Berklee Today

L.A. Newsbriefs

  Peter Gordon '78

Giving back by alumni can take many interesting forms. One of the more creative examples is scheduled for December 10 when Justis Kao '03 presents a Christmas Benefit Concert, entitled "If I Had One Wish" at the Richard & Karen Carpenter Performing Arts Center in Long Beach. Kao was recently nominated for the 2006 Los Angeles Music Awards in the Best Male Singer/Songwriter of the Year category. He already has a very strong following in the Los Angeles area and the concert is expected to attract a large audience.

Many of the performing musicians at the concert will be Berklee alumni, and the evening promises to be full of energy and celebration. Consisting of a full rhythm section, two grand pianos, five back-up singers and a string quartet, the ensemble will perform music that blends rock, pop, gospel, and funk.

Most significantly, Kao is donating all proceeds collected to the Berklee City Music Program, enabling musically talented inner-city Los Angeles teens to attend the Five-Week Summer Performance Program in Boston. It's a wonderful gift and I hope many will join us that evening. Visit and click on "tickets." For information on Kao, go to

Recently local alumni have released a number of impressive CDs. Film composer Gernot Wolfgang '89 has recorded Common Ground, a collection of his chamber pieces. As one reviewer states, "the music is dancing, it has a logic and beauty all its own." For more, visit

Former faculty member and drummer Jerry Kalaf '72 released Just Like Old Times. For this recording, Kalaf composed eight songs for his trio and a full string orchestra. The result is a warm blend of mainstream jazz, with excellent soloing and appealing orchestrations. The track "Monk and Mingus" is a standout. To learn more, visit

Award-winning composer Alf Clausen '66 has released a CD of big-band arrangements entitled Swing Can Really Hang You Up the Most, featuring a jazz orchestra comprising A-list L.A. studio musicians. Johnny Mandel describes the music as "superb in every way." Maria Schneider says, "this is just great writing." Alan and Marilyn Bergman note that "the arrangements sparkle with humor and wit and, most importantly, they swing." For information, visit

Alf Clausen's CD jacket for: Swing Can Really Hang You Up the Most  

Geoff Zanelli '96 recently won an Emmy for the score he wrote for Steven Spielberg's miniseries Into the West, a Dreamworks production that aired on TNT. He also scored David Duchovny's film House of D, and wrote additional music for Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest.

There were also several alumni Emmy nominees. Sound effects editor David Van Slyke '82 was once again recognized for his stellar work on CSI: Crime Scene Investigation. Daniel Colman '95 was nominated for outstanding sound effects editing in the nonfiction-programming category, for Two Days in October, aired by PBS on their American Experience history series. In the category of Outstanding Single-Camera Sound Mixing, Elmo Ponsdomenech '83 received a nomination for the "Youmud-Din" episode of Sleeper Cell. Composer Gigi Meroni '96 won a Daytime Emmy for his music featured in Off-Mikes, the ESPN animated show from ESPN radio's Mike and Mike in the Morning. Congratulations to all!

After finishing her second season on the Emmy Award-winning NBC daytime series Starting Over, composer Sharon Farber '97 spent the summer scoring two feature films. When Nietzsche Wept is a dramatic period piece starring Ben Cross and Armand Assante, and The Tribe is a horror/thriller starring Jewel Staite.

In the world of music supervision, Curt Sobel '78 and Gary Schreiner '79 have placed their songs in such films as Fun with Dick and Jane, Larry the Cable Guy, Eight Below, Mrs. Harris, Thank You for Smoking, and, most recently, My Super Ex-Girlfriend.

On the performance front, guitarist Fernando Hernandez '03 played with the legendary Frances Yip at the Palomar Starlight Theater in June. In Yip's 37-year recording career, she has released more than 80 albums, mostly of songs in English, Cantonese, and Mandarin.

Terry Wollman '80 has been touring in Keb' Mo's band playing guitar, mandolin, and keyboards. Recently, the group has been opening for Bonnie Raitt. Wollman also made on on-camera appearance playing guitar in an episode of Desperate Housewives. That's all for now. Stay in touch.

-Peter Gordon '78, Director,

Berklee Center in Los Angeles