Successful Berklee Alumni #40: Dr. Jenny Martin

Dr. Jenny Martin



Listen to the interview (approx. 1 hr, 5 min.) or download it.


Graduated in 2006 with a major in Songwriting.  Principal instrument:  voice.

Position:  Licenced Psychotherapist in private practice.  Jenny is one of a half dozen people in the Mindful Path practice in Chicago, but her clients are her own.  She typically sees clients, many of whom are abuse victims or GLBT, for the long term psychotherapy.  As a (very) side job, she teaches a graduate course at Adler University for others working on their PsyD degrees. “Teaching doctoral students is wonderful, and is a great way for me to ‘keep my tools sharp.'”

UPDATE:  (Fall 2016):  Shortly after being interviewed, Jenny left the Mindful Path group practice to found her own private practice:  Gemstone Wellness

Overview:  Coming from a music-themed high school, Jenny majored in psychology at the University of Michigan for two years, but found it unsatisfying at the undergrad level and a good friend convinced her to transfer to Berklee.  She did her last two years at Berklee, but during the first year that same friend withdrew from Berklee and later committed suicide.  Jenny found this personally devastating.

After graduation, Jenny worked briefly at Bug Music in New York, then a friend at Cherry Lane music got her a job there, working in the royalties department, while writing music in her spare time.  Ultimately, Jenny found the work unsatisfying, and felt that opportunities to be a staff-songwriter were drying up, so she left her job and moved home to decide what she wanted to do.  She felt that a career as a psychotherapist would be a fulfilling way to honor her friend and be herself, and in 2009 enrolled in a six-year program at the Chicago School of Professional Psychology, getting her doctorate in 2014 and her professional license in 2015.  A connection she’d met through a post-doc job introduced her to the person putting together the Mindful Path practice, and she decided to work with them.


You can see Jenny’s LinkedIn profile here.


Choice Quotes:  “There’s nothing more meaningful to me than sitting in a space with someone, being authentic and hear people’s truth and be with them in raw, vulnerable moments.  I get to live with that all day.  People ask if it’s hard to hear suffering, but I feel like we all go through that at some point, so it means a lot to me to be there in those moments.  It feels like I’m home.”

“One of my first placements during grad school was working with women in the Cook Country Jail.  These woman had been through trauma, but I found the power of music to work there–the women were singing, drumming on tables, etc.  I figured i’d see about writing a group song.  It started a whole process for me, diving into research what happens to your brain when you’re creating music–incredible things happen–and I did my doctoral dissertation on that.”

“Studying songwriting at Berklee got me comfortable being vulnerable in front of a group, and connecting to my sense of self.  “Songwriting and Psychotherapy are similar in some ways:  they’re both improvising, and the only way you’re going to do a good job is to LISTEN.”



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Successful Berklee Alumni #39: India Thomson

India Thomson

Listen to the interview (approx. 58 min.) or download it.

Graduated in 2014 with a major in Music Business.  Principal Instrument:  voice.

Position:  Investment Services Analyst at Citigroup in New York.  India works on a team of ten, supporting 150 financial advisors.  India helps with inquiries from customers and financial advisors, places trades, and helps operations.  Her goal is to move up into a role directly evaluating investments.

Overview:  India’s mother is a day-trader, so she was exposed to finance growing up.  By her penultimate year at Berklee, she had decided that she wanted a career in finance.  India moved to New York after graduation, supporting herself by doing social media publicity for a music label while she searched for an internship in finance.  After four months of aggressive searching, she got an unpaid internship, while she studied for and obtained her first financial industry certification (“Series 7” and “Series 63”) which involve lots of studying and a test.

Networking events led to her next job, a financial services sales position, which was paid, but India wanted to move away from sales and into something that paid better than that position.  She got an investment analyst position, which she loved, but after six months the company was having financial problems, so she started looking for another job.  A recruiter from Citigroup led her to her current position.

You can see India’s LinkedIn profile here.

Choice quotes:  “I have this duality:  I have a passion for math and am good at it, but I have a creative side as well.  My finance job also has both  As an analyst, I do a lot of math, using metrics to rate investments based on suitability, rate of return, and so forth.  But I also do creative stuff, such as putting together presentations & reports and talking to people.”

“When you put your resume out there, know that Search Engine Optimization is used by companies on resumes.  Software looks for key words and will filter 1000 resumes online down to 50.  Put the job title and key words from the job position in your resume.”

“You can love music, but don’t ever feel like you’re stuck because music is all you can do….  You can still be happy, find your passions, do stuff you love and have meaningful experiences even if what your ultimate dream doesn’t work out.  What you end up doing can and up being your dream without you even realizing it.”

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Successful Berklee Alumni #38: Dawn-Marie Dunn

Dawn-Marie Dunn


Listen to the interview (approx. 50 min.) or download it.


Graduated in 2012 with majors in Electronic Production & Design (EPD) and Professional Music.  Principal Instrument: violin.

