Berklee Today

L.A. Newsbriefs

Peter Gordon '78
Photo by Lester Cohen

As I write this, 2004 graduates have just received their degrees and diplomas and will, no doubt, be now taking their first steps into professional life. Based on my own experience, I firmly believe that performance majors face the most challenging career path. Beyond the obvious ingredients of talent and a measure of good luck, it is a path that requires a healthy entrepreneurial spirit if one is to succeed. With that as the backdrop, I'd like to share an encouraging anecdote.

Tom Griesgraber '95, a guitar player during his Berklee years, has since become a Chapman Stick specialist. This is a unique instrument that produces separate guitar, bass, and synthesizer signals and is an instrument that requires extensive set-up time.
In his own words, Griesgraber says, "Last October, I had a chance to play at a Berklee on Stage event in LA, hosted by Alumni Chapter President Leanne Summers ['88]. Since I live in San Diego, playing in Los Angeles is always a bit of an effort. For me to do a 25-minute performance at this event meant devoting about nine or ten hours out of my day to drive time, traffic time, set up, tear down, and, of course, the show. Oh, and did I mention it was a volunteer gig?

"Despite all this, I was genuinely excited to do it since I knew it was a great opportunity to see many old Berklee friends and perhaps make new ones as well. What I didn't expect was that Neil Portnow, president of the Recording Academy, would also be there. As far as I knew, I was performing for a group of friends and peers. In hindsight, I'm quite glad that I didn't skip any of my normal preparations for the show. Everything needs to be ready from the first note for an event with a crowded stage and short set times.

"I've learned that whether I'm playing solo in a deserted restaurant or coffee shop, or with a band before a few thousand people, every show counts. Certainly playing before hundreds or thousands of people can bring quick rewards with a big paycheck and CD sales. But even in a deserted restaurant, you may find that one of the staff just happens to have a friend who works at a local radio station or perhaps books performers at another local venue or maybe needs music for a private party. As a performer, if you're disinterested in what you're doing, it's likely the audience, whatever its size, won't be affected by your music. However, if you've taken the time to give the best performance you're capable of, there's almost always something good that can come from a show.

"Thanks to Neil Portnow's interest, my Berklee on Stage performance opened the door for me to play at several Recording Academy events, including its winter Board of Trustees meeting, its holiday party, and the 2004 Grammy Awards Show postparty. It was worth the drive!"

Griesgraber's recent career highlights include shows and recordings with such artists as the Tony Levin Band, Bill Bruford's Earthworks, the Dixie Dregs, Al Di Meola '74, and Stanley Jordan. For more details, check out

In another success story, Lennie Moore '83 is fast establishing his place on the A-list of video-game composers. He is currently composing music for an upcoming Dungeons & Dragons Real-Time Strategy game for Atari. His other video-game scoring credits include Plague of Darkness (Namco) and Lord of the Rings: War of the Ring (Vivendi Universal Games). For all the latest on Lennie's career, go to

Each year, top honors in the world of animation are recognized by the Annie Awards. Winners for the 2003 season were announced at the Annie Awards Ceremony on February 7, 2004, at the Alex Theatre in Glendale, California. Composer Alf Clausen '66 won in the category of Music in an Animated Television Production for The Simpsons episode entitled "Dude, Where's My Ranch?" Clausen also received an ASCAP Award for his work on The Simpsons on April 21st. The same night, his son Scott Clausen won an award for his work on the cable TV show All That. Father and son winners for different shows was an ASCAP first.

Gone Nutty (aka "Scrat's Missing Adventure") received an Oscar nomination for Best Short Film Animated. Created by the Ice Age team of Chris Wedge, Carlos Saldanha, and John Donkin, Gone Nutty was scored by Michael Levine '76.

In performance news, bassist Bryan Beller '92 has been touring with Steve Vai '79 and the Metropole Orchestra in Europe. Josh Groban's touring band features Eric Holden '99 on bass and Tariqh Akoni '91 on guitar. Drummer Vinnie Colaiuta '75 recently returned from Tokyo, where he performed with guitar ace Robben Ford. Drummer Nate Morton '94 has been performing with Natalie Cole.

Recently, Warner Bros./Reprise released the Michael Bublé DVD Come Fly with Me, which features tour performances in England and South Africa. Jason Goldman '98 wrote the arrangements on the DVD and is also heard on sax.

That's all for now. Stay in touch.
-Peter Gordon '78, Director,
Berklee Center in Los Angeles