Berklee Today

Alum Notes: L.A. Newsbriefs

From the left: Peter Gordon, Michael Thompson '75, Sandy Feldstein, Curt Sobel '78, Leanne Summers '88, and David McKay at the January 21 Los Angeles alumni brunch.
Photos by Lester Cohen

As we begin what I hope will be a very successful 2001 for one and all, it is worth briefly looking back to the end of last year. In December, the Annual Holiday Social was once again held at Rive Gauche Café in Sherman Oaks. This site has become something of a tradition for this event and, as usual, the mood was festive and the attendance was excellent. Over 100 alumni, both old and new, joined together for an evening of networking and holiday cheer.

The annual alumni brunch, held this year in the Roof Garden of the Sheraton Universal, took place on January 21. The setting, with its remarkable views, was memorable, as was the event itself. Distinguished Alumni Awards were presented to renowned studio guitar ace Michael Thompson '75 and prominent film music editor, composer, and producer Curt Sobel '78.

Fellow alumni and studio standouts John "J.R." Robinson '75 and Neil Stubenhaus '76 presented the award to Thompson. Both have known him since their days at Berklee together and their introductory remarks were full of humorous anecdotes.

Stubenhaus also noted, "There is no one who has played on more hit records than Michael Thompson."

He is widely regarded as being among the elite studio session players, and his amazing list of credits includes such prominent names as Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston, Celine Dion, 'N Sync, Toni Braxton, Phil Collins, Rod Stewart, Joe Sample, the Scorpions, Vince Neil, Christina Aguilera, Michael Bolton, Mariah Carey, Bette Midler, Madonna, Babyface, En Vogue, Gloria Estefan, Stanley Clarke, and Ricky Martin. He has played on numerous film soundtracks as well.

From the left: L.A. studio kings John Robinson '75, Michael Thompson '75, and Neil Stubenhaus '76. Thompson received the Distinguished Alumni Award in January.

Sobel's career is a very good example of "behind-the-scenes" success. The prominence of the people with whom he has worked is an impressive indication of his reputation among his peers. His reputation is founded on experience and a strong sensibility for judging how music helps emotion and drama reach the audience. Sobel has worked with such noted figures as John Huston, Alex North, Francis Ford Coppola, Barry Levinson, George Lucas, Richard Benjamin, Alan Alda, Michael Mann, Garry Marshall, John Carpenter, Michel Legrand, Mike Post, Jack Nitzsche (Officer and a Gentleman, Cannery Row, Personal Best), Dave Grusin (For the Boys, Hope Floats), James Newton Howard (Tap, Everybody's All-American), Michel Columbier (Against All Odds, White Nights), Thomas Newman (Men Don't Leave), and Georges Delerue (The Escape Artist). In his role as music producer, he has worked with such major performers as Bette Midler, Johnny Mathis, Danny Elfman, Eric Clapton, Chuck Berry, Brian Setzer, Steve Vai, Dr. John, Linda Ronstadt, Carlos Santana, Los Lobos, and Prince.

Berklee's fourth Golden Clef Award was also presented at the January brunch to Sandy Feldstein, president of Carl Fischer Music. This award, presented to a prominent figure in the music product industry, recognizes outstanding support for music education.

As for other alumni in the news, composer Gernot Wolfgang '80 had his piece "Reflections" performed at New York's Carnegie Hall in February. Written for violin, clarinet, and piano, this piece was played by the Verdehr Trio. Atli Orvarsson '92 finished up last year in fine fashion. He placed second in the Young Film Composers Competition, performed on tour with Jessica Simpson, participated in the ASCAP Film Scoring Workshop, and contributed additional orchestrations for the movies Titan A.E. and The Red Planet. Karl Preusser '94 recently composed the music for "Wild California," a three-part series on the Discovery Travel Channel.

Corrinne May '98 won the Carole & Carole Songwriting Challenge, named for songwriting legends Carole King and Carole Bayer Sager. In making the award, King noted, "Corrinne May's unexpected phrasing and beautiful melody met the emotion Carole and I put into the lyric and took the song to a dimension we never imagined." Bayer Sager added, "I thought that Corrinne's song and her performance of the song were deeply moving."

That's it for now. Stay in touch.


— Peter Gordon '78, Director
Berklee Center in Los Angeles