Grammy-Winning Engineer Miles Walker Shares Advice with Berklee Students

Mike Keefe-Feldman
July 26, 2013
Miles Walker '03
Photo by Prince Charles Alexander

A 2003 Berklee alumnus, Miles Walker, has won Grammys for his engineering work with Beyoncé, Rihanna, and Usher. He has also worked as an engineer on records for pop sensations like Katy Perry, Britney Spears, and Wiz Khalifa. Walker recently returned to his alma mater as a keynote speaker at Berklee’s Five-Week Summer Program and as a guest lecturer in several Music Production and Engineering (MP&E) courses, including Vocal Production, Mixing (II and III), and Introduction to MP&E.

Walker spent most of his in-class time with students who are only a semester or two away from graduation. One of his primary messages to these students was to find the right balance between technical skills and interpersonal skills. Walker noted that when he attended Berklee all of his technical skills were tied to the use of tape in the studio, but he hasn’t used tape in six or seven years now.

“These students are about to enter the workforce and they’ve got their technical chops together,” Walker said. “I just kept reminding them that they have a leg up and they’re so much further along than students at other technical schools where all they teach is the technical side. I told them that what’s so important about their degree from Berklee is that it’s also about musicianship and how you are as a person. That’s more important than the buttons you learn how to push.”

That message resonated with Alvin Wee, an MP&E student entering his senior year at Berklee who is interested in pursuing a career in mixing and engineering and who has already worked on the Final Fantasy video game franchise. After spending time with Walker in the studio at Berklee, one of Wee’s key takeaways was to avoid “getting so caught up in the technical aspects that you overshadow the artistic vision of a piece of music.”

Wee says Walker's advice in this area “has made a big impact on the way that I work.” Wee also points to helpful tips from Walker on how to best take full advantage of studio time in order to be as productive as possible with the available resources.

Rather than a nifty trick in ProTools or some other piece of software, Walker says he hopes that the students he spoke with came away with an understanding that “the most important thing you’ll gain at Berklee is a friendship that will somehow help you advance your career.”

Walker is living proof of that, citing the importance of several people at Berklee in helping to further his own professional path, including MP&E professor Mitch Benoff, former professor Carl Beatty, and fellow Berklee alumni such as Brian Warwick, an L.A.-based, Grammy-nominated recording engineer who has worked with artists ranging from Andrea Bocelli to Ludacris.

Walker also took note of some big changes during his return visit to Berklee.

“As an alum, I was quite proud to see all the work on the new building [at 160 Massachusetts Avenue],” he says. “It’s going to be very impressive and it was great to see that Berklee is working really hard at staying very modern and making sure that its students’ needs are met so that they can be 100 percent current as soon as they enter the workforce.”

Visits from alumni such as Walker are a significant part of helping students to prepare for that workforce, and Wee couldn’t be more satisfied with the quality time he was able to spend with Walker in the studio.

“I was completely immersed in the situation,” Wee says. “It was one of my greatest learning experiences at Berklee.”

Read more of Miles Walker’s advice for Berklee students in this 2011 interview.