Successful Berklee Alumni #50: King Yan Kwok

King Yan Kwok


Listen to the interview (approx. 40 min.) or download it.


Left Berklee in 2007 (completed her internship and officially graduated in early 2009) with a major in Music Therapy.  Principal Instrument:  piano.

Position:  Multilingual Speech Language Pathologist at the Boston (Massachusetts) Public Schools.  King works with students who have speech problems, half her students speaking Cantonese of Mandarin, the other half “a bit of everyone.”  Travelling to several schools, and working with all ages, King diagnoses issues and works with students who mostly have speech/articulation issues.

Overview.  After leaving Berklee, King did an internship in California at a veterans home, then moved to New York City to teach piano at a music school Musispire and intern (unpaid) at the Institute for Music Neurologic Function, where soon afterward she was offered a part-time job as a researcher.  She often worked alongside speech pathologists King did that for a year, but grew tired of the long commutes and unpredictable pay (She had to go to people’s homes and got paid by the session), so after a year she worked at the music school full time.

A couple of years later, King decided that she needed a Masters Degree to help her career.  She debated among clinical psychology, music education, and speech pathology, and did extensive research on careers, including locations of jobs and expected growth of the fields.  She settled on speech pathology as it provided a good income and high likelihood of employment without requiring a doctorate.  In 2011 she entered the Masters in Speech Pathology program at Massachusetts General Hospital (Boston), graduating in 2013.  Part of that program involved doing many “internships,” one of which was in Boston, and she was encouraged to apply to her current position as her ability to speak multiple languages was a real strength.


You can see King’s LinkedIn profile here.


Choice Quotes:  “It’s rewarding to see a student grow from saying a word or two to having a real conversation.  In this job I can utilize my skills and give back to my community.”

“I get the same pay scale as teachers, and work the same hours as teachers.  Around 6.5 hours per day.  I get summers off and all the snow days and holidays.  Unlike most teachers I don’t have homework to grade, though I do have to write up progress reports.”

“Berklee’s Music Therapy’s guidelines of  being flexible, creative, and spontaneous serve me really well in what I do today.”

“Do your research!  Realize how important it is just to know which jobs are growing in this country.  Think about where you want to live, as that influences what would be a good job to learn.  For example, it’s hard to make a living gigging in Boston.”

“People interest in speech pathology should do their research as well.  Look at the responsibilities and see it it’s what you want to do. Email a school, hospital, nursing home, or clinic, and ask to shadow a speech pathologist for day.  That will help you see exactly what the job is about.”


See the full index of Successful Berklee Grads.

Successful Berklee Alumni #49: Stephanie Olmanni

Stephanie Olmanni


Listen to the interview (approx. 1 hr 21 min) or download it.


Graduated in 2008 with majors in Film Composition and Electronic Production & Design (then called Music Synthesis).  Principal Instrument:  voice.


Position:  Registered Nurse at UCLA Health, Santa Monica, a large teaching hospital.  Stephanie works on a geriatric (elderly) floor.  She started in 2016, so as of the interview is in her first year, which is a “residency.”  However, unlike medical residencies for doctors who are expected to leave when they end, nurses are welcome to stay.


UPDATE Feb. 2018:  Stephanie has been working at UCLA Health for close to two years.  “In the past 6 months, I’ve noticed a huge shift. The work is no longer about mastering skills – they have become second nature now – and nursing feels more like an art. I am constantly inspired and filled with confidence and passion for what I do for a living.”  She also reports, “Despite California’s high cost of living, I’m financially comfortable and have already paid off over $20,000 of nursing school debt.”

In addition to her regular nursing tasks in the geriatric ward, Stephanie is presenting her research at nursing conferences and is taking on more leadership roles among the nurses on her floor.  “When leaving music and deciding on a new career, I always imagined what my ideal future would look like. And looking around at my life right now, I can honestly say it is all that and more!”



