Student Spotlight: Cindy Latin

The Berklee NYC songwriter talks about her journey from musical theater to writing songs, getting inspired by the Big Apple, and how freestyle rapping stretched her artistry.

January 30, 2023

What’s it like to study at Berklee? Our Student Spotlight series asks current students all about their Berklee experience—what they’re learning in class, what kinds of projects they’re involved in onstage or behind the scenes, how they recharge, and of course, what they’re listening to. This week, meet Cindy Latin, a second-semester graduate student from Roslyn, New York, enrolled in the songwriting and production track of the Master of Arts in creative media and technology program at Berklee NYC.

Tell us about your path to Berklee. What made you decide to come here?

I actually started my undergraduate studies at Boston Conservatory at Berklee as a musical theater major in August of 2015. I auditioned for Berklee and decided to transfer (the merger wasn’t fully completed at this time) and started at Berklee in Boston in summer of 2017. Being near the campus while I was a Conservatory student, I was so inspired seeing all the students playing different instruments and talking about all the various opportunities they had for collaboration and creation. I had started writing a little bit of my own music at this point and decided I wanted to dive in deeper and that Berklee seemed the perfect place to do so. I can’t believe how much I learned and grew as an undergraduate, so coming back for my masters just made sense.

What's been your favorite class so far, and what has it taught you?

I took the Essential Engineering for Creatives elective with Brett Mayer this past semester. With my prior Berklee studies, I was actually fortunate enough to test out of the class and get early studio access, but still decided to take the course after asking Brett about topics covered. I’m so glad I did because there was still a lot in the course that I didn’t know before, and I was definitely challenged! Brett was an incredibly patient and knowledgeable teacher, always taking questions and often being available outside of class.

What's a project you've worked on since coming to Berklee that you've been especially excited about?

For fun, I decided to take the freestyling/rap course with Raydar (another favorite class). It’s not something I’ve ever done before, and it ended up being one of the highlights of my weeks last semester. I wrote some really cheeky and silly material for that class that has inspired a whole different part of my artistry. I’ve always been told that it’s great to find new methods of writing or new starting points, and starting to write some rap has proven that for me. I’ll be including a lot of this material for my culminating experience. A standout track was one I wrote about how incredibly annoying the construction noise is outside my apartment on the weekends!

How do you typically recharge or find new ideas outside of class?

By socializing and doing things that have nothing to do with music. New York City is arguably the most exciting city in the world. I always find things to do and love going out and meeting new people around the city. This is how I find stories and ideas for my music, and it helps me to have some space from my work. Many of my close friends are artists, but sometimes socializing with people who aren’t artists exposes me to other lifestyles and perspectives, which I think is essential for any artist. I also have been reading a lot lately, which is just another way for me to hear other artists’ thoughts and get inspired.

What careers are you interested in pursuing in the future?

There’s really so much that I want to do in music. I’ve always loved performing and creating and releasing my own artistic projects, and I plan to continue to do so, but I would also love to continue producing for other artists as well. After the engineering course, I realized that working in a studio would be an excellent choice for me long-term. It’s incredibly challenging to get all the pieces to fit together (especially for more complex projects) but so rewarding when it’s done. All in all, getting to help other artists and creatives reach their own goals is really fulfilling to me. I also currently teach and would love to teach at the collegiate level, at Berklee especially. Working with students who are eager to learn and already pretty skilled is any educator’s dream.

When you think towards your own future, who inspires you most?

Musically, I’ve always been inspired by Stevie Wonder. He is so prolific and hardworking. He used to write five songs a day! Additionally, I’ve always loved how his music is stimulating and uses some really challenging musical techniques but is still enjoyed by everyone. His melodies are so catchy, even with the challenging harmony underneath. I hope to be able to create a wide body of work and also work with other artists, as he has done.

What's one piece of advice you'd give to your high school self?

Try anything that sounds cool. Even if it feels like something so far removed from everything you’ve learned so far in life, there’s no better time to start, and sometimes you’ll surprise yourself with how naturally inclined you can be towards new skill sets. Even if that’s not the case, you will grow and learn about anything by putting in the time; doesn’t matter where you’re starting or coming from. Early recordings of John Coltrane were…okay, but once he put in the time, he became one of the greatest. Also, start playing instruments earlier!

Cindy's Current Favorite Songs

We asked Cindy to share some music she is currently enjoying. Listen to her list of five songs, and read why they're some of her favorites.

1. "Kill Bill," SZA

I have always loved SZA’s writing because she is not afraid to show her ugly side and expose herself for behaviors she may not be proud of. This kind of honesty and admittance is so real and makes me relate.

2. "Don't Want to See You," Braxton Cook

Braxton Cook has a traditional jazz background (and can more than keep up in that genre), but combines that sound with contemporary soul/R&B. I also am so impressed that he’s a killing sax player, vocalist, and writer. This is also the perfect breakup song; the chorus is so singable when you’re feeling sick of someone!

3. "Did You Get the Feeling?," Georgia Parker

Georgia Parker [B.M. '21] is a Berklee alum, and I became a massive fan when I saw her video on Berklee’s YouTube channel. She has a stunning voice, and I love how this song tells a story and has a clear narrative.

4. "Trance – ReBirth," Javier Santiago

This artist, Javier Santiago, is relatively new to me and was a Spotify recommendation. His work is jazz, hip-hop, and soul combined with really interesting and fresh sound design. This track in particular features flute improvising over some crazy synths and heavily processed vocal pads.

5. "End of the World," Ingrid Michaelson

One of my vocal students brought this Ingrid Michaelson song in to work on a couple weeks ago. Beautiful harmony and melodic choices, especially at the end of the chorus.

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