Successful Berklee Alumni #128: Marcel Hamel

Marcel Hamel


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


Graduated in 2009 with a major in Performance.  Principal instrument:  bass guitar.


Position:  Implementation Engineer at Sailthru, a company specializing in marketing automation, for example, automatically sending follow-up emails when someone has browsed a product.  Marcel is one of two implementation engineers out of 200 employeees.  “Every time a new client comes on board, one of us is dedicated to wiring them up with our system and making sure everything is functioning properly.” He also does hands-on coding projects for his own company, often projects to improve the customer’s interface.


Overview:  Marcel toured with a theatrical show both before and after graduation.  But by 2010, tired of being on the road, he moved to New York to pursue his musical career.  He taught music, did some off-Broadway theater runs, and gigged, then did a 3-year tour with the Mama Mia! musical.  But he tried of being on the road, missing his family and hardly ever seeing his fiancee–also a performer.  Moving back to New York, he tried to re-connect with the local scene, but found his network had atrophied in his absence. “It was unpleasant. You leave and life goes on without you.”  However, he noticed that a lot of friends had done coding “boot camps” and getting good jobs that they liked.

Still gigging some, Marcel studied computers on his own for close to half a year, then did a 12-week boot camp at General Assembly.   Once the program was done, he did a bit of freelance programming work while looking for a full-time job.  It took him about 4 months of applying to get his current position, which had posted the opening on one of General Assembly’s job boards.


You can see Marcel’s LinkedIn profile here.


Choice Quotes:  “There’s a good amount of practical problem-solving in software development in general, and specifically what we do here.  Out software is, for better or worse, a living, breathing thing that’s updated all the time and changes features to suit each user.  It’s more than sitting down in front of a screen running tests over and over–it’s a very human, practical thing.”

“Migrating customers’ data into our system sounds simpler than it is–there are a million quirks that can show up–different system may handle data differently, have different parameters, etc.”

“Go out into the world and fail at a lot of things to figure out what you actually want to do. Embrace your position which is that you can accept a lot of risk without consequence.”

“Meeting so many musicians at Berklee and being forced to create something with them is very analogous to dealing with clients in my current job. It really puts you in a position to facilitate thing happening while working with people with all sorts of backgrounds and viewpoints.”

“It’s thankfully easy in 2018 to figure out if you have an aptitude for code. There are so many free resources which will teach you the basics. You can go to FreeCodeCamp or CodeAcademy. Go through a self-guided course. If that’s fun to you, you can go down that road and be in a really good place to start your journey into tech.”


See the full index of successful Berklee alumni.

Successful Berklee Alumni #127: Devon Frampton

Devon Frampton


Listen to the interview (approx. 46 min.) or download it.


Graduated in 2013 with majors in Performance and Music Business.  Principal instrument:  voice.


Position:  Assistant Public Defender in the Miami Dade County Office.  One of roughly 300 attorneys working for the county who represent those who can’t afford private legal help, Devon, as a first-year defender, handles misdemeanor cases–offenses which lead to less than a year in prison “from a simple battery to a DUI to criminal traffic violations such as driving with a suspended license.”  Devon deals with an average of around 180 cases at any one moment, around 10 of which she’s in court for on a given day.  Devon has done 6 trials since starting the job 9 months ago, ” Which is a lot for a new attorney–you can’t get so many trials as a new attorney, unless you’re a public defender or work in a DA office.”


Overview:  Devon started Berklee as a performance major, but double majored after her mother convinced her that business would be practical and help her understand her own contracts better.  She really enjoyed a contract negotiation class she took at Berklee, and found that interested her more than constantly performing.  After graduation, thinking about the life she wanted to lead (“I wanted a career and a family.  I didn’t want to be a gypsy in New York, waiting tables to make ends meet”), she decided to go to law school and pursue a career in entertainment law.  Working several different odds jobs during that first year, Devon researched law schools, took the LSATs, applied and got into the three schools she applied for, electing to go to the University of Miami Law School because she loved the city.

During her second year at law school, between a contract class and an internship, Devon realized that “Entertainment law is all about contracts, and I hate all the minutiae of contracts!”  She felt a bit lost, but the performance aspect of trials.  A professor invited her to join the school’s trial team.  Later, the trial team coach suggested that Devon look at the Miami Dade County public defender’s office.  During her last year at law school she started interning there–as a certified legal intern she could represent clients and do trials!–and within a few weeks she was accepted to work there once she finished law school in the spring of 2017 and took the bar exam. (Devon got a raise once she passed.)


You can see Devon’s LinkedIn profile here.


Choice Quotes:  “When I did my internship at the public defenders office I realized that not only could I be like a performer again, but I also could give back to the community and be a lawyer for people who don’t have a voice.  I feel so good helping people who can’t help themselves.”

