we could be the best that we were meant to be. Barrie will be greatly missed and always remembered.

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