Successful Berklee Alumni #240: Kayla Spellenberg

Kayla Spellenberg
Listen to the interview or download it.

Graduated in 2022 with a major in Composition. Principal instrument: guitar.

Position: 2nd Lieutenant and Medevac Pilot-in-Training in the United States Army. Almost two years into her army service as an officer, Kalya started flight school in the fall of 2023 to learn to fly the Blackhawk helicopers in order to do medical evacuations. Between flight practice, academics, and studying, it’s a 70-hour week!

Overview: Unsure of how she could afford to attend Berklee, Kayla considered enlisting in the military before going to college. Then she discovered Army ROTC (Reserve Officer Training Corps), which would enable Kayla to afford Berklee, in exchange for some military activity while a student and then four years of service as an officer afterward. Berklee is affiliated with Northeastern University’s ROTC program and Kayla made it through, though she described the ROTC program as “like doing a second major”.

Two days after graduating, Kayla reported for duty and was commissioned as a medical administrative officer, assisting a physician. “I knew that to be a medevac pilot I’d need medical experience rather than go to flight school right away.” After some more schooling, the did that, then her boss supported her application to flight school. Flight school involves a ten-year commitment of service afterward, but she really wanted to fly.

In flight school, Kayla does a mix of flying, academics, and studying. As of the interview, she was learning on a training helicopter, then would go on to learn the Blackhawk.
You can see Kayla’s LinkedIn profile here.

Choice Quotes: “I know it sounds kind of crazy, but I enjoy how challenging this is! There’s something about getting through somethign really difficult, you build confidence and self-respect. It’s good life experience. I couldn’t go through life going ‘I wonder what would’ve happend if I’d made it through this.’ I like the challenge, the responsibility, knowing that when I’m at the controls of the helicopter I have the lives of several peole under my control.”

In the military, you can’t just say, ‘Hey, I don’t really like my job. I think I’m gonna quit.’ That’s not a thing. Probably there’s something you can do to transfer branches, but you still owe the time. I do know people who reverted to being enlisted or being a warrant officer.”

“Try as much as you can in different areas and careers would be the most helpful. Keep on exploring new passions. I tried many jobs. If I hadn’t struggled I wouldn’t be in the place I am now.”

“I guarantee that if you’ve put in all the time to make it to flight school, done all the tests and physical stuff to make it, you’ll enjoy it.”

“There’s worthwhile degrees and realistic degrees. Berklee was worthwhile; it fostered my creativity. You always need a plan if you’re going to have an arts degree. That’s just the way the world works now. That said, Berklee was an awesome experience and it helped me learn to work well with all types of people.”

“If you’re thinking about military service, find someone who’s been through it and take them wtih you to the recruiting office. They can help you navigate everything they’ll promise you. A recruiter’s goal is to get you to join. I almost joined before I realized that ROTC was a thing. Explore all options, get advice from people who have done it. Don’t make any rash decisions. It’s very difficult to get out if you don’t take the right job. Also, shop around. It doesn’t have to the army. Make sure your morals, ethics, job aligns with that organization.”





See the full index of successful Berklee alumni.