“About 80% of my cases get dismissed. Witnesses don’t show up, we’ll have motions and have a chance to talk, and before the trial we’ll get to a dismissal or a conditional dismissal such the client attending an anger management course. The other 20% is either a plea or a trial–usual a plea. We’ll try to get the best deal for our clients, such as community service hours rather than cash fines because many are poor.”

I’ve never before had a job where I worked such long hours because I care and I like it!  If you’re passionate about helping people, want to do something different every day and not sit behind a desk and use those performance skills, this is a good option.

There’s a loan forgiveness program when you work in public service. Work 10 years and pay your minimum payment on time every month for 10 years and the remaining debt is forgiven. I’ve had private attorneys offer me a job, and I reply ‘No, not yet.’ because I have a lot more experience and autonomy working here. By staying in public service, I take a pay cut now but then can ask for more later.”

“I loved Berklee. I still consider myself a musician, and perform as often as I can. At first it was hard when I was thinking about this career.  People would say ‘You’re giving up after all that work?’ But I don’t feel that I’m giving up, just that I found the right path for me.  I’ve been able to use everything I learned at Berklee in my job now.”



See the full index of successful Berklee alumni.

Successful Berklee Alumni #126: Tara Comes

Tara Comes


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


Graduated in 2012 with a major in Music Business.  Principal instrument:  voice.


Position:  Account Manager at the NYC branch office of P.I. Global, a branding and visual agency that helps companies establish and promote brands for products, providing both the strategies and the imagery to use.  Tara “wears many hats” at this relatively small agency, communicating with clients, handling administrative details, reviewing strategies and design work and representing the clients’ perspective during meetings with her own company’s creative/design people.


Overview:  While at Berklee, Tara worked for Cornerstone Agency, a company that promote artists and helps them build their brands.  She worked on street teams and did online campaigns, including during her intenership with them in New York.  After her internship, Tara found herself very interested in branding, and sought a career in that.  Reaching out to a recruiter, she got a position at a company that designed and built props and displays for liquor companies, working mostly on the production end.  After a couple of years, she was ready to move on to a job with more creativity and opportunity.  She applied to many companies, and in relatively short time got a job with P.I. Global as a business development coordinator, doing a lot of market/client research.  But as part of Tara’s job she supported the Account Management Team, so when 1.5 years later a senior person on that team left Tara was promoted into that role.


You can see Tara’s LinkedIn profile here.


Choice Quotes:   “The way P.I. does branding is similar to music in some ways. I’t’s understanding the DNA of an emotion and what you want to communicate from an emotional perspective and how to bring that to life from a communicative perspective. You become a storyteller, bringing something new to the world. It’s gratifying when consumers gravitate to that. There’s an intimacy to that–understanding the market and being in tune to the ever-evolving world that we live in. I really enjoy it.”

“Something the Berklee community has is openness and a different kind of sensory understanding of our surroundings. This helped me perceive consumer behavior in a different way. take a step back, listen to something or see it or have an idea in mind, and create a sensory for it and create a world that people will understand.”

“A lot of people think they understand how to communciate a brand and brand themselves as artists, but until I worked at PI I never understood the DNA of waht it meant to do that properly.”

“If you want to be an account manager, you have to be very good with people.   Know that even when you’re right, the client is always going to have to be right. Understand when to push back, when to not. It’s really a job where you have to understand behavior patterns and people and have the stamina to be involved in very difficult situations.”

“Be grateful for the Berklee community. Use the community and keep those friends you make at Berklee close. There’s a bond you’ll always have, so cherish that.”



See the full index of successful Berklee alumni.

Successful Berklee Alumni #125: Mary Jarchow

Mary Jarchow


Listen to the interview (approx. 1 hr, 9 min.) or download it.


Graduated in 2008 with a major in Professional Music.  Principal instrument:  flute.


Position:  Associate Director of Development (front-line fundraising) at Colorado State University’s Engineering College.  Mary works very autonomously, data-mining for good prospective donors, setting up meetings, traveling and meeting them, and following-up.  She also helps with some events.  It’s a salaried position, which is the norm for non-profits, but she has to hit certain metrics in terms of both meetings and money brought in.

Overview:  While a student at Berklee, Mary write a paper for a Music Business class profiling financially successful symphonies, including the Boston Symphony Orchestra, which was published in Berklee’s Music Business journal and then republished in a Music Trade publication.  She also got some fundraising interhships during the summer in Colorado, and worked in Berklee’s development (fundraising) office.  That experience got her a telefundraising jobs at the BSO about six months after graduation (where she no longer had to “do the coffee shop thing”) where she worked for 9 months.  She did well, but missed Colorado, so moved back home. After a while, she applied and got a position doing fundraising work for a small music school, but that place wasn’t doing well financially, so a year later she was looking for a new position.  Mary felt that it made sense not to pigeonhole herself as an arts-and-music fundraiser, so applied more broadly and got a fundraising job with the United Way in early 2011.

