Successful Berklee Alumni #151: Joe Barnard

Joe Barnard

Listen to the interview (approx. 1 hr, 2 min.) or download it.


Graduated in 2014 with a major in Music Production & Engineering.  Principal instrument:  guitar.


Position:  Founder of Barnard Propulsion Systems, a.k.a., a company that builds and sells technologically sophisticated model rockets in kit form.  Unlike other model rockets, these ones steer not via fins, but by controlling the direction of thrust, just like real rockets do.  A typical rocket kit sells for around $300, but can be re-used with no engines which are under $20.  With the company currently a one-person operation, Joe’s current job is around 25% engineering and 75% running the business (communications, sales, and assembling kits).

Overview:  While at Berklee, Joe met Ben Meyers and was hired by his company, 21 Summit, where he shot many videos and weddings.  Joe spent more time doing video than audio by the time he was finishing Berklee, and he continued to work there until the summer of 2016 (2 years after graduation), then started his own video company, where he shot many music videos for Berklee through mid-2017.

However, in the fall of 2015 he got interested in  SpaceX, and figured a long-term goal was to get a job there.  Knowing that his current experience was inadequate to get a job there, Joe purchased many (expensive!) rocketry textbooks, and spent all of his spare time reading and building rockets “The best way I learn is through experience and experimentation.”   In March 2017 he figured out his current product.  He moved to Nashville that fall, did a few last videos for money, then was able to refine his product and go full-time with his business in early 2018.

You can see Joe’s LinkedIn profile here, but the best way to see what he’s up to is by looking at his company website,


Choice Quotes: “I definitely prefer being an entrepreneur. The original goal was to get a job at SpaceX. I’ve succeeded by that measure, as SpaceX and other companies have reached out to me and made offers, but it never felt like the right time. My goal at this point is to see how far I can take the business.”

“A year ago there was no market for what I sell–therefore we’ve had many articles written about us which means we’ve had marketing for very little effort.”

“The thing you learn at Berklee is you get out what you put in. If you just show up at class and do the minimum you won’t an education worth what you paid. But if you talk to professors, network with musicians in class,, do extra, you get the value. Running a business is like that. You can’t do nothing and all the stuff you have to do you have to set your own goals for–nobody gives you a deadline. ”

“Finding out what you want to do–if it isn’t music–is even more scary when you have a Berklee degree, which is really specialized.   I’m so glad I went to Berklee and still don’t think I’d change it, but acknowledging it is scary. I’ve heard if you don’t know what you want to do, do a job you don’t love. I really didn’t love shooting weddings–it was so clear to me that I’d rather do rocket work.”


One of Joe’s inventions. “My job changes really quickly–that’s what’s exciting. I do love what I do, but I have to constantly make sure I’m focusing on the right things so that I do continue to love it. It’s too easy because you’re spending time on what you don’t love–reading regulations, handling returns, which is monotonous. But if I can spend 30% of the time on what I love I call that worth it.”





A rocket in action. “I did an analysis of model industries: trains, etc. Most hobbyists care less about speed and performance than about things being as realistic as possible in both look and function.  Fin-guided rockets have to launch super fast, but real ones start off slowly–and majestic looking. The type of system I developed achieves a slow lift-off, just like the real thing. This opens up a whole new section of the hobby.”






Joe with a friend. “Although I didn’t do it, if you’re starting a company have at least one other person to work with. You won’t have all the strengths and it’s SO hard to start a business, especially during the first few years. You’ll want someone there to go through the experience. . I moved to Nashville because I knew it would be hard, so wanted to be around friends–that’s really important.




See the full index of successful Berklee alumni.

Successful Berklee Alumni #150: Rob Castellano

Rob Castellano


Listen to the interview (approx. 1 hr, 19 min) or download it.


Graduated in 2014 with a major in Music Business.  Principal instrument:  guitar.


Position:  Technical Writer (officially “Technical Communications Consultant”) at U.S. Bank, a large national-level bank with over 3,000 branches, Rob being one of several hundred people working at their corporate headquarters in Minneapolis.  Working as part of the Retail Business Lines (mostly home mortgages) Team, Rob is in charge of Closings manual used company-wide.   All documents are updated regularly to stay in-line with federal requirements as well as company procedures and changes to the software.   Rob also reviews older documents to make sure the information all remains accurate and relevant.

Overview:  Rob’s initial plan for after graduating was to be a tour manager by day and play in a band in the off-hours.  But he quickly discovered that tour managers’ hours were long and variable, so he couldn’t do both.  He moved home to Minneapolis and looked for music-jobs, getting  a part-time job teaching guitar, and looked for a 9-5 job in the entertainment industry, later broadening his search in order to find something.  His now-fiancee knew someone at a technical staffing firm, which considered his music background a plus, and Rob worked there for just over 6 months before getting laid off.

