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This year more than 120 current Berklee students once again chose to spend their March spring break in Nashville. The annual journey to Music City, headed by faculty Pat Pattison and Stephen Webber, has been a source of inspiration and education for 20-plus years.
Between March 15 and March 19, the students took in panel discussions, interviews, studio tours, and concerts featuring some of the biggest names in the music business. Vince Gill, Kathy Mattea, Beth Nielson Chapman, Jon Vezner, Janis Ian, and Ricky Skaggs were among the music biz elite on hand to share their knowledge. Skaggs was also honored with a Berklee honorary doctorate onstage at the world famous Grand Ole Opry (see Spring Break with Dr. Skaggs).
Berklee's Nashville-based alumni were featured throughout the trip as well. The alumni panel gave current students a view into how they have carved out their own niches in Nashville. I moderated the panel that featured alumni James Harrington '06, Kira Small '93, Ben Strano '01, and Megan James. Megan also brought her amazing talent to the stage at our alumni showcase, along with Charlie Worsham '06, Jesse Terry '04, Rachel Loy '05, Dillon Dixon '91, James Ferrell, Larissa Maestro '04, and Charlie Hutto '06. A new addition to this year's schedule included a look into the burgeoning underground acoustic movement in Nashville with producer/engineer Jason Lehning '94, and fiddler Casey Driessen '00. Both have received Grammy nominations.
Here is a roundup of what other Nashville alumni are up to. Caitlin Nicol-Thomas '07, who plays fiddle and acoustic guitar in the country band Digger Dawg, has embarked on a tour of Kuwait, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia to play for U.S. troops. Liz Ficalora '78 recently opened Ficalora Music Productions in Franklin, TN, and is proud to announce that it has just gone global; see www. ficaloramusicproductions.com. Her band, the Paint Sisters, has released a self-titled debut album, produced by Ficalora and John Carter Cash. Shantell Ogden '06 has formed Ogden Marketing & Media, to serve artists, labels, and small businesses. Matthew Miller '04 left the William Morris Agency and is now the creative director at Carnival Music Publishing. Deborah Salvucci Adams '89 recently performed for the 11th year at the Frank Brown International Songwriters Festival in the Florida-Alabama Gulf Shores. Her song "The Love That Once Lived Here" received an honorable mention in the Vanderbilt University Medical Center magazine's annual poetry contest. And finally, Casey Driessen is recording a new solo album and touring with Abigail Washburn (banjo, vocals), Béla Fleck (banjo), and Ben Sollee (cello, vocals) as the Sparrow Quartet.
Nashville Berklee Alumni Chapter Leader