Berklee Alumnus Arturo Cardelus Grabs Attention and Jobs with YouTube Video

Kimberly Ashton
May 9, 2014
Arturo Cardelús

When Berklee alumnus Arturo Cardelús got an email in October 2011 from a first violinist at possibly the best philharmonic in the world, suggesting that they work together, he thought it was a joke.

It did seem unlikely, after all. Cardelús, now 32, had just graduated from Berklee that spring with a film scoring major and was working as a technician in a small studio in Los Angeles.

“But then I thought, ‘You have to be a terrible person to make a joke like that,’” Cardelús says, laughing at the memory.

The violinist was Laurentius Dinca of the Berlin Philharmonic. He had been browsing YouTube for new music to play and plugged the words “tango” and “violin” into his search. A video of one of Cardelús’s compositions, “Con Aire de Tango,” featuring Berklee alumna Maureen Choi on violin, popped up.

“So he found me by accident. He saw the video, he really loved it, and he emailed me,” Cardelús, a pianist who learned composition at Berklee, said. Within three months, Cardelus was at Dinca’s birthday party in Berlin, meeting members of the orchestra.

Soon Cardelús was reworking the piece for Dinca and composing more pieces for ensembles of Berlin Philharmonic soloists. “Con Aire de Tango” was re-recorded in Berlin in August 2013, and three new pieces of his will be played this fall in a small concert in Japan, where the philharmonic will be on tour.

A commission to compose for members of the Berlin Philharmonic is a coup for any composer, but especially for one who just began writing in 2007. Before coming to Berklee to study composition and film scoring, Cardelús studied piano performance at the Royal Academy of Music in London, Franz Liszt Academy in Budapest, and the Conservatorio Superior de Musica in Salamanca, in his native Spain.

But, he said, “at some point I realized that playing the piano makes me really happy but it wasn’t enough. I needed something else to express myself.” Then he applied to Berklee.

“Berklee changed my life, totally. Because it changed my direction. I changed my whole approach to life as a musician,” Cardelús said. “One thing that I really like about Berklee is that here they not only teach you about music, they also give you a lot of tools to be successful in the industry. It’s something that in Europe doesn’t happen that much. I think Berklee teaches us really great things from the business side.”

And business has been good for Cardelús. The same month he got an email from Dinca, he landed a gig doing basic technical work for film composer Mario Grigorov. When Grigorov needed an orchestrator for the Nicole Kidman/Matthew McConaughey movie The PaperboyCardelús lept at the chance. 

"I was a little, not aggressive, but I said, 'Hey, I want to do it' before he called someone else," he said. Grigorov wasn't so sure at the beginning, since it would be Cardelús's first film, but gave him a shot after hearing some of his other pieces. 

Since then, Cardelús has composed music for several films (War is Beautiful, 100 Miles, Dulces Sueños) and was recently hired to write the music for an upcoming movie about Pope Francis, tentatively called Friend of the Poor

"I love films. I love having a story and having something to follow," Cardelús said. "Because in concert music, things can be more abstract. But music in film always has a reason. You have a mission, you need to give some emotion to the audience."

In addition to his film scoring and preparation for the concert with the Berlin Philharmonic soloists, Cardelús is working on a piece he'll premiere at the New England Conservatory on May 25 that features a sitar-like Chinese instrument called the guzheng. NEC student Hui Weng, who plays the guzheng, contacted Cardelús after seeing "Con Aire de Tango" on YouTube. 

Cardelús hadn't uploaded much to YouTube before he posted the violin version of "Con Aire de Tango." But now, in the crevasses of time he has between his several projects, he uploads videos.