Rob went to a temp. agency, which placed him in an entry-level position at Wells Fargo Bank as a “loan document specialist” dealing with loan paperwork after closings.  After 4 months he was hired full-time and transferred to a different team.  Finding himself without enough work to do, Rob asked his boss for another way he could be useful, and this boss suggested that he create some documents for newly hired employees that describe various processes.  He shadowed employees being trained, and started to sense that technical writing could be a good career path.  By early 2018 he was looking for the next step up, and got in touch with a recruiter, while also doing a part-time coding boot camp in his off hours.  The recruiter put him in touch with U.S. Bank, where his experience made him an extremely good fit for his current job.


You can see Rob’s LinkedIn profile here.


Choice Quotes:   “I think the biggest thing I enjoy about my job is knowing the work I put in is helping people in real time. U.S. Bank has a great work culture in general and is very customer-focused. People always think about how thing affect customers. Even things that seem mundane have a meaning to them because it directly impacts customers and carries through that mission”

“Even a few years ago I wasn’t aware that this job was something I could do with my life.”

“One of the things I got from Berklee and have applied directly is scheduling and holding myself accountable.  When you’re performing, you either put in the work or you don’t, but that once/week when you see that professor you’ll deliver or you won’t. That skills set has served me well. Everything is deadline/project based.  Also, having a writing-intensive minor–I minored in History–if you can make that work i’d absolutely recommend it. Language skills are key in the real world. So many non-music jobs want effective communicators. Honing my writing and researching skills at Berklee was really key.”

“Persistence is key.  Recognize that cliché that there’s no such thing as an overnight success. There’s a log of really hard, unglamorous work that goes into a developing a career. Even if you’re not working in music, don’t get discouraged–it’s usually not a straight path, so just hang in there and keep at it.

“One nice thing about tech writing is you have people from different backgrounds and that’s considered a strength. If you’re interested, build that skill in a role you currently have–even do some sort of skill share, or work on classes to develop those skills. A lot of tech writing is communicating in a clear and succinct manner. Even in the music industry there are these roles.”



See the full index of successful Berklee alumni.


Successful Berklee Alumni #149: Angela Miller

Angela Miller


Listen to the interview (approx. 1 hr, 25 min.) or download it.


Graduated in 2011 with majors in Film Scoring and Composition.  Principal instrument:  piano.


Position:  Advertising Copywriter for Cineplex, Canada’s largest entertainment company with over 150 movie theaters, many of which feature video arcades, recreation rooms, and other forms of entertainment.  The company’s one full-time copywriter, Angela writes the words for its advertising as well as gives context for how those words are presented.  Most ads are about the services Cineplex offers that can make the experience better; for example, an option to buy a movie after seeing it, or promoting a VIP lounge and its new menu. She also writes the email newsletter to subscribers.


Overview:  Finishing Berklee in the summer of 2011 after nine straight semesters, Angela was feeling burned out.  She moved in with her father in Toronto, figuring at least she’d get free health care, and started networking and looking for film scoring work.  She got plenty of offers to work for free, and not much else.  After a couple of months she broadened her job search to arts/culture in general, applied, and got a job as a receptionist/administrative assistant at a communications firm.  Feeling creatively stifled, Angela started writing memos in verse and soon their copywriter unofficially took her under his wing, and she found the work very enjoyable.  By the summer of 2013 she was offered a promotion to a higher level administrative position, but Angela chose instead to enroll in a one-year Certificate in Advertising Copywriting Program at Humber College in Toronto and phased out her work with this company.

Angela did well in school, being part of a team that won an advertising competition, but finding a job afterward was a struggle–she spent the next year doing two low-paid internships at small agencies followed by a 7-month job and another layoff, followed by another job which ended up being more community relations than copywriting.  Angela also realized after a year that she was being paid considerably less than her colleagues and she started to reach out to recruiters in search of new opportunities.  One of them connected her with Cineplex, which was looking to hire its first full-time copywriter.  Angela got her current job in August, 2017.


You can see Angela’s LinkedIn profile here.   Also, she has a professional website,


Choice Quotes:  “My job is not just being a writer. It’s everything from brainstorming to big-picture thinking. I’ll art direct when words have nothing to do with it. What’s cool about working for Cineplex is there are so many different branches and products that it feels like being an agency.”

“I just really love to get to play with words–that’s my job. I’ve always been a writer–deviated into writing music a bit. I love being able to try to find way to say things in a new, fresh way, and to try to create an emotional response in people. I also love the independence in my job.”

“A lot of our work goes to the top and Cineplex is a large, publicly-traded company. We have to treat our clients like ‘real’ clients, even though we all work for the same company.  Only sending one option to a client is a worst-case scenario. If it’s something really important I’ll sent up to ten.”

“At my Opening Day at Berklee, President Roger Brown asked folks who was there to network, then when hands went up he said that that was the wrong answer–you’re there to make friends, not just ‘network’. Friends are the people you can call and ask a favor of.  I don’t know what other school would’ve taught networking so well. You also just meet people at Berklee and end up chatting or working with them.  Those skills really helped me with my career.”

