Meet Six Students from Berklee’s Class of 2023
Berklee is gearing up for a celebration at this weekend’s commencement ceremony, where graduates of the class of 2023 will be awarded degrees in disciplines ranging from business, production, and songwriting to education, dance, and musical theater.
At Agganis Arena, Berklee College of Music will present an estimated 1,233 people with a bachelor's degree, master's degree, or a professional diploma. Later that day, at the Berklee Performance Center, Boston Conservatory at Berklee will present an estimated 255 people with undergraduate or graduate degrees. The class of 2023 is highly international, with 62 countries represented, and includes residents from all 50 U.S. states.
Here are a few of their stories, in brief.
Major: Music Business/Management
Hometown: Alpharetta, Georgia
In high school, Joy Best was playing bass in rock cover bands in Georgia when she thought a music summer camp might be fun. She heard about Berklee’s Aspire: Five-Week Music Performance Intensive program and decided to enroll. Her experience was transformative. “I thought, ‘If I could get this much in five weeks, imagine what I could do in four years,’” Best says.
When she arrived at the college as an undergraduate, she was surprised that music business courses “stole her heart,” and she dove into working on various live music production, artist booking, and venue operations projects.
While attending Berklee, Best found plenty of opportunities, including as an assistant buyer/event coordinator at the Red Room at Cafe 939 and as a VIP services representative at the 2023 Conference Live at Lititz. Best was one of 20 selected participants in the Hubb, a professional development seminar hosted by Creative Artists Agency. She has interned with tour manager Aaron “Triple A” Adams (Lecrae, India.Arie) and been mentored by Giovanni Vargas, tour manager for Playboi Carti, OutKast, and Solange. This year, the Berklee Popular Music Institute recognized her with an award for outstanding achievement.
After graduation, Best is headed to Wasserman, a sports marketing and talent management company, to work as an agent’s assistant.
Major: Music Production and Engineering
Hometown: Winter Springs, Florida
When Kristina Fisk was preparing her audition materials for Berklee, her voice teacher recorded her. She was fascinated by the experience and the technology, and as soon as the audition tapes were complete, she asked the teacher to pivot and teach her to use the recording software.
She enrolled as a music production and engineering (MP&E) major at Berklee, and has since won the Stacey Hye-Min Park Memorial Scholarship for Women, awarded to academically deserving MP&E majors who demonstrate financial need, and the Storyk/Molho Family Scholarship, which supports MP&E students in their later semesters of study.
“I pretty much knew nothing coming into MP&E,” Fisk says. “I learned a tremendous amount and built great relationships with faculty and friends.” Fisk has taken a job as vocal tuning assistant for Grammy-nominated engineer and vocal producer Simone Torres B.M. ’15. “I’m really looking forward to this position,” Fisk says. “Simone is incredibly hardworking and talented at what she does. That I will be growing and building my career under her guidance is a huge deal.”
Follow Kristina on Instagram.
Major: Music Business/Management
Hometown: Quito, Ecuador
A classical guitarist since the age of 4, Rafaela Gutierrez has been a performing musician her whole life. She’s also immersed herself in the music industry, which led her first to Berklee’s music business/management major, and now to a role at CreateSafe, a design and development studio in L.A. that has worked with Grimes, Lady Gaga, Dom McLennon, and others.
Gutierrez is the founder and president of the Berklee Marketing Club, a student group that collaborates with Sony Music artists on brand and social media strategy. She also served as vice president of the Berklee Blockchain Club, an organization exploring the use of smart contracts, web3, NFTs, and other blockchain-based tools and technologies.
As a member of the Berklee Popular Music Institute, a one-year experiential education program that takes students from the classroom to major festival stages, Gutierrez will be accompanying singer-songwriter and fellow 2023 graduate Tyler Christian to Lollapalooza this summer.
She’s excited to bring her knowledge and passion for web3 and blockchain to an evolving music industry.
Follow Rafaela on Instagram.
He was told it couldn't be done, but Nick Kitsopoulos proved his doubters wrong when he completed a double major, in MP&E and songwriting, within Berklee's standard eight semesters.
Now he’s taken two jobs, one as a songwriter and another as a producer. At Sandblast Productions, he will write and perform children’s songs, and at Berklee Online’s Master of Arts in songwriting program, he will help students record and produce their work.
For Kitsopoulos, who aspires to be a singer-songwriter and performer, there is so much to learn from both opportunities. “I make music for the sake of art, but it’s also a commodity. Understanding both songwriting and production lends a balance between artistic integrity and market value in my songs,” he says.
Kitsopoulos is the recipient of a Thrive Scholarship and the Songwriting Department’s Stevens Award. He also assisted on the recording of the intro music for the Latin Grammy Awards.
Kitsopoulous was selected to give the student address at the college's commencement ceremony, and in his speech he highlights the distinction between glamour and beauty in music. Glamour, he says, can be replicated by AI, but things that are beautiful can never be replicated. He will implore his fellow classmates to “keep a sense of humanity and individuality in our writing processes even when we’re trying to copy what’s working well.”
Major: Music Business/Management
Hometown: Cheongju-si, South Korea
As a young pianist growing up in South Korea, Hail Lim was captivated when he heard his first jazz recording. “Being classically trained, I knew very little about this style of music, but even I could hear it,” he says. “I love the freedom of the music.”
This realization sparked a shift in Lim's musical journey, leading him to delve even deeper into the drums, an instrument he’d initially taken up as a hobby. Inspired by this newfound passion, he decided to audition for Berklee.
Upon arriving at the college, Lim aimed to establish himself as a performing jazz drummer. But after taking a leave of absence to complete his military obligation in South Korea, he came back to the college with a new focus, and a new major: music business/management.
He’s interning this summer with the Kurland Agency in Boston before he returns home to South Korea. Kurland, known for its expertise in booking jazz artists, has reignited Lim's interest in the genre, and he finds himself once again eager to explore its depths.
Follow Hail on Instagram.
Degree: M.F.A. in Musical Theater Vocal Pedagogy
Hometown: Elgin, Illinois
When Adam Moxness graduates with his Master of Fine Arts in musical theater vocal pedagogy, he will step into precisely the job he set out for: full-time instructor of musical theater voice at a performing arts conservatory. “To be launching into it as soon as I’ve finished is really exciting,” says Moxness, who will be teaching at Viterbo University.
Moxness came to both music and education on a path that began in the churches of his youth through their musical productions. His love for music blossomed in high school, where he played alto saxophone and piano. After receiving his undergraduate degree in worship and performing arts and graphic design, he found work teaching private voice lessons.
“I love singing and love teaching, but needed to learn the intricacies of what it meant to teach voice,” he says. This led him to the musical theater graduate program at Boston Conservatory at Berklee.
Moxness focused his thesis on universal design for voice teaching, aiming to enhance accessibility for neurodiverse individuals. “As someone with ADHD, the education space was really hard to navigate,” he says. “Allowing for better access and inclusion will create a much more profound and creative society.”
Follow Adam on Instagram.