Alumni Profile: Patricia Abdelnour, Networking to the Top

By 
Lesley Mahoney
February 1, 2008
Berklee alumna Patricia Abdelnour.
Berklee alumni Gustavo Amarante, Gonzalo Grau, and Aquiles Baez.
Photo courtesy of Patricia Abdelnour
Photo courtesy of Patricia Abdelnour

Patricia Abdelnour regularly rubs elbows with musicians, artists, and politicians as the cultural attaché to the Venezuelan Embassy. But don't think for a second that it's all glitz and glamour for the 1997 Berklee graduate.

"This is a production gig, even though it has a fancy and diplomatic title," says Abdelnour, whose Washington, D.C.-based job entails promoting Venezuelan music culture thoughout the United States through concerts, lectures, and films.

Acknowledging that this isn't your average job for a Berklee alumna, Abdenour credits her education for helping her excel in her position. Not only did she garner technical skills as a music production and engineering (MP&E) major, but she got some solid footing in music history. In addition, she has built a network of musicians and industry professionals that she calls on regularly.

"It was really great exposure to discovering the many sides that music can have in the professional world without being limited to performance," she says. "The skills I gained at Berklee are priceless."

Indeed, Abdelnour, who hails from Caracas, got her feet wet in a variety of gigs before landing the job promoting the culture of her native Venezuela.

After several years of paying her dues working 12-hour nights at recording studios in Los Angeles—doing everything from fetching coffee and pizza to cleaning studios and occasionally getting to work on recording sessions—she landed a day job as a recording engineer at a publishing company.

For Abdelnour, that job—recording, editing, and mastering audio books at HarperCollins in New York—paved the way for her to make a connection that would ultimately lead to her current post.

As it turned out, the publishing job freed up some time for Abdelnour to not only play viola in a small New York orchestra, the New Amsterdam Symphony Orchestra, and do freelance work recording Latin music for friends and local artists but also to launch a nonprofit organization dedicated to the promotion of Venezuelan music and culture.

Along with five friends, Abdelnour co-founded Amigos de Venezuela en Nueva York, which brought some of Venezuela's most famous musicians to the Big Apple and helped promote and support local Venezuelan musicians living in the city. The organization's reach went beyond music, too; for example, it teamed up with New York University's Latin American and Caribbean Studies graduate program to invite Bernardo Alvarez, the ambassador of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, to give a lecture.

It was the connection with Alvarez, who comes from a very musical Venezuelan state and had just funded the construction of a concert hall at the Venezuelan Embassy in Washington, D.C., that led to Abdelnour's current position. At Alvarez's request, Abdelnour wrote a proposal for a concert series at the hall. "He liked it and we put together a summer music series," she recalls, noting that she worked for a year on a freelance basis before she was offered the cultural attaché position.

Three years later, Abdelnour is still loving the job and credits her Berklee education with opening up many doors.

"The technical skills you get are great, and the MP&E background, not only knowing how to do this but what things cost," she says.

Beyond the classes she took for her major, Abdelnour is grateful for the courses that helped shape her foundational knowledge of music. "Being a cultural attaché and being a musician, you have to be cultured," she says, noting that courses focused on the history of different genres of music and art have helped her in her job. "It's important to at least have a basic knowledge of the culture and history of music and the arts."

While knowledge and skills are essential, Abdelnour can attest to the incredible network she garnered through her alma mater. Not only does she tap into these resources for programming the embassy's events, but she landed the job at HarperCollins thanks to a Berklee connection; MP&E chair Rob Jaczko told her about the opportunity, which came about when another Berklee alumna was leaving the post.

Says Abdelnour, "Berklee gives you enough skills to survive in the world. You will not starve as a musician."