Overview:  Upon graduating Berklee, Stephanie moved to L.A. and sought work as a composer.  The chair of the Film Composition dept. connected her to a Berklee alum who composed for television and needed an assistant.  For six years, she worked for him, doing many different tasks in their two-person outfit:  composition, recording, orchestrating sessions, administrative tasks.  However, within a couple of years Stephanie realized that she was unhappy with the work.  An extrovert, she missed working with other people and the extremely long hours meant she had little life outside of work.  Her mother had been a nurse, Stephanie realized that nursing had what she wanted in a career:  working with others, helping other people, opportunities for career growth and to learn new things, and decent hours.  She volunteered in hospitals and confirmed that she loved it.

For her last three years assisting the composer, Stephanie took required prerequisite classes at night, and also volunteered at hospitals!  Finally, with those done, she applied to and was accepted at Johns Hopkins University “where they are as passionate about medicine as Berklee is about music.”  She got a half-scholarship, was president of their Geriatric Society, and earned a Bachelors of Science degree in Nursing. She wanted to go back to California and work in geriatrics, so she applied to work on a geriatric floor of the prestigious, extremely competitive UCLA hospital and was hired!

Music played a key role in Stephanie getting her job!  In California, the process for certification as a nurse, which in other states is a 1-2 week processing time, can take a full year, forcing newly-graduated nurses to sit idle and not work–awful!  Stephanie did a music video, a parody of “Hello” by Adele, which went viral!  It got her on the news, drew attention to the problem, and also got her the assistance of a state senator who ensured that she got her certification in time (It still took a good 6 months.) to start her job.  Here’s the video:

You can see Stephanie’s LinkedIn Profile here.


Choice quotes:   “However fried I’m feeling after 14 hours I feel really accomplished and fulfilled about what I did that day.  It’s also awesome to just work 3 days per week and have 4 days off!”

“It really hits you when you’re at your first job and you’re not working on mannequins anymore.  When I did music for TV people acted like things were life or death, but giving my patients the care and medicine they need really IS life or death!”

“I don’t regret for a second going to Berklee.  I’m so proud, and people I meet are really impressed by my background.  My friends and I look back on our time at Berklee as among the most special years of our lives”

See the full index of Successful Berklee Grads.


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Successful Berklee Alumni #48: Ryan Driscoll

Ryan Driscoll


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


Graduated in 2011 with a major in Music Business.  Principal Instrument:  Drums.

Position:  Patent Paralegal at Harvard University’s Office of Technology Development, which helps patent and market new inventions by Harvard faculty and post-docs.  Ryan assists with the patenting process, and also works with computers to upgrade their database.

Overview:  In late 2011, Ryan interned in L.A. at artist management  That experience taught him that the music industry, at least that part of it, wasn’t for him.  Long hours, low pay, and with luck and being at the right place at the right time playing such a large role determining one’s career path.  He moved back to Massachusetts, and started applying to large numbers of mostly non-music jobs.  A friend of a friend got him a job at Heritage Marketing and Incentives, where he used templates and their software to build promotional websites and performed other administrative duties.  It was good experience, but the pay was low, so after a year he searched for a better job.

Ryan founds the Harvard job on their website and applied, getting the “patent coordinator” job.   Others on his team had paralegal certificates, so Ryan enrolled in the program, the equivalent of one full semester of work (spread out over a larger time period) and was promoted to patent paralegal.


You can see Ryan’s LinkedIn profile here.


Choice quotes:  “Technology transfer is the convergence of business and law, which is essentially what music business is.  It’s the same principles, though related more to intellectual property as a whole rather than just specifically to music.”

“I like being part of the tech-transfer environment.  The culture is like that of a a startup company.  Just seeing something coming out of a lab turning into a real product or company is exciting and I like to contribute to it as I can. ”

“I got my job at Harvard because my AEG Live internship in L.A. had me going through contracts and doing some clerical stuff for the legal dept.  I combined that experience with the skills I’d picked up at my first job (Heritage), and emphasized the ability to do many things at once with attention to detail.”


See the full index of Successful Berklee Grads.


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Successful Berklee Alumni #47: J. Russell

J. Russell


Listen to the interview (approx. 1 hr, 3 min.) or download it.


