How the Wachter Fellowship Helped These Students Launch Careers in L.A.
In summer 2022, student William Tiong secured an A&R internship based in Los Angeles, and it was a dream come true—almost. The internship was unpaid, and Tiong, an international student from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, didn’t know anyone in L.A., and due to his visa status, wasn’t eligible for any kind of paid work outside of Berklee’s campus. On his own, the internship just couldn’t happen.
Determined not to let the opportunity slip by, Tiong applied for a Wachter Fellowship, one of the fellowship programs offered through Berklee's Career Center, and that made all the difference. “The Wachter Fellowship was an incredible opportunity to pursue my career aspirations, overcome financial barriers, and gain invaluable experience in a field that I’m passionate about,” Tiong said.
“The intern next to you one day could be the executive in the next few years. Establishing and maintaining genuine friendships with industry peers will put your name in rooms you’d otherwise work years to enter.”
Since its inception in 2016, the Wachter Fellowship has helped many students overcome logistical and financial obstacles standing in the way of career development opportunities in L.A. The program is the brainchild of Paul Wachter, an investment advisor and entrepreneur who has worked with high-profile clients such as Time Warner, Beats Music, and LeBron James.
Wachter, who recently joined Berklee’s Board of Trustees, makes it a point to mentor the fellows, including meeting with students during their stays in L.A. and arranging networking opportunities with the likes of FINNEAS, Darkroom CEO Justin Lubliner, and Arnold Schwarzenegger.
To learn more about how the program has helped Berklee students launch their careers, read about Tiong and two other past Wachter fellows, Dom Jones B.M. ’19 and Pedro Osuna B.M. ’19, in the following profiles.
While working as a guide for a virtual reality cube in the Berklee library in 2018, composer and Granada, Spain, native Pedro Osuna happened to strike up a conversation with Stefanie Henning, associate vice president for career and digital strategy. As he gave her a tour of the VR device, they got to talking about Osuna’s desire to build a career as a film composer, and she told him about the Wachter Fellowship, which he applied for and received. “I would not have been able to go to L.A. that summer without that fellowship,” Osuna said.
While in L.A., Osuna worked for composer and fellow alum Lucas Vidal B.M. '07, and by his third day on the job, he was working on the Netflix show Elite. He made extensive use of the access to the technology he was granted, and often stayed for hours after his shifts in order to apply his new knowledge to his own music. “I often fell asleep on the bus back to Hollywood…and I would wake up in the middle of nowhere at one or two in the morning,” he said. “Don’t tell my mother.”
His experiences that summer “changed the game for me,” he said, and put him on a path that led to jobs on major films including Klaus, the 2020 James Bond film No Time to Die, Marvel’s Thor: Love and Thunder, and the Oscar-nominated Argentina, 1985.
“I can draw a straight line from my internship to having the skills that allowed me to get to and through all of that,” Osuna said. “Without Berklee, I might still be a copyist in my hometown. But I am just getting started.”
Listen to Osuna talk about his composition approach on Sounds of Berklee:
In 2019, Dom Jones B.M. ’19 knew she wanted to eventually move to L.A. to pursue a career in music for film and television, but she also knew she couldn’t afford to take any of the unpaid internships she needed to kickstart her career. And yet, later that summer, there she was, living in the Valley and working in West Hollywood, across the street from the Roxy Theater. Receiving a Wachter Fellowship, she said, “provided not only the mentorship, but the necessary financial bridge, which allowed me to live in L.A. while I interned at a small music publisher in the sync department.”
The momentum from the internship continued to push Jones further, as she’s now working as a sync specialist at Sony Music Entertainment. She learned early in on her internship that the key to being successful is relationships. Working in sync, that means fostering relationships with music supervisors to, as she said, “not only relay the music of our artists, but also their overall story and brand.”
She also said that casting a wide net in building those relationships beyond your specific job description is critical. “One should never allow a relationship to languish!” Jones said, pointing out that most people believe networking “up” is the best way forward. “Networking laterally is just as important,” she went on to say. “The intern next to you one day could be the executive in the next few years. Establishing and maintaining genuine friendships with industry peers will put your name in rooms you’d otherwise work years to enter.”
The internship that William Tiong almost couldn’t take was in the A&R department at Artist Publishing Group (APG), whose clients include 24kGoldn, Ava Max, Rico Nasty, and Berklee alumni Charlie Puth B.M. ’13 and Salem Ilese ’19, among many more. “I knew this internship was a chance to learn from real A&Rs and gain valuable insight into how the industry operates,” Tiong said. “It was a key stepping stone to my professional career, so I was determined to make it work no matter what.”
The Wachter Fellowship didn’t just allow the APG opportunity to happen, but a second internship that Tiong picked up while he was living in L.A., this one at the video agency YO SUZY. Serving as a TikTok marketing intern, Tiong created social content for Barbra Streisand, Fitz and the Tantrums, and Julia Wolf, among others, and even saw some of his posts reach viral status.
Even with all the professional growth he experienced, he said that “the absolute highlight of my experience was the Wachter Fellowship networking event,” because it allowed Tiong to develop relationships that he knows will continue to help his career, even as he’s back in Boston finishing his degree. “I’m very grateful for the connections that I now have from the fellowship. I've been able to keep in touch with many of the executives and professionals that I met during my internship, and I’m excited to continue growing these relationships over time.”