From Tabla to Tech: Nitish Kulkarni
Though his musical career began with tabla playing, Nitish Kulkarni M.M. ’16 has expanded his skill set to keyboards, arranging, production, and engineering. In addition to his day job as a music technology consultant and sales engineer at instrument and music gear retailer Sweetwater, he continues to produce and perform on recordings with other artists. We spoke with Kulkarni about his background in music performance and production, his time in the Music Production, Technology, and Innovation (MPTI) program at Berklee Valencia, and his current projects.
How did you become interested in the work you do now?
I was always interested in music production. Like most of us, I started by recording myself on basic audio recorders with whatever software was available on my family's computer when I was growing up. Later on, I got more involved with DAWs [digital audio workstations] like Logic and Pro Tools throughout college. As for performance, I was involved with music performance in the Indian music scene in the United States from a young age. I began performing on the Indian tabla drums professionally around age 13 or 14, if memory serves me correctly. Over the years, I've also played the role of keyboardist, music arranger, and director/producer for several shows.
Something I had missed when pursuing my undergraduate degree was being around other people who were pursuing music with the same passion and intensity as I wanted to, and I found that community at Berklee.
—Nitish Kulkarni M.M. '16
What was your experience at Berklee Valencia like?
Berklee Valencia was a dream come true. I finally had the chance to do everything I had always wanted to do, but had been distracted from by prior schooling or other commitments. Something I had missed when pursuing my undergraduate degree was being around other people who were pursuing music with the same passion and intensity as I wanted to, and I found that community at Berklee. Having the chance to collaborate with truly world-class musicians was all I had wanted, so I was in heaven at Berklee.
Tell us a bit about the work you do now at Sweetwater.
I'm a sales engineer at Sweetwater, which means I work one-on-one with my database of clients and help them with purchasing the products they need for their music rigs. This means acting as a consultant and salesperson. I work with a variety of clients, from individual and hobbyist musicians to professional studios, touring companies, and even celebrities. It's a very dynamic job that requires keeping up with the latest trends in the music industry and the newest technologies that are emerging in the marketplace.
How did your time at Berklee Valencia prepare you for your current job?
I wasn't necessarily preparing for a career as a music technology consultant and sales engineer at a place like Sweetwater, but Berklee thoroughly prepared me for it. A critical aspect of being an effective consultant and salesperson is having a thorough and deep knowledge of essential music technology concepts, such as studio signal flow and microphone techniques. Whether it is designing a MIDI-based composer setup or setting a tracking facility with all the gear they'll need, having been hands-on with all the gear at Berklee certainly helps me at Sweetwater.
What projects are you most proud of?
Last year, I had the opportunity to finally make my dream project come true. I traveled all around the U.S. and recorded Indian vocalists that I had accompanied or run live sound for during my tours, eventually creating a composite music video for a cover song of a very popular song in my mother tongue, Marathi. The video was released last July and went viral in India, making its way around Facebook and WhatsApp. It currently has more than 500,000 views [across multiple platforms]. Definitely something I am proud of!
What are you working on now, outside of your day job?
Outside my work at Sweetwater, I have continued building out my own personal project studio. I’m frequently involved with mixing projects for friends around the world who are busy with their own recording projects. I also tour frequently around the country as a live sound engineer, and work on my solo material in my spare time.