Graduated in 2006 with a major in Music Production and Engineering (MP&E).  Principal Instrument:  guitar.

Position:  Software “Field” Sales  Representative (Business-to-Enterprise), officially titled “Account Executive.”  J. works for a large software company (details in the audio) and sells various products to very large retail companies, mostly in New York.  Working out his home in Massachusetts, J. spends about half his time travelling to customers and working on very large (six or seven-figure) deals, and the other half communicating and preparing.

Overview:  By the time he graduated Berklee, J. realized he wasn’t interested in the standard career path of a recording engineer, but he did like business.  Working in landscaping and odd jobs for a year, he decided that going to business school would help his career path, whether it was starting his own music-based company or working outside of music.  He spent two years as a management trainee at Hertz Rent-A-Car to get business experience, and was accepted to Babson, where he received his MBA in 2009.

By the time he graduated, J. realized that he really wanted to do software sales.  He went on craigslist and got a job doing a combination of cutomer support and sales at Plum Line, then a year later, hoping to get more of a pure sales role, he applied to his current company and was hired as an “inside sales rep” –working in an office to generate leads.  After a year J. was promoted to outside sales rep. which he has been doing ever since.


(LinkedIn profile not available.)


Choice Quotes:   “I like that my job is very challenging; no two days are the same.  I’m the quarterback, trying to figure out a way to close the deal.  It’s not simple–there are an infinite number of variables–but it’s fascinating to try to figure out the optimal process.  That was what attracted me to music as well–it’s not binary, but the trick is organizing the ambiguity….I don’t know where else you really get that skill set of organizing ambiguity except through the arts.”

“it’s a great job. I  really like it!  It’s a lot of work, a lot of stress.  All consuming, and many times you lose deals.  But when you win it can be really good financially.  It’s maybe a 50/50 salary/commission split.  The goal is to live on your base salary, and then any commissions go into savings.”

“I work on at most ten deals per year.  It can take up to 2 years to close a deal, so there’s upside after an amount of time.  But expect a lean first couple of years.  Also, when you start out in sales you often have a less good territory, so it takes a while to get started.”

“My music background helped me stand out an an MBA candidate… When I first started Business School I doubted myself a bit because I was the one music person there, but I realized that there was no reason to do so.  Music is a different field; it doesn’t reflect what you can do.  I did have to work hard, though.”


See the full index of Successful Berklee Grads.


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Successful Berklee Alumni #46: Charlotte Moore

Charlotte Moore

Copyright Tamea Burd Photography

Listen to the interview (approx. 52 min.) or download it.


Graduated in 2005 with majors in Music Business and Music Production and Engineering (MP&E).  Principal instrument:  vibrophone.

Position:  Bidding Manager at Double Negative, a large visual effects company that produces effects for movies. Charlotte works with prospective clients to detail the work, then works with department managers to produce and accurate estimate of the effort required.  She then submits the bids “In order to keep over a thousand special effects people who work here employed.”

UPDATE December 2016:  A few months after doing her interview, Charlotte was promoted at her company!  She will be production manager on an upcoming film Meg., and visual effects producer on another upcoming film Hostiles.

Overview:  Upon graduating Berklee Charlotte did three (unpaid) internships while working for money as an usher.  One was at a recording studio, which helped her figure out that “The non-stop lifestyle of recording albums wasn’t for me–I once worked 24 hours straight, and didn’t think I could do it in the long run.” She sent out many resumes, including to Boston-based studio Soundtrack, and was offered a job as a receptionist. Charlotte took the job, seeing it as a “foot in the door,” and soon took over accounting when someone resigned, then moving on to handling payments and a myriad of other business-end tasks, while taking night classes toward an MBA from Suffolk University.

By 2008, Charlotte wanted to move to California, and was sending out resumes.  She got a job offer from Skywalker Sound.  Starting as a production accountant, over the next 6.5 years she finished her MBA and was promoted twice to Associate Producer of Bidding, and then Associate Produces of Bidding & Scheduling.  At that point, a recruiter for Sony reached out to her to do finance and bidding for visual effects in Vancover.  Charlotte took the job, then a year later took the opportunity to work for Double Negative in her current position.


