Nashville Notes

  Dave Petrelli


By now, everyone has returned to school. For some Berklee students who spent their summer interning at a variety of music industry positions in Nashville, that means packing up and heading back to the Berklee Beach for another semester of ear training and harmony. For others, it marks the official start of "real life" in the music industry (if there is such a thing). Time to parlay what you've learned and the connections you've made as an intern into a full-time, paying gig. Of course, that's easier said than done.

One thing I tell every Nashville newcomer is that in the music industry everyone's path is different, even if the goal is the same. I've still never met any two people who have gotten to the same position the same way.

For recent grad Willie Caldwell '10, his path led him to an internship with Chrysalis Music Group, offering him high hopes for the future. For others, like Edwin Sims '10, writing is the top priority, and he planned months ahead of time so he could move to Nashville and concentrate on honing his craft with an eye toward securing a publishing deal. Neither approach is wrong. Certainly there's no right way to go about getting a foothold in the Nashville music scene. That's the great thing about Nashville. There's no predicting the heights some of Berklee's newest crop of Nashville é&migré&s such as Sarah Beatty '09, Joe Burmingham '09, Joey Bennet '09, Ashley Payette '09, Word Strickland '09, and others will reach.

And as the most recent crop of alumni arrives in town to make its mark, some grizzled Nashville veterans continue to show that the Berklee alumni presence is as strong as ever. Luis Espaillat '94 is currently the musical director and bass player for Republic Nashville recording artist Sunny Sweeney. You'd think that job would keep his schedule pretty busy. But Luis's life just got a whole lot more complicated in the best possible way; he and his wife just recently adopted a brother and sister from Taiwan. Congrats to them both.

In other news, singer and keyboardist Kira Small '93 released her newest album, Raise My Voice, on Off Row Records, featuring r&b studio veterans from Motown and Muscle Shoals. Small and her bassist husband, Bryan Beller '92, have been playing house concerts and small venues across the United States and were recently featured in a story on the growing market for private-house concerts (visit

Trombonist Oscar Utterstrom '02 just recently completed Kelly Clarkson's "All I Ever Wanted" tour, and has written the horn arrangements and played on Carl Broemel's upcoming release. Currently, Utterstrom is working on his second album, which features alumni Justin Amaral '99 on drums and Adam Agati '04 on guitar. This fall Utterstrom is touring with Canadian country music superstar Johnny Reid.

Liz Ficalora '78 has expanded her music production company Ficalora Music Productions and teamed up with Reynolds Productions to include video electronic press kits for artists and songwriters, as well as documentaries and short films.

Congratulations to all alumni on their continually expanding list of achievements.