Alumni and Careers

Percussion Performance Alumni

Many Berklee alumni have gone on to successful percussion performance careers. Below, learn about a small sample of them.

Alumni
Vibraphonist
Class of 1962 (Percussion)

To call vibraphonist Gary Burton '62 '89H a superstar is wildly underplaying the impact this Berklee stalwart has had on the world of music. His long career as a performer, teacher, improviser, recording artist, and mentor to generations of musicians has been entwined with Berklee since he first came to Boston to attend the college in the early '60s.

Alumni
Drummer
Class of 2005 (Percussion)
Nikki Glaspie '05

Nikki Glaspie, who traveled the world as the drummer in superstar Beyoncé's all-woman backup band, has honed a clear vision of herself and others as musicians. She credits her years at Berklee, from which she graduated in 2005, and performing in Boston in leading her to that vision. When she returned to Berklee in 2012 to speak about her success as a professional drummer, producer, and arranger, she explained, "Being a musician is not only something that you do, it's something that you are." She added that it takes discipline and dedication to pursue something as complex as music.

Alumni
Drummer
Class of 1968 (Percussion)

Drummer Harvey Mason ’68 has worked with a Who’s Who of musicians, playing with everyone from Bob James to Chick Corea to Lee Ritenour to George Benson. He has toured with Herbie Hancock’s Headhunters and been in the Mizell Brothers' productions with Donald Byrd, Johnny Hammond, Bobbi Humphrey, and Gary Bartz. His drum duet with percussionist Ralph MacDonald on Benson’s hit “On Broadway” shows off his style, and his beats have been samples for the Notorious B.I.G. and P. Diddy, among others.

Alumni
Drummer
Class of 2003 (Percussion)

Like his dynamic drumming style, Thomas Pridgen started off strong from a very young age. At 5, he was drumming in church, encouraged by his grandmother. At 9, he won a Guitar Center Drum-Off, besting contestants decades older. At 15, he won a four-year scholarship to Berklee, the youngest recipient in its history. He graduated in 2003.

Alumni
Drummer
Class of 1976 (Percussion)
Steve Smith’s career proves how varied a life in drumming can be. Famous as the drummer for the legendary band Journey, he has combined the rock arena life with leading a group dedicated to preserving the great jazz traditions, teaching drum clinics all over the world, recording many albums, and delving into South India’s rhythmic vocal art form called konnakol. 
 

Careers in Performance

Just as no two percussion players are the same, there is not just one career path open to Berklee percussion students. Some of the careers our percussion performance students and alumni have advanced include:
  • Performing/Recording Artist
  • Instrumental Soloist
  • Session Musician
  • General Business Musician
  • Orchestra/Group Member
  • Floor Show Band
  • Theater Musician
  • Church Musician
  • Product Demonstrator

Some percussion students also choose to pursue non-performance–based careers. For a more detailed look at the wide spectrum of careers that Berklee alumni enjoy, please explore our Careers page.