Tuffus' Break


  Tuffus Zimbabwe '05
  Photo by Dana Edelson/NBC


Saturdays at 11:30 P.M., millions of people across the country tune in to Saturday Night Live (or SNL), but Berklee alumnus Tuffus Zimbabwe '05 isn't one of them-he's onstage. September 25 was his first night as the pianist in the show's 10-piece house band.

A Boston, MA, native, Zimbabwe began attending classes in Berklee's City Music Program (BCMP) while in middle school and, through the program, earned a full scholarship to the college. He then pursued a double major in music business/management and film scoring. While enrolled at Berklee, he mentored the next generation of BCMP students and continued teaching at BCMP following graduation. After Berklee, Zimbabwe moved to New York and earned a master's degree at New York University.

The decision to study at NYU was fortuitous and ultimately led to the gig with the Saturday Night Live band. Zimbabwe was referred by NYU jazz studies director David Schroeder to Lenny Pickett, SNL's band director and a fellow NYU faculty member.

Zimbabwe says that, with its emphasis on group playing, BCMP helped prepare him for the job on SNL. J. Curtis Warner Jr., Berklee's associate vice president for education outreach, noted Zimbabwe's talent when he entered BCMP at 14. Warner was not surprised to learn that Zimbabwe had become an NYU fellow and landed the SNL gig. "It's totally Tuffus," Warner says. "He's not finished yet-trust me!"