Nashville Notes

  Dave Petrelli '05

Normally, the winter months in Nashville are cold, wet, and downright dreary, but lately we've experienced an array of weather patterns boasting the best and worst of all four seasons. Many football fans braved below-freezing temperatures on New Year's Eve to catch the Music City Bowl, featuring Nashville's own Vanderbilt University against Boston College. But the following day - the first of 2009 - many were on the golf course enjoying 60-degree weather. Go figure.

Just like our weather, many Nashville songwriters and musicians have gone from one extreme to another. A case in point is local alumnus John Thomas Kelley '88, who performs under the name Charlie Kelley. Recently, during a routine medical visit, he was diagnosed with colon cancer. This came just weeks after his wife completed six months of treatment for Hodgkin's lymphoma. In December, Kelley underwent successful surgery and is now in the process of what we all hope will be a full and speedy recovery. While receiving treatment, Kelley was notified that he has been nominated for a Grammy. The nomination recognizes his work as a producer and a recording artist for his duo the Boxhounds and its instrumental release Speechless. Congratulations and best wishes to Kelley.

As usual, many other Berklee alumni in Nashville have made waves in the music industry. Here's what a few have been up to.

Fiddler Casey Driessen '00 recently toured Beijing, Guangzhou, Foshan, and Dongguan, China, with Abigail Washburn & the Sparrow Quartet. The group features Driessen (fiddle), Béla Fleck (banjo), Ben Sollee (vocals and cello), and Abigail Washburn (banjo and vocals). The group's tour culminated in a show for the 2008 Olympics.

Shortly after relocating from Nashville to Cleveland, OH, singer/songwriter Laura Clapp '01 began singing background vocals for British artist Howard Jones. Clapp joined Jones on his summer tour of the United States, performed at his 25th anniversary concert in London and on his Japanese tour, and will join Jones for several shows in Australia in February.

Trombonist Oscar Utterstr?m '02 just released the new album Home featuring, among others, drummer Justin Amaral '99, guitarist Adam Agati '05, and vocalist Christina Watson '01. The album was recorded at Big World Studios, which is owned and operated by fellow alums Daniel Amendola '92 and James Pecora '93. (You've got to love the Berklee networking machine!) The project is available through CD Baby and iTunes. Utterstr?m has also been playing with the band My Morning Jacket, which performed at last summer's Bonnaroo Music Festival and at Madison Square Garden this past New Year's Eve.

Liz Ficalora '78 just completed the drum method book How to Write a Fast and Easy Drum Chart and constructed a corresponding website titled just for drummers.

Drummer and percussionist Joe Smyth and his trio the Matrix Percussion Trio received a Berklee Alumni Grant to continue their performances in Nashville metropolitan area schools. And for the 2008 holiday season, Smyth's other band (a little-known outfit called Sawyer Brown) released its second Christmas CD.

Best wishes to all for a very happy and healthy 2009.


- Dave Petrelli
Nashville Berklee Alumni Chapter Leader