Student Profile: Mario Guthrie
Mario Guthrie is perfectly at home in the radio booth, spinning Jamaican music for the Berklee Internet Radio Network (BIRN). But if you looked for him last summer you'd have found him in an entirely different setting—an emergency room, doing triage for pediatric patients.
Guthrie's path to Berklee has been long and circuitous. Raised in Kingston, Jamaica with a doctor for a father, Guthrie completed five years of medical school, a year-long internship, and two years of full-time work as a doctor before realizing that music was his first passion. "I decided to just go for it," he says. So he flew to Boston to audition at Berklee. Guthrie received a partial scholarship, and was waitlisted for the spring semester, which suited him just fine. He spent the time working in order to save up enough money to pay for school.
In the summers Guthrie still returns to Jamaica and the hospital, to save money for the next year. But the work has given him more than the ability to pay for his Berklee education. "You get exposed to so many humbling experiences," he says. "It keeps you grounded." And working with children is its own reward: "If I do ever specialize, it would be in pediatrics."
He's also learned patience and how to deal with people. "Customer service," he grins. He puts this skill to work as a tour guide at Berklee. "I remember doing the tour, too," he says. "It's nice to be on the other side." Some prospective students he's met on the job have even found him on Facebook and befriended him.
Guthrie was interested in music from an early age, performing in choirs, and throughout prep school, high school, and college. But it was his brother, a DJ in his spare time, who got him seriously interested in music. "He produced some beats at home for fun, so I sang on a couple of those. Then I started doing background vocals for some prominent Jamaican artists," says Guthrie. "He is a big musical influence to me. We're really close."
At Berklee, Guthrie is pursuing a dual major in songwriting and music business/management, keeping his options open. He's a performer first and foremost, but he's open to managing, music journalism, songwriting—and radio. "I'm going purely entrepreneurial in my approach at Berklee," he says. "I'm trying to use the songwriting major to help me develop my writing. I think instinctively I'm a businessman. But primarily I'm a performer. And I think all three will combine."
Guthrie's not registered as a doctor in the U.S., so when he's here, his focus is completely on music. True to his calling, he's doing a lot of performing. "Since I've been here, I've been in the Caribbean Ensemble and a Reggae Dub Ensemble. I've done background vocals for Singers Showcase. I sang lead in Singer's Night Spring 2008, where I performed Bob Marley's 'Turn Your Lights Down Low.' I perform with other student bands, too, like Indigo Moon."
Guthrie also sings background for the Boston reggae band Hot Like Fire, a spot he found on berkleemusic.com's gig board. "That's been a nice connection to home, because they're a legit reggae band," he says.
But despite his two very different callings, feeling at home with whatever he's doing doesn't seem to be a worry for Guthrie.
Mario's Top Five Influences
- Bob Marley
- Donny Hathaway
- Boyz II Men
- Stevie Wonder
- Brian McKnight