Soundbreaking: Alumni Pay It Forward at Career Jam 2018

As the music industry continues to evolve, so do the services and programs Berklee offers students on campus as they prepare for their careers. In April, the Berklee Career Center hosted its second annual Career Jam, following the longstanding event’s overhaul in 2017 aimed at aligning it with Berklee’s new vision for career services.

An impressive array of music industry luminaries—many of whom are alumni returning to campus for the first time since graduation—offered their expertise and guidance to students through panel presentations, workshops, master classes, auditions, and mentoring sessions.

A New Model

The full day of professional development programming brought the Berklee community together to inspire, educate, and connect students to the broad scope of possibilities they can pursue as artists while at Berklee and beyond. The programming aligns with Berklee’s Career Communities model, developed around seven areas of interest: business, composition, design, education, health and wellness, performance, and production. Career Jam is the signature event that brings this model to life, aligning students’ academic interests to the alumni, industries, networks, and employers that make up the various career paths students can pursue.

Held in tandem with the Alumni Achievement Awards [see related article on page 6], the event featured a panel of honorees entitled “Live Your Passion: Career Insights from Notable Berklee Alumni.” Jeff Dorenfeld, a Music Business/Management Department professor and founding, managing director of the Berklee Popular Music Institute, which provides students with an immersive experience in A&R, artist development, recording, booking, promotion, social media, sponsorship, and live performance, also moderated a panel discussion. The participants included alumni representing Snapchat, Red Bull, Paradigm Talent Agency, and Stem.


Audition opportunities included summer tours with musical director Gil Smith ’99 and his agent Jennifer Horton, the president of Matrix Artists, casting for a Nashville-based band to sign with a label and begin work with producers and songwriters, and a spot on the Vans Warped Tour stage this summer. Audition workshops presented by musical director Rob Lewis ’94, in partnership with the casting directors from The Voice and NBC Universal, demonstrated audition techniques and culminated that evening with performances at the inaugural Career Jam Concert.

Broadway Insights

Sara Stackhouse, chair of theater at Boston Conservatory at Berklee, brought Broadway producers from Waitress to campus for “Backstage: An Insider Look at the Theater Industry,” offering students firsthand accounts of life in the theater. Student Michael Gaudio, currently pursuing his M.F.A. in musical theater, voiced the student response: “I thought it was incredibly valuable to hear from a panel of theater professionals on the business end of the field,” he said. “It’s enriching to have opportunities to engage with creative minds outside of a performance context. The panel offered a chance to look through a wider lens into the business and was a great way to network with professionals in the industry. As a graduate student and emerging professional, this was an exciting platform for networking, professional development, and artistic growth.”

And Then There Was Pharrell . . .

Keynote speaker, songwriter and producer Pharrell Williams connected via Skype to an audience gathered in the Berklee Performance Center. He felt inspired after Berklee students sang a mash-up of birthday songs to celebrate his birthday.

“Your generation has the potential to do great things,” said Williams, whose manager Caron Veazey Robinson, Paul Wachter of Main Street Advisors, and Desiree Gruber, founder and CEO of Full Picture, were at the event in the Berklee Performance Center. “This is a different time for mankind, and womankind by the way. Everyone in this room now has the ability to live their best life. Don’t let anyone talk you out of it. You are not only our future, but you are our bright future. And that is because you are refusing to listen to the nonsense of the past and appreciating things that did work in the past but knowing that the torch is in your hands and it is time for you to ascend and elevate and take our species to the next level.”