In January 2005, I left Berklee, packed everything I owned into my 1998 Nissan Altima, and headed to Nashville. I was beginning an internship with a music publishing company, launching what I hoped would be a long and prosperous career in the music business. I was nervous, excited, and had absolutely no idea what I was doing. Just a few months earlier, I had debated the merits of staying close to home in New England or making the big move out to Los Angeles. But then I took part in the annual Berklee spring break trip to Nashville spearheaded by faculty members Pat Pattison and Stephen Webber. As a sure sign I am getting older faster than I care to think about, this year’s event marked my fifth time participating as an alumnus.
During the week of March 16, more than 100 students arrived in Music City, where they received an introduction to the music business that few others get to experience. Over the course of five days, panels, seminars, and tours featured some of the biggest names in the industry, including Gary Burr, Beth Nielsen Chapman, Marcus Hummon, Pam Tillis, Ricky Skaggs, Mike Reid, and Kathy Mattea.
Students had the opportunity to meet and learn from alumni who have made their mark in many parts of the Nashville scene. Alumnus Ernest Chapman ’05 and his band TeaM ILLuMiNaTi entertained the students upon their arrival at the Tin Roof, a popular local venue. A panel featured sage advice from Dillon Dixon ’91, Rachel Solomon ’05, Kazuri Arai ’04, and Nick Buda ’96. Charlie Worsham ’06 and Matt Utterback ’05 and their band KingBilly held court at Warner Bros., as did Grammy-nominated composer and fiddler Casey Driessen ’00 and bassist Matt Mangano ’00. All generously shared their experiences with the students. Other prominent alumni featured throughout the week included Sony/ATV songwriter Greg Becker ’95, entertainment attorney Brian Casper ’96, and Luke Gilfeather, the manager of the historic RCA Studio B on Music Row.
By week’s end, students and faculty alike had showed signs of fatigue, but the Alumni Showcase at the local hot spot 12th & Porter changed all that. The group was treated to three hours of phenomenal music from talented Berklee alumni who have made Nashville their home. It was a great way to end the week and a perfect send-off for the students. Performers included Jesse Terry ’04, Natalie Prass ’05, James Ferrell, Larissa Maestro ’04, Dillon Dixon ’91, Emily Shackelton ’07, Justin Bethune ’07, Jenn Bostic ’08, Caitlin Nicol-Thomas ’07, Natalie Stovall ’04, Dave Petrelli ’05, Charlie Hutto ’06, Carley Tanchon ’08, Adam Ollendorff ’07, Eric Massey ’06, Steve Sinatra ’06, and Megan James ’07.
Alumni have made news beyond spring break as well. The previously mentioned Megan James recently secured her first cut as a professional songwriter—and what a cut it is! Cowritten by James, “Shine” is slated to be Jo Dee Messina’s first single off her new album. Rachel Hoffman ’05, Nashville director of the Music Playhouse LLC recently performed in the organization’s fourth annual children’s concert. The organization provides and promotes early-childhood music education. Also performing was Eve Fleishman ’05, who works in children’s music and recently released her first solo album of jazz-folk-pop songs titled Peace or Drama. Nomad Ovunc ’04, Joseph S. Smith ’05, Sarah Johnson ’05, and Charlie Worsham are also featured on the disc. Songwriter Jesse Terry released his debut album, The Runner, on April 12. It features a cast of outstanding sidemen. He has started touring regionally to get the word out about the disc.
Congratulations to all our alumni for their continued success and to all the students who chose Nashville over Jamaica for their spring break. Kudos as well to Pattison, Webber, and the rest of the faculty for making it through another spring break trip!
—Dave Petrelli ’05
Nashville Berklee Alumni Chapter Leader