L.A. Newsbriefs

  From the left: Angela Johnson-Swan and Jason Joseph perform at the Berklee L.A. Alumni Chapter holiday party.
  Peter Gordon
  Partygoers (clockwise from the left): Joe Matzzie, Doug Perkins, Femke Weidema, Ray Frisby, Eric Jensen, and Michael Saul.
  Peter Gordon
  From the left: music supervision panelists Eve Nelson '86, Chuck Doud '88, and Mary Jo Mennella
  Brad Coker

New Trends

At the November Los Angeles alumni event "Music Supervision: Opportunities and Latest Trends," Dan Carlin, the chair of Berklee's Film Scoring Department and the former CEO of Segue Music, moderated a panel with an impressive group of industry leaders. Panelists included Robert Kraft, the president of Fox Music; Chuck Doud '88, the director of music for Sony Computer Services America; songwriter Eve Nelson '86; Mary Jo Mennella, the president of Music Asset Management; and music supervisors Frankie Pine and John Houlihan.

As panelists described their career beginnings, they advised young writers to never say no to any new opportunity. They also discussed their experiences during the 1990s-referred to as the "Golden Era of Soundtracks"-and how the business has since changed. "The biggest challenge in licensing right now is competing with free [music]," said Mennella. On a positive note, Robert Kraft added, "The pie is shrinking, but now the talent shines through. This is a time of opportunity for young songwriters."

The panelists were uncommonly frank about fees and budget numbers and offered invaluable advice regarding song submissions. Panelists recommended that songwriters submit their strongest work, not a sampler of styles. They also advised that writers achieve high production values in their song submissions rather than waste money on a lavish presentation. Most important, Houlihan emphasized including information in metadata on MP3 submissions. "If I can't find you, I can't license you," he said.

The most encouraging news came from the video-game world, where songs are routinely featured in sports and racing games. Doud noted that the trend of song placement in cinematic, story-driven video games has grown. "I see song licensing being a bigger and bigger part of what we do," he predicted.

As we begin a new decade, it's worth reflecting on the extensive growth of the SoCal Berklee alumni community over the past 10 years. Every year the number of graduates who launch their careers in Los Angeles increases, and despite the recent challenges facing the music industry and the economy at large, the success stories keep on coming.

Congratulations to the 23 alumni who garnered 25 Grammy Award nominations for their work in 2009. Good luck on January 31.

The Berklee alumni community in Los Angeles closed out 2009 with an alumni holiday party that featured musical performances by Jason Joseph '02, Femke Weidema '06, Melissa Lewis '93, and Angela Johnson-Swan '05. More than 250 guests enjoyed an evening of great music and holiday cheer.

At the Fairmont Miramar in Santa Monica on January 17, the 2010 alumni calendar began with the traditional alumni brunch, and about 300 attended. On January 29, Berklee faculty songwriting guru Pat Pattison presented his traditional master class.

On February 28, "WesFest 5: A Concert to Benefit the Wes Wehmiller Endowed Scholarship" will take place at the Roxy Theatre. WesFest is an annual fundraising concert in honor of Wes Wehmiller '92, a highly accomplished bassist, athlete, and photographer who died of thyroid cancer in 2005. This year's headliner is Australian native and bass phenomenon Tal Wilkenfeld, a fast-rising star in the bass world who is best known for performing with guitar legend Jeff Beck.

The Wes Wehmiller Endowed Scholarship is awarded annually to a Berklee student who best exemplifies the excellence and grace Wehmiller demonstrated as a bassist and human being. To date the concert series has raised more than $50,000 for the fund. This year's concert promises to be another memorable musical evening. For details and ticket information, e-mail me at pgordon@berklee.edu.

In the world of film and TV, the husband-and-wife team of Jason Poss '97 and Danita Ng-Poss '97 enjoyed a busy 2009. For the recent season of Dancing with the Stars, Danita was the lead copyist and librarian, and Jason served as an arranger. The Posses also did music preparation work for James Cameron's film Avatar. Jason also orchestrated, conducted, and contracted the recording sessions for the video game Assassin's Creed 2, and Danita handled all the music preparation.

Paul Im '04, a Chinese-American from Long Beach, has built a career as a jazz promoter. For more than a year, he has booked the weekly jazz program at the downtown Cafe Metropol, and in October he launched the inaugural Asian American Jazz Festival. Berklee was well represented by Japanese headliner Hiromi Uehara '03 as well as the all-Berklee alumni Korean group Prelude. The festival featured numerous cross-cultural influences and garnered glowing reviews. Plans have already taken shape for the second annual festival in October 2010.

For all the lastest happenings in the L.A. Alumni chapter, stay in touch with our chapter coordinator Justine Taormino at laalumni@berklee.edu.

That's all for now.

Peter Gordon '78

Director of Berklee Center in LA