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.
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.
Saxophonist, composer, video game musician, and developer of therapeutic applications of music, Norihiko Hibino is truly a Renaissance man. Born in Osaka, Japan, in 1973, Hibino came to Berklee College of Music to pursue a career in jazz saxophone. After graduating in 1997, he began performing solo in Kansas City, Missouri, but veered into composing for video games after returning to Japan.
Norwegian-born jazz clarinetist Felix Peikli '12 released his expansive debut album, Royal Flush, in 2015; the album features an all-alumni quintet and appearances from Lee Hogans, Marcus Miller, and Albino Mbie '13.
A songwriter for television series, documentaries, and commercials, Alejandra Jimenez ’13 is a Colombian songwriter, composer, and producer who has established an impressive resume for a young musician. Jimenez has been studying music since she was six-years-old. She won her first award for songwriting at age 18 and went on to receive a bachelor of music degree from Pontificia Universidad Javeriana in Colombia. Subsequently, she moved to Boston to attend Berklee on a full scholarship from the Spanish Society of Authors and Publishers.
Donny McCaslin ’88 is perhaps best known as the saxophonist on David Bowie’s last album, Blackstar, released days before the singer’s death in early 2016. But McCaslin’s life as a musician stretches back to playing with his father’s band at age 12 in California as well as to years in the New York jazz world.
Nikki Glaspie, who traveled the world as the drummer in superstar Beyoncé's all-woman backup band, has honed a clear vision of herself and others as musicians. She credits her years at Berklee, from which she graduated in 2005, and performing in Boston in leading her to that vision.
Born and raised in San Jose, California, Rohith Jayaraman is a vocalist, composer, arranger, and percussionist who specializes in Carnatic (South Indian classical) vocal music and vocal percussion. As a student at Berklee College of Music, he was also one of the early members of the college’s renowned Berklee Indian Ensemble, arranging and composing for the group. After graduating summa cum laude with a degree in music therapy in 2016, Jayaraman became the assistant manager of the Berklee India Exchange.
To call vibraphonist Gary Burton '62 '89H a superstar is wildly underplaying the impact this Berklee stalwart has had on the world of music. His long career as a performer, teacher, improviser, recording artist, and mentor to generations of musicians has been entwined with Berklee since he first came to Boston to attend the college in the early '60s.
George Mraz came to Berklee in 1968 by way of the Czech Republic. Since coming to the United States, he has been an in-demand bassist, playing with a host of jazz greats including Dizzy Gillespie, Stan Getz, and Charles Mingus and garnering credits on almost 1,000 recordings.
Award-winning jazz trombonist, composer, and former Berklee professor Hal Crook ’71 has been playing music for more than 60 years. He took up the piano at 5 years old, started composing original pieces at 8, and moved on to trombone at 12. He attended Berklee on a scholarship from DownBeat magazine and received a Bachelor of Music in arranging and composition.
Grammy-winning trumpet player Roy Hargrove ’89 studied at Berklee just as his career was taking off. Although best known for his jazz skills, he excels at any genre he touches, working with diverse artists such as Angelique Kidjo, D’Angelo, Erykah Badu, and John Mayer '98.
A master of his art, John Scofield has been a major figure in the guitar world since the 1970s. After graduating from Berklee College of Music in 1973, he set out on a stellar career, playing music that ranges from jazz to funk to R&B. For more than four decades, he has been a major jazz influence as a guitarist and composer.
John Mayer has had several musical lives rolled into one: a pop star, a renowned guitarist, a heartthrob, a serious student of the blues, and a gritty comeback artist who returned from a two-year hiatus because of vocal cord problems to develop a passion for the music of the Grateful Dead.
Formed in 2011 by a team of Berklee students, Hexany Audio specializes in sound design and audio post-production for an international client base.
Gil Smith II '99 has the reputation of being the go-to music director for the live shows of multiple artists including Lil Wayne, Nicki Minaj, and Lady Gaga as well as many K-pop groups including BIGBANG and 2NE1. We managed to catch him on the phone between two gigs, and he shared some insight on how he wound up in such an illustrious career.
Makeba Riddick, an award-winning singer-songwriter and producer, is successful by any standard. She has worked with Rihanna and Beyoncé, collaborated with David Guetta and Tamar Braxton, and produced songs for Jennifer Lopez and Mariah Carey. With nine no. 1 records, three Grammy nominations, and one Grammy to her credit, her star continues to rise.
The bluesy style and blistering chops of Mike Stern have made him an electric guitar icon for more than four decades. An eclectic and virtuoso guitarist and composer, he first gained notice playing with Blood, Sweat & Tears; Billy Cobham; and Joe Henderson.
Tali Rubinstein is an extraordinary recorder player, vocalist and composer from Israel. Her contemporary music, unique sound, and outstanding performances make her a promising new talent in the jazz and world music scene.
Ken Ueno ’94 takes the composer’s imagination a step further than most, crafting each commissioned composition to match the very essence of the artist who commissioned it. As he puts it, "I take into consideration the specific skills of the performers and analyze them using computer technology to develop structures, form, and sounds from the analysis. When I write for myself and orchestra, I do overtone singing and multiphonics, then analyze the frequencies and create an acoustic resynthesis of some of my sounds.”