You can see Charlotte’s LinkedIn profile here.  Charlotte encourages Berklee graduates interested in working in the business end of film to contact her via LinkedIn.  She has learned many things, knows many people, and is happy to make a connection!


Choice Quotes:  ‘I enjoy working with  the artists and seeing how it goes from nothing to the most amazing thing you’ve seen on the screen!  I’m lucky to be able to work with people who are just THAT talented.”

“I read a lot of (movie) scripts. Sometimes that’s all I get.  Sometimes I get concept art, scene breakdowns, or even storyboards.  I spend a lot of time with Excel–I’m bidding down to the detail of how many days of work each facet of the work is going to take.  I’ll do the first pass estimate, then run everything by the supervisors of those who are doing the work.”

“It’s rare for people in film to have MBA’s, and it has been really valuable.   If you have that education you then can discuss why something doesn’t work and say what you would do instead–and you can articulate it well and be taken seriously.  I feel a lot more confident at work and am glad I did it.”

“If you’re first coming out of school and want to work in this field, look for production runner or production assistant jobs.  IF you see people doing something good that you’d like to  learn tell people.  Most of the time people are happy to help you out and talk about what they do.  Talk to recruiters about what you’re interested in.”



See the full index of Successful Berklee Grads.


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Successful Berklee Alumni #45: Cam Bjork

Cam Bjork


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


Graduated in 2015 with a major in Electronic Production & Design (EPD).  Principal Instrument:  bass guitar.

Position:  Business Development Representative ( business-to-business salesperson) at Bevspot.  Cam works in the office, cold-calling restaurants/bars to get them interested in Bevspot’s software, which makes it much easier to track their inventory of alcoholic drinks and order the appropriate amounts at the appropriate times.  He partners with a field representative, and earns a base salary plus commission.

Update October 2016:  Shortly after the interview left Bevspot to take on  a similar Business Development Representative (business-to-business sales) role at Nexthink.

Overview:  Cam initially went to UMASS-Boston to study business, thinking he’d go into software sales like his father.  However, he transferred to Berklee because he wanted to explore his creative/musical side.  Cam worked various restaurant jobs (busboy, server) while in college.  By his last year at Berklee he decided that, while he loved music, he wasn’t convinced it would make a good career path.  His father got him a part-time job doing cold-call sales during his last semester, which went fine.  Shortly before graduation he applied to another software company where his father knew people and could make an introduction.  He got the job and started right after graduation.  However, he didn’t feel he fit in well with the culture at that company, so some months later when a friend from Berklee who worked at Bevspot mentioned that they were looking for Business Development Reps, Cam expressed interest.  They talked, and he got the job–Cam’s restaurant industry experience also helped.


You can see Cam’s LinkedIn profile here.


Choice quotes:  “Sales is very difficult, very challenging.  But I view every call as a sort of performance.  using that creative musician mentality of trying new things and not getting too deep into my comfort zone.  A pitch that might work with one person won’t with another.”
“Sales has different techniques, and there are things you can do to make yourself better, but it’s mostly in the way you present yourself.  Believe in yourself and project that every way you can–tone of voice, how you walk–be confident.  Ask open-ended questions; for example, ‘What problems do you have as a business?  How are you trying so solve them?’  Be conversational, but also concise.”

“At Berklee, I had to present very personal stuff (my music) to my peers and people I barely knew.   It toughened me up for the sales role.  I’m up for pushing forward even if someone’s trying to get me off the phone.”

“EPD gave me a great understanding about the relationship between software & hardware.  I had to learn about so many different systems.  It made me good at picking up software quickly, which has helped a lot with my software sales jobs.”

“Most musicians never get commercial traction, and that’s OK because at the end of the day they’re still creatively expressing themselves and contributing to this world.  It’s not giving up; your relationship with music just changes.”

“If I ever want to to get my music out there, my sales experience has given me more of an ability to push my music to record labels.”


See the full index of Successful Berklee Grads.