Notes from NOLA

From the left: Robin Kinchen and Suzanne Denu ’03.
From the left: Robin Kinchen and Suzanne Denu ’03.
Karen Bell

Greetings from the newly birthed Berklee College of Music New Orleans Alumni Chapter. As chapter cochairs, we—Robin Kinchen ’01 and Suzanne Denu ’03 —would like to introduce ourselves. Kinchen is a prominent vocalist in the New Orleans music scene. She recently released the CD City of Desire, and completed a 53-city U.S. tour. I am a graduate of Berklee’s growing music therapy major and work full time with patients at Children’s Hospital. I was lucky enough to be a recipient of a 2009 Berklee Alumni Grant, through which I brought local musicians, including alumnus Delfeayo Marsalis ’89, to the hospital for a live-music and education series on music styles indigenous to Louisiana.

On May 11, we celebrated the launch of the New Orleans chapter at the original Tipitina’s music hall on Napoleon Avenue. We were thrilled to host the reception at such a renowned venue. Tipitina’s is a fitting location because of its extensive support of music and the arts in the community and its role as a partner in the Berklee City Music Network.

Joining in the celebration were members of Berklee’s staff in New Orleans to help with the ongoing rebuilding since the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. All present enjoyed a traditional red-beans-and-rice dinner with cornbread. Clint Valladares ’98, the Berklee City Music Network national field coordinator, jumped in with local alumni to mix and mingle. Donald Harrison ’81, who is the director of the Berklee City Music Network efforts in New Orleans and a renowned saxophonist. Harrison and his Berklee City Music Network students provided high-quality entertainment and invited alumni to sit in with the group. In return, the alumni shared their insight on the education and application process at Berklee with the young musicians.

Here’s some news from a few members of our chapter. If you have watched the HBO series Treme, you may know that the previously mentioned Donald Harrison not only consulted in the creation of show characters (one is based on Harrison, and another on his father) but also appears in scenes with the two characters in episodes one, six, and 10. Harrison plays an actor delivering lines, a musician playing his own compositions, and a big chief leading his Congo Nation Mardi Gras Indian tribe.

Angelamia Bachemin ’92, is a recipient of a 2010 Berklee Alumni Grant. Her grant monies have been matched by various community sponsors to enable her to support local youth through a music outreach and education program at the Langston Hughes Academy and the Sojourner Truth Community Center.

Joe Gelini ’00 is a sought-after drummer and accomplished music teacher in the New Orleans area. He tours regularly and plays everywhere from Frenchmen Street to the West Bank (the Best Bank!). Artists with whom he currently works include Anders Osborne and Big Chief Monk Boudreaux of the Golden Eagles Mardi Gras Indian tribe.

Lauren Martin ’06, a fellow music therapy department graduate, completed her clinical internship as my student at Children’s Hospital. She now works as a board-certified music therapist at East Jefferson General Hospital and has designed her own internship program that is now accepting candidates. She also provides therapy to local hospice patients and is building a growing roster of piano students.

Despite the problems in the region related to the oil spill, New Orleans remains a musically stimulating place. We invite Louisiana alumni who missed the initial event to get in touch and become involved with the chapter. Send an e-mail to Robin Kinchen at or to Suzanne Denu at

That’s it for now. So until next time, “Laissez le bon temps roulez,” as we say in New Orleans.

Suzanne Denu ’02

New Orleans Chapter Co-leader