L.A. Newsbriefs

  Sitarist Ravi Shankar (left) and Peter Gordon
  Photo by Brad Coker
  From the left: Jerome Leroy '05 and Emir Merzeci '08

This year began on a special note when I had the great privilege of visiting maestro Ravi Shankar at his home just north of San Diego. Shankar was scheduled to be the keynote speaker at the 2011 "Berklee Teachers on Teaching" conference in Boston, but unfortunately he was unable to travel to Boston given health concerns. He filmed his keynote address in the form of an interview conducted by Berklee Ambassador of Artistry in Education Patrice Rushen. In discussing his music and his approach to improvisation, he offered numerous gems of wisdom. Now in his early nineties, Shankar still has a serene aura about him, and it was an honor to spend time with this master of Indian music.

With nearly 400 attendees, this year's annual alumni brunch was a huge success. The room exuded a feeling of community as President Roger Brown discussed the latest new Berklee campus initiatives in Boston and in Valencia, Spain. Networking was the theme of the day, and it was impressive to see such a wide age range among the alumni.

The Grammy Awards were another recent highlight in the Berklee community in Los Angeles. While at the time of this writing the final list of alumni winners has yet to be confirmed, we can be certain that it was an amazing moment when Esperanza Spaulding '05 was named best new artist. The recognition of true artistry in this category is refreshing and encouraging.

It is also worth noting that at this year's Academy Awards in late February, several alumni played prominent behind-the-scenes roles. Jerome Leroy '05, Emir Merzeci '08, and David Azoulay '10 assisted the show's music director, Bill Ross, as orchestrators and programmers.

In the world of television, Lisa Donahey '94 recently appeared on the new NBC show Harry's Law. In a nightclub scene, she played an auditioning singer onstage and recorded the studio vocal track.

Owned by alumni composer and producer Mike Baiardi '96, Soundfile Productions Inc. was chosen as the premier music provider for Paula Abdul's new CBS dance competition show Live to Dance as well as The People's Choice Awards, hosted by Queen Latifah on CBS.

Global hit producer and composer Mark Jackson '96 (MP&E/Music Business) is the newest artist to sign with Universal Music Publishing Group. As half of the production team MJ&iRoK, he currently produces and writes for the Uni/Motown artists Forever the Sickest Kids, Interscope Records artists Colette Carr and Lauren Bennett, Capital Records artist Eli Reed, and Cody Wise, a new artist that will.i.am brought to Interscope Records. Megaproducer Rodney Jerkins recently signed his dance-party-rock artist H*Wood to Darkchild Records. Visit www.markjacksonproductions.com and www.myspace.com/markjacksonproductions.

Organist, keyboardist, singer, and composer Christoph Bull '89 released the premiere recording of the pipe organ at Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles. The album is entitled First & Grand after the hall's location on Grand Avenue and First Street in Downtown Los Angeles. Visit www.christophbull.com.

Guitarist Johann Frank '07 is currently touring with the "Engelbert Humperdinck-Released Tour 2011." For more on Frank's journey, visit www.myspace.com/johannfrank.

That's all for now. Stay in touch.

Peter Gordon '78
Director of Berklee Center in LA