Within 6 months it was clear that she didn’t want a career at the United Way, so Mary started systematically building her network–actively pursuing meetings and informational interviews.  About a year later, a recruiter reached out to her that she was recommended for a fundraising job at the University of Colorado to support their music school and arts programs.  A major bump in salary and impact, Mary had four great years there, though there was a lot of turnover and after 4 years she decided to leave and reevaluate whether she really wanted this as a career, working as a fundraising consultant in the interim.  She decided that this was what she wanted, and also wanted to stay in Colorado.  Hearding good things about Colorado State University, she reached out to them and met with someone who subsequently informed her about new positions and who to meet with before any job interview happened.  This led to her getting her current position when it opened up in early 2018.


You can see Mary’s LinedIn profile here.


Choice Quotes: “As a musician, I really enjoyed playing music with an interacting with other people. It carries over in fundraising. There’s a bit of direct crossover–a lot of the engineers I’m meeting were in marching band or have other music talent. That shared interest in music works to my advantage quite often.”

“When I work with someone to set up a scholarship endowment, a student recipient writes a letter to the donors–I keep a couple of copies of these heartwarming letters in my office. They’re really rewarding and remind me how important my job is. Often this scholarship makes the difference in letting them go to college.”

“My education at Berklee and experience as a musician taught me the value of listening, how to collaborate and negotiate with people.”

“I still play my flute, which I really enjoy.  Usually I’ll just put on some music and play along.  I’ve met so many people who say they used to play. I encourage people to get back on the horse. Music is a wonderful part of my life!”

“I encourage people to think about what they’re worth. Early on you have a lot of learning to do, but later you get to a point in your career and can point to your successes, there’s room to negotiate. A lot of people, especially women, just accept an offer right away.  Don’t do that–thank them and say you’ll look forward to considering their offer over the next couple of days.  Think how whether it’s in the salary range. Think if it’s in what you want, or if there are creative ways you can negotiate for more money or other benefits.”

“If you want to be in fundraising, the number one thing is to feel passionate about the mission!  Find an organization you really, truly are interested in. You’ll be doing many things in long hours for low pay.  But if you’re passionate about the mission, you can walk away thinking you have one of the best jobs in the world. The more you prove you can get visits with people and raise $ the more you will get noticed, promoted, and start to make a good living.”



See the full index of successful Berklee alumni.

Successful Berklee/BoCo Alumni #124: Dan O’Connor

Dan O’Connor


Listen to the interview (approx. 48 min.) or download it.


Graduated in 2009 from the Boston Conservatory with a major in Musical Theater.


Position:  Showroom manager at the New York (sales) office of Milliken & Co, a large, multi-national manufacturer of fabrics.  “Every day you touch about fifty products that his company makes.”  Dan manages the showroom for carpets, supporting salespeople working trade shows, and managing hosting little events to keep the clients–mainly architects and designers, entertained while helping them figure out what products meet their vision.  “I wear a lot of hats, but my day involves a lot of wine and cheese.”


Overview:  After graduating, Dan moved to New York City and pursued roles in musical theater.  For five years, Dan pursued musical theater roles, but his relative weakness with dancing limited led to many callbacks and previous few roles.  During this time, he worked many temporary jobs to make ends meet, often through a temp agency including at one point in 2013 managing a showroom which he found enjoyable.

By 2014, Dan felt that the musical theater career wasn’t happening and he wanted a career, so he listed out all of the things he liked about what he’d done and decided that he’d do well as an event planner.  He started building his own business while continuing to temp, but found it overwhelming.  A person he knew though an industry group introduced him to a different fabric company that needed a showroom manager, and Dan took that position in the fall of 2014.  Close to two years later, a recruiter reached out to Dan about his current position–a bit of an upgrade, so Dan interviewed and took it.


You can see Dan’s LinkedIn profile here.


Choice Quotes:  “It’s in the title ‘showroom manager’–there’s a show that happens. Sometimes I’m the director, sometimes I’m the stage manager setting props. When the client walks in, it’s showtime.  It’s not the easiest thing to meet someone for the first time and connect with them–that’s a skill.”

“One thing I really like about this job is the creative problem solving. An architect comes in and says ‘I want it to look cool,” but what does that mean?  Is that a color, the temperature, an attitude?  Helping them figure all that out and finding what matches their vision is a lot of fun.”

“It helps to do your research, put in the effort and become an expert in your field.  In my field, a lot of people don’t think about carpeting the way we think About it. It’s very complex. There’s a lot of science that goes into it–it’s more than just colors and patterns.” ”

“I’ve had ups and downs, but BoCo gave me a real sense of who I was and what I bring to the table, and I could roll with the punches.”

“Don’t compare yourself to other people.  Do what makes you happy, and you’ll find your way.’


See the full index of successful Berklee/BoCo alumni.