From Classmates to Colleagues: How Berklee Valencia Alumni Generate Work Opportunities for Each Other | Berklee Valencia Campus

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From Classmates to Colleagues: How Berklee Valencia Alumni Generate Work Opportunities for Each Other

Peter Connolly M.M.’14, bassist Chris Attwell M.M.’16, and drummer Andre Walker M.M.’16 founded jazz/funk/fusion band Nano Trio and are preparing to tour in Spain and Europe.

The strong sense of community that prevails on campus makes Berklee Valencia the perfect stage to generate collaborations between students from the different undergraduate and graduate programs. “There are many opportunities throughout the year, from performing in an ensemble in one of the many concerts that are continuously happening to producing or engineering a friend’s recording session or developing a business idea with one of the global entertainment and music business students,” says Bernardo Castro M.M.’15. “This made it very easy to get to know most of the students, not just from my program, and created a huge sense of community at the Berklee Valencia campus, where everyone knows each other and is willing to help out on any given project.”

Castro, a graduate of the Master of Music in Scoring for Film, Television, and Video Games program, adds that during his time on campus he frequently collaborated with students from the Master of Music in Contemporary Performance (Production Concentration) program. “As a drummer myself, I was also asked to record on other people’s tracks and to perform in many of the concerts organized by Berklee throughout the year. I found it extremely valuable to be surrounded by such a high level of talent and to collaborate with these people that had such varied musical backgrounds,” he says.

This spirit often carries on after graduation as alumni rely not only on fellow classmates, but on alumni from other programs when looking to hire people for their businesses, entrepreneurial ventures, and bands.

Employing Fellow Classmates

When Castro was hired to compose the score for the film Las siete muertes, he recruited fellow classmate Emanuele Contis as producer because they previously worked together both at school and professionally. “He is a very talented musician and a great friend of mine, which I knew would be a very important factor because I needed someone who was easy to work with and reliable,” he says.

Castro and Contis, together with classmates Manuel Gordillo, Michele Busdraghi, and Dan O’Neill are also professionally connected through Indòru, a sound boutique based in Italy that provides music for images. “During our time at Berklee, we talked about cofounding a company, but after we graduated everyone went on a different path. The only one that pursued the idea of founding a company was Emanuele, but once the company was up and running, he asked some of his former Berklee classmates, including me, to join the company as external collaborators,” Castro says.

Watch the trailer for Las siete muertes, with music composed and produced by alumni and Bernardo Castro and Emmanuele Contis respectively:

One of the first things Xueran Chen M.M.’14 did after setting up NEM Studios in Los Angeles in 2015 was to get in touch with Jacob Boyd and Obadiah Brown-Beach, fellow classmates in the scoring for film, television, and video games program, to hire them as contractors to write, orchestrate, and record the music for Chen’s mainly television and film clients. “Since we have the same educational background, all the communications are very smooth and fast. While studying, we did the assignments together, so we apply similar workflows for each project,” Chen says.

This collaboration occurs on a weekly basis, and Chen says that because the number of NEM’s clients is increasing, he is planning to rent a new office and hire employees on a permanent basis. “For long-term collaborators like Jacob and Obadiah, I will offer them the opportunity to invest in the studio so they can become business shareholders,” he says.

Although Nano Trio wasn’t officially founded as a jazz/funk/fusion band until 2017, guitarist Peter Connolly M.M.’14, bassist Chris Attwell M.M.’16, and drummer Andre Walker M.M.’16 had already been playing together on campus. “I met Peter in 2014 when I was an undergraduate student in Boston, where I studied percussion,” says Walker. “The next year I decided to enroll in the contemporary performance (product concentration) program in Valencia, where I met Chris, and we were constantly playing together. After graduation we were looking to start up a project, and Peter was still around so we decided to form a group together.”

The band members are from the United States, England, and Ireland, but they decided to remain in Valencia, a city they define as “great” in terms of music offerings, quality of life, and ease of travel, and because they saw the opportunity to bring “more diverse music into the community, as the potential to do so was there,” says Walker. Nano Trio are currently mastering their first EP, and their future plans include touring in Spain and Europe.

Two fellow classmates from the contemporary performance program are also collaborating together. César Secundino M.M.’17 was asked by Lili del Sol Atehortua M.M.’17 to collaborate on her project Raíz Mestiza as a harpist and to help her with the harmony, rhythms, and melodies. “ Since we started the master degree we noticed that we had similar thoughts and a special connection, something we confirmed during a session in the studio for our production class,” he says.

