After bowing out of the spotlight as a lead singer for a behind-the-scenes role as a songwriter, Justin Tranter '01 has written many songs that have become fixtures on the Billboard Hot 100 charts.
After graduating with honors from Berklee, Will Calhoun '86 went on to chart-topping success with rock band Living Colour and has played with jazz icons as well as African village masters in his lifelong exploration of the ancient art of drumming.
Jazz percussionist and composer Marco Pacassoni has performed with Michel Camilo, Alex Acuna, Horacio "El Negro" Hernandez, and Steve Smith, and is an educator and author in his native Italy.
Hailing from Havana, Cuba, pianist and composer Dayramir Gonzalez ’13 is known as an advocate for traditional Cuban music, including the danzón. He has performed in venues such as Carnegie Hall and the Havana Jazz Festival, among others. His album Grand Concourse was released in 2016 and he is the cofounder of the Art School of Contemporary Performance and Creativity. The school provides comprehensive music education to New York City elementary school students.
Born in Hamamatsu, Japan, Hiromi started piano lessons at age 6 with a teacher who taught her to focus on the intuitive side of the instrument as well as the technical. When she subsequently studied at the Yamaha School of Music, she had already learned about jazz pianists like Oscar Peterson and had written her own compositions.
Esperanza Spalding graduated from Berklee in 2005, making history upon graduation by becoming one of the youngest instructors in the college’s history. This was just the tip of the iceberg, however, as Spalding went on in 2011 to become the first jazz musician to win the Grammy for Best New Artist, beating out Justin Bieber, Drake, Florence and the Machine, and Mumford & Sons.
Michael Gandolfi combines a deep understanding of classical music with an equally rich background in rock, blues, and jazz to create his stunning compositions. His distinctively contemporary music distills all of his experiences to produce works that have been performed and recorded by the Boston Symphony Orchestra, San Francisco Symphony, Tanglewood Music Center Orchestra, the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, Nieuw Sinfonietta Amsterdam, and many more.
Before arriving in Boston, Massachusetts, in 1993, cellist and composer Okkyung Lee said she knew little of the jazz and experimental music for which she is now known. Born in South Korea in 1975 and educated in classical piano and cello, Lee first heard of Miles Davis, John Coltrane, and other jazz greats when she came to Berklee College of Music. She quickly bought CDs to listen to the music she was trying to understand.
A member of the class of 1999 and an entrepreneurial visionary in the business of creative music and education, Prasanna was voted among the top 50 creative Indians by Open Magazine.
Donald Harrison Jr. ’81 has combined a whirlwind career as a saxophonist with establishing cultural and educational traditions in his native New Orleans, Louisiana. Known for creating nouveau swing, a jazz style that combines R&B, funk, hip-hop, and African dance, Harrison tours all over the world and has many albums and honors to his name.
Howard Shore’s film scoring resumé, containing everything from The Lord of the Rings cycle to the 2016 Academy Award winner for best picture, Spotlight, is so impressive that it might seem intimidating to music students. And yet, Shore, who studied composition at Berklee College of Music long before there was a Film Scoring Department, credits his time at Berklee with helping him get his start. “Berklee had the keys to everything I was interested in, so it was a very quiet kind of gathering up of information,” Shore said in a Berklee interview.
Music has been a constant element in Athena Koumis’s life since she began playing the violin when she was 4 years old. She has since performed and recorded with several orchestras and bands, and in college began DJing and producing music. “I felt that I needed to be more informed of what was going on in the industry and wanted to learn from experts in the field while widening my professional network.
When we caught wind that Steve Corn’s record label, BFM Jazz, had three releases that were nominated for five Grammys this year, we had to get the story of this jazz record label that has somehow not only survived into the digital age but flourished in the pop age, and the Berklee alumnus behind it.
Cian McCarthy’s claim to fame may be that he was once the youngest conductor on Broadway, but his future is likely to hold many more accolades. This composer, conductor, music director, and pianist has had a hand in some of the most successful, award-winning Broadway shows of the past decade, including In the Heights, The Book of Mormon, Avenue Q, and Hamilton.
Maddie Rice has proven to be a young musician to watch. As a 2014 Berklee College of Music graduate with a burgeoning pop-rock career in electric guitar, she was chosen in 2015 to be part of the house band for The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. As a member of Stay Human, Jon Batiste’s band, Rice adds to the group’s unique blend of jazz, funk, and pop.
"A lot of my gigs came about just by showing up and offering to help people. I love what I do so I just try to wake up and pursue the things that I care about. That’s definitely something I got from Berklee—just living music. It’s not something you just ‘kind of’ do, and it’s not something that you have to try to do. It just comes out of you because you love it.”
Panpipe virtuoso Damian Draghici ’98 swapped a celebrated music career for a seat in the European Parliament to campaign for Roma rights.
Banda Magda, founded by Greek-born singer, film scorer, and composer Magda Giannikou '08 and joined by several Berklee alumni, deftly melds styles from samba to Greek folk to Columbian cumbia and has caught the attention of everyone from Kronos Quartet to Louis C.K.