Successful Berklee Alumni #79: John Sauer

John Sauer

Listen to the interview (approx. 1 hr, 13 min.) or download it.


Graduated in 2007 with a degree in Jazz Composition.  Principal instrument:  trumpet.


Position:  Software Administrator (official title:  Director of Advancement Services) at MassART (Massachusetts College of Art and Design)  John is the one “techie” working for their office of Institutional Advancement department, which raises money, puts on events, and keeps in touch with alumni.  His roles involve helping people there do what they need to do with the databases and developing new functionality.


Overview:  While still in high school, John was programming his graphing calculator to solve equations.  He considered going to school for computer science, but elected to attend Berklee as he figured tech skills would be easier to pick up later.  While at Berklee, he taught himself more technology on his own time, and was a student employee at Berklee’s learning center, where he developed greatly improved software for internal use.  After graduated, he was hired as a very-part-time contractor to build software for Berklee’s Office of institutional development.  Meanwhile, he searched for a full-time job, initially in either music or high-tech, but broadening the search as the weeks rolled by.

By August he got a job with a small company that made medical software, but he didn’t like the job very much, as the pay was mediocre, the commute was long, and he was very unfamiliar with medical terminology.  However, in the spring of 2008 the person who had hired him for that project created a full-time position and urged John to apply for it, which he did and go the job.  John stayed at Berklee for almost 6 years, getting promoted to asst. director of tech in that office.  In early 2014 one of his bosses went to work for MassART and realized that they needed more tech expertise, so she reached out to him to come to MassART.  It involved a raise and a promotion, so he took the job.

You can see John’s LinkedIn profile here.


Choice Quotes:   “In my experience a degree in a field isn’t as many points on a resume as you mght thing. At least in tech, it’s more about what you can do. What got me hired was a doing a ‘passion project,’ which I strongly recommend. You pick up skills that you got to make it happen, show you’re into it (unlike a required school project), and have something to show off.”


“A good indicator of what someone is passionate about is what they do in their free time. As a Berklee student my free time was spent playing video games, learning about tech/programming, and composing/jamming.”

“I have been doing answers on Stack Overflow, partly for my own benefit as I’d see questions whose answers I’d want to know, and I enjoy the challenge of figuring things out. It’s great I spend half an hour on a question, post an answer check back in a little bit later and 50 people have upvoted my answer.  To get hired, be able to demonstrate that you have the relevant skills. With tech it’s your own project or website or (like me) a score of 4000 on Stack Overflow.”


John as a Berklee student, playing his trumpet.  “At Berklee you have to perform and put yourself out there and show what you can do. That build confidence that I’d get better at something and that made me a better speaker all-around.”







John with his son.  Reflecting on his Berklee experience, he say, “I love that I have this deeper understanding of what goes into music. I can hear something and analyze & appreciate it. I could still be composing, but with my son and another on the way that’s not what’s going to improve my life the most right now.”










See the full index of Successful Berklee Grads.