While studying, the pair performed together several times on campus and on international stages like EXIB Música in Portugal. “I am very happy to be part of her team as she is a very good bandleader. Also, I like her music a lot because it drives you into her culture and her feelings. Every time we perform together is different and amazing because we get to know each other better and strengthen our relationship,” he says.

The International Career Center

Ludovico Vignaga M.A.’13 founded INTORNO LABS in Barcelona in the spring of 2016; the company offers production services for special shows, productions, and installations that require immersive sound technologies. Vignana has a bachelor’s degree in audio production and engineering from the SAE Institute in Milan, Italy, and later completed the global entertainment and music business program in Valencia. “The acquisition of new skills and knowledge helped me navigate the technical nuances of the startup world, the overall experience of getting a master’s degree in a foreign country, being exposed to the campus community, being challenged by higher level academics, changed me dramatically as a person in terms of self-awareness, maturity, expectations, and leadership,” he says.

Last year, he was looking for a new staff member to join their technical team. “After a few consultations with Berklee faculty members, I got to know Esteban Andrés Gómez M.M.’17, who was a student in the Master of Music in Music Production, Technology, and Innovation program and appeared to be an ideal candidate. We started a ‘beta-period’ with him that culminated with a formal collaboration in November 2017 at the MIRA Festival in Barcelona,” he says. Since then, Gómez has continued working for the company as a software tools designer, researching and developing technical features under Vignana’s supervision and the supervision of Luigi Castelli B.M.‘94, INTORNO’s head of software.

Ricardo Curto M.M.'15 founded the Yamaha Music School Valencia and has hired numerous alumni as teachers, administrative personnel, and creatives.

Ricardo Curto M.M.’15 has shared a similar experience; he turns to the International Career Center (ICC) when he needs to hire musicians, creatives, or administrative personnel for both the Yamaha Music School Valencia, which he cofounded in 2015, and for his own business as a musician and soundtrack composer. “Stine Glismand and Maxwell Wright from the ICC help us a lot providing names of graduates who could match our employment needs. Other alumni contact me directly because they know I am a Berklee alumnus,” he says.

A third of the 22 people who currently work for Curto are Berklee alumni and work for him either on a permanent basis, like Lili del Sol Atehortua M.M’17, who works as associate faculty at Yamaha Music School, and Mayra Jiménez M.A.’15, a business relationship manager at the same institution, or as occasional staff who run workshops, like Connolly and Walker of Nano Trio, Ankie Titulaer M.A.’14, or Sebastian Laverde M.M.’13. “Knowing that they have been through the same educational standards as I have gives me the security that the people I hire through Berklee will match my needs,” says Curto.

Titulaer is an example of the latter. After graduating, in 2017 she decided to found Playground Art Center in Valencia, a school where English is taught through disciplines like drawing, theater, contemporary dance, or robotics. She is still in contact with the Valencia campus, where she finds the musicians who play at the many events organized by the center. “We hire performance students to play during art openings and other events, usually through the ICC, which helps us to find them when we need them,” she says. Also, the center has 500 square meters of space available to rent, something which has been beneficial for current Berklee Valencia students; around 10 students have contacted Titulaer through the ICC to use the rooms for concerts, charity events, or music videos.

Ankie Titulaer M.M.'14 is the founder of Playground Art Center in Valencia and often hires fellow Berklee alumni to perform at different events

When a vacancy for a production technician became available at Electronic Creatives, a Los Angeles-based company/agency that provides music tech designs for touring artists, Alexander Ramírez M.M.’17, who has been working there since August last year, didn’t hesitate in recommending fellow classmate Greg Sommerville for the role. Based on their experience working together in Valencia, Sommerville proved to be “one of the most driven, collaborative individuals in the MPTI program, and also came to be a close friend of mine. Knowing that he was seeking new opportunities and a reason to move to LA, I recommended him for the position,” he says.

Laura Escudé, being the head of the company, was the main interviewer, and I know she also received the recommendation to consider Greg from MPTI program director Pablo Munguía. After an initial trial period, it looks like Greg is going to continue to work with us. He has been doing really well, growing and learning constantly,” Ramírez adds.

Despite coming from every corner in the world, many alumni decide to stay in Valencia, a place that, according to Curto, is experiencing a positive gentrification. “The music scene keeps growing, with more music clubs opening every day. This, added to the fact that Valencia offers a great quality of life as well as two world-renowned schools like Berklee and Yamaha, means that the city could potentially become the new big place in Europe in terms of music,” he says.