Alum's Journey from Caracas to Hollywood Goes Viral
When Andrea Ferrero B.M. ’21 took to Twitter last week to share her story of passion and perseverance, her aim was to inspire people, to show others that dreams really can come true. A few hundred thousand retweets, likes, and comments later, it’s safe to say that her message struck a chord.
“If I told you that a few years ago I was in my room in Caracas watching his movies,” Ferrero tweeted, “would you believe me if I told you that [he’s now] my boss?” Her boss, pictured in an attached image with Ferrero and her Fender Stratocaster, is Adam Sandler—yes, he of Billy Madison, Uncut Gems, “The Chanukah Song,” and more. Ferrero and Sandler are both beaming.
For Ferrero, there’s a lot to smile about these days. Since graduating from Berklee, she’s been making a living as a professional musician in Los Angeles, where she currently works as a music consultant for Netflix and Sandler’s Happy Madison Productions.
While her life may seem charmed, Ferrero’s journey from growing up in Venezuela, a country wracked by years of political and economic turmoil, to where she is now was anything but assured. “The crisis in Venezuela was horrible,” she wrote. “My dream seemed further and further away.”
That dream, for as long as she can remember, was to pursue a career in music. She didn’t grow up in a musical household, she says, but her parents, who gave Ferrero her first guitar at age 10, always supported her talent and interests. She played the instrument constantly and later started performing in the choir of a local church. Eventually, she was sharing stages with popular Venezuelan artists such as La Melodía Perfecta and Sixto Rein.
A lot of my idols, like Mike Stern, Steve Vai, John Mayer, and many more, went through those classrooms. It was unreal to think that I’d ever get to have a lesson with one of them.
Andrea Ferrero B.M. ’21
Ferrero knew that in order to take her playing to the next level, she needed a formal music education, and her goal, since age 12, had been to attend Berklee. “A lot of my idols, like Mike Stern, Steve Vai, John Mayer, and many more, went through those classrooms,” she said. “It was unreal to think that I’d ever get to have a lesson with one of them.”
For several months leading up to her Berklee audition and interview, she practiced religiously, wrote original music, and watched movies only in English to soak up as much of the language as she could. When audition day finally arrived, it was held virtually, and Ferrero had to overcome a few false starts due to her poor internet before finding a connection stable enough to complete the event. “I wanted to give my best in those 15 minutes,” she said, “to show them who I was and my wish to do something great with my music.”
Her hard work paid off. A few months after the audition, she received two letters from Berklee, one informing her that she had been accepted to the college, and another offering her a full scholarship. But despite the tuition award, she still couldn’t afford to pay for travel, food, and other expenses. So she launched a crowdfunding campaign, promoting her story through regional media outlets to help bring awareness, and capital, to the campaign.
Like many international students, once Ferrero made it to Boston, she struggled to adapt to a new city, culture, and learning environment. But she would eventually settle in and find her place as a contemporary writing and production major. She studied guitar with John Mayer’s former teacher, Tomo Fujita, who’d become a key mentor for her as she learned about everything from improvisation to the most effective way to practice.
“I knew about Tomo before coming to Berklee. He was already a huge inspiration to me. I used to watch his YouTube videos and dream about being in one of them,” said Ferrero. “I think it was my first week at Berklee when I met him. We played together, recorded a video, and now that video has almost a million views!”
Watch Ferrero's video with Tomo Fujita:
An active performer during her time at Berklee, she said that one of her most memorable experiences in Boston was playing in a Singers Showcase tribute to Aretha Franklin alongside Chuck Rainey, the Queen of Soul’s longtime bassist.
Two years ago, she received a message from Sandler’s team. The actor-comedian was filming a new movie in Salem, Massachusetts, half an hour north of Boston, and he was looking for a local guitar teacher for his daughter. Ferrero wasn’t able to participate in the lessons due to the demands of her school schedule, but Sandler, who’d watched and been impressed with Ferrero’s YouTube videos, invited her up to Salem a few times to jam and hang out on the set where they were filming his movie. “He loves music and is a very talented guitar player,” Ferrero said.
They stayed in touch long after the movie had wrapped filming. Ferrero regularly sent Sandler videos of her performing, and he’d respond with feedback or ask her for tips on how to improve his own playing. Then, a week before the start of her fifth semester, Ferrero got a call from Sandler inviting her to intern with his company, Happy Madison Productions. Determined not to miss the opportunity, Ferrero dropped all of her Berklee classes and hopped on a plane to Los Angeles.
During the three-month internship, she supported the company’s music editors and music supervisors, and also worked with the renowned film composer Rupert Gregson-Williams, who scored Wonder Woman and Aquaman as well as numerous Happy Madison productions including That's My Boy and Click.
After the internship, Ferrero returned to Berklee to complete her degree. A few months before graduation, she sent a text to Sandler asking for the opportunity to work for Happy Madison, and he offered her a job.
In Ferrero’s current role as music consultant at Netflix and Happy Madison, she’s involved in all musical aspects related to Sandler’s films, from working with music editors and supervisors to recording guitar tracks for the film composers to include in their scores.
Despite the fairy-tale arc of her career so far, Ferrero remains humble. She recognizes that luck has played a role in her success, but she also knows that it was hard work that put her in a position where good luck could make the difference. When asked what advice she’d give to other young, ambitious artists with the odds stacked against them, she offered the following message:
“People from Venezuela and all over Latin America know the struggle and all it takes to come to the U.S. to chase a dream. There will always be many obstacles and challenges in our way, some bigger than others, but we need to have the strength and power to say: ‘No matter what, I am capable, and I can make this happen.’”