Position:  Software QA (Quality Assurance) Engineer at Advanced Practice Strategies (a.k.a. Brightwork Health), which makes tools used by doctors and nurses to help them identify uncommon medical conditions.   Dawn-Marie makes sure that the software specifications are properly described and feasible.  She does both manual testing and writes “scripts” (small programs) to automate some testing to as to ensure that the software works properly under all circumstances.

Overview:  Dawn-Marie started Berklee in 1998 (14 years before graduating), but left in 2001, as she was unsure what she wanted to do afterward.  She worked a lot of retail jobs, then to move back to Boston she got a medical certificate and ultimately worked as an adminsitrative assistant in a hospital’s “quality office” where medical records are kept and sorted through.  Finding that without a Bachelor’s Degree her prospects for career advancement were dim, she returned to Berklee and completed her degree in five semesters.

During her last year, Dawn-Marie interned at Cakewalk, which makes music software.  Shortly after graduating, that internship turned into a full-time job doing QA.  5 months later, as she was not-yet-visibly pregnant with her now-toddler son, Dawn-Marie got laid off.  She realized she needed another job immediately  as no company would want to hire someone who obviously would be going on maternity leave right away; staying in music wasn’t a priority under the circumstances.  Fortunately, one day after she was laid off, her (now former) boss recommended her to a former colleague who had moved to Advanced Practice Strategies which needed a QA person.  Dawn-Marie got the job, in part because of her medical experience.


You can see Dawn-Marie’s LinkedIn profile here.  In addition, Dawn-Marie invites anyone seriously considering QA as a career to contact her at  dunn.dawnmarie [at] gmail dot com.


Choice quotes:    “As far as I know, QA isn’t taught in schools anywhere.  It’s a combination of being very detail-oriented and picking up the skills on the job.  It’s hard for businesses to find good QA professionals because they need someone who’s very tech savvy, but isn’t a software developer. Developers often want to code and aren’t as detail-oriented as needed. QA is paid maybe 20% less than being a developer–the education isn’t as specialized–but that’s still a very good salary.”

“My company helps doctors and nurses get medical details right, and we’ve heard from clinicians that it helped them saves lives. That means a lot to me and it’s an awesome feeling! ”

“I love learning new medical things and programming all the time and I get to use that knowledge to refine ideas and make a good product.  When I went to Berklee I was considering being a producer because I like to help people who have a great initial idea refine it into something amazing.   That’s essentially what I get to do now.”



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Successful Berklee Alumni #37: Claudia Caliano-Rida

Claudia Caliano-Rida (formerly Caliano)

2014-08-26 12.56.09

Listen to the interview (in 2 parts.  Total approx 1 hr 45 min.) or download them.


Graduated in 2009 with a major in Music Business.  Principal Instrument:  voice.

Position:  Change Management Consultant.  (Update September 2016:  Shortly after the interview Claudia’s good work was recognized in the form of a promotion to Principal Change Management Consultant!) Consultant at NTT Data, a very large (80,000 people worldwide) technology consulting company based in Japan.   A travelling consultant, Claudia helps corporations adapt to new software and processes.  She works with companies to learn about their process and transition, then develops training materials, designs in implements trainings, and trains people.  She spends almost half of her time travelling, and the rest working from home.

Overview:  Claudia is from Switzerland, where she got the equivalent of an Associates Degree and training in Information Technology (IT) and had worked for years for Microsoft doing accounting, sales, and customer support.  Claudia came to Berklee at age 25 to try something new and was a student employee during her time at Berklee.  Post-graduation, she was recommended for a job with a music start up as executive assistant to the president, but she was laid off one week before her visa expired!  For about a year Claudia was unemployed, taking classes just in order to get a student visa, then she got a certificate to teach ESL (English as a Second Language). Claudia did that for a couple of years, but the pay was very low.

Eventually, a friend of a friend who worked at NTT Data recommended her for her current job, as she had good background in both IT and teaching.  Claudia has been at NTT since 2013, and gradually has been working her way up in autonomy, title, and pay.


You can see Claudia’s LinkedIn profile here.  In addition, Claudia invites anyone interested in pursuing a job in corporate training to email her at claudiacaliano (at) .


Choice quotes: “I’m a teacher by heart.  My favorite part of a project is the end where I’m in a classroom and helping people learn.  I take something that’s really scary for them–nobody wants change–and help them deal with it and get through it.  I teach people and see that ‘A-ha moment!’ and people say I just made their life better.  It’s extremely rewarding.”

“Why should I work my ass off just to be a poor, mediocre musician?  I’m not as musically talented as many at Berklee.  I’m all about exploiting your strengths, and I’m really good at some things!”

“Be open–you never know who you’re going to meet that can help you get a job.  You should have an excellent 30-second “elevator pitch.”  Also, learn really good interviewing skills.  I got this job because I rocked that interview.”

“Companies are erratic about when they hire consultants, so keep looking and keep sending your resume, even to the same place.  It’s about timing, so be persistent and believe in yourself.  Whatever you do, keep going–all you need is one job.”


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