“The worst thing you can do is get stuck in a career you’re not that passionate about. Listen to your heart.  Also, know your value and don’t settle.  Make sure you’re getting paid what you deserve and check in with colleagues. Don’t tolerate a boss that isn’t good to you. You have to live your life and you don’t owe a bad workplace anything.”




Angela during her Berklee days.  “Writing is writing. My Composition and Film Scoring classes really pushed us. John Meyer said to us at a clinic, ‘You have to write a lot of crap to write something good.’ and that holds true in advertising.  At Berklee I learned to push, fight, dig, keep going until you have the gem.”


Angela’s current job sometimes still involves recording.  Here she’s in a studio to direct a commercial she wrote.   “Berklee costs a lot of money, but don’t think that just because you poured so much into it that music is what you have to do for the rest of your life. You can do something else and still be successful, rewarded, and happy.  You’re still using your Berklee degree, finding ways you never realized that it can serve you.”




See the full index of successful Berklee alumni.

Successful Berklee Alumni #148: Julian Lenz

Julian Lenz


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


Graduated in 2016 with a major in Electronic Production & Design.  Principal instrument:  cello.


Position:  Account Manager at, a multinational company whose website is used by people to book hotel rooms.   Julian’s spends close to half his time on the road, meeting with managers of hotels in his territory to keep the business partnerships functioning well and ideally expanding.  The rest of his time is spent doing “spreadsheet stuff” — analyzing data, planning, preparing, and reporting; with some meetings, management, and assisting other offices.


Overview:  Julian planned to go to L.A. after graduation to do music, but spent the summer in the D.C. area where his girlfriend had an internship.  Then his girlfriend’s internship turned into a job and at the same time he got the letter that his student loans were coming due, and he was skeptical that he could earn enough money to cover that while doing music.  Julian elected to stay in the DC area and looked for a job, getting one in January 2017 in real estate, doing apartment rentals.

Julian did not particularly enjoy that job and by the late summer was actively looking for something else, but without success.  Then one day in the fall of 2017 he rented an apartment to a women who was very impressed by his demeanor and helpful attitude.  She told him that she was moving to the area to manage the local office of and offered him his current job.



You can see Julian’s LinkedIn profile here.


Choice Quotes:  “I enjoy the travel–everyone my age says they want to travel.  I also appreciate the company culture–the mutual support, but also it’s a multi-billion $ company that still acts like a startup: super colorful, open office environment, people always joking with each other, an annual big party in Amsterdam. puts real effort into making it fun and inviting to people of all races, ages, etc. That makes a big difference to me.”

“Every meeting is different. Each person is a different character. I might meet with a hotel revenue manager in a suit and tie who spends 7 hours/day looking at spreadsheets and it’s all about the data and we have a short meeting. I have a few suggestions, they have a few questions, we look over it together and we’re done. We also work with people at smaller hotels who are manager, revenue manager, and front desk all in one. Those are more relationship-driven and we might spend 25 minutes on small chat then talk about a couple of action ideas. Before I meet people I audit the property for a couple of hours: how has the property been doing recently, how will it be doing in the near future, and how do they stack up to their local competitors.”

“At Berklee I mastered the concept of breaking things into sub-components and preparation in general. Berklee works you hard, but teaches you the arts of prioritizing and preparing. Whether that”s breaking a difficult passage into a series of scales and patters, or a difficult recording project where you spend 3 days knowing how every microphone and ever piece of equipment will fit into the one-hour recording. That stayed with me. I see the process of preparing a meeting with a partner, or a meeting witha hospitality group, or a presentation. I’m able to do those with the same mindset that I did my projects at Berklee.”

“One of those decisions that made me do this was my student debt. November 2016 I was $32,000 in debt. I’ve been paying it off with my bonuses and commissions and it will be entirely gone in January or February of 2019!  Student debt sucks, but if you’re financially resourceful, you can get out quickly.”

“Always try to be the best person you can be, because you never know when opportunity is going to strike. I really didn’t like the (apartment rental) job I was in, but as you know if you feel that way it’s so easy to convey that to other people and to seem disgruntled or negative. If I’d carried that weight while I was with (my now-boss) she would’ve picked up on that and ironically I’d still be there renting apartments.”



See the full index of successful Berklee alumni.

Successful Berklee Alumni #147: Criss Burki

Criss Burki


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


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


Position:  Social Media and Content Strategies (Community Relations Manager) at Pocket Gems, a gaming company which creates multiple app-based games and has roughly 300 employees.  Criss’s domain is the fantasy player-vs.-player wargame War Dragons.   She wears many hats:  moderating the forum on the website, answering player questions, creating “announcement assets” such as photos of new dragons, and announcing new content and news on various media channels.  Criss also works with the events and development teams, hosts  live chats several times each week, does a bit of play testing, and writes all blog posts.


Overview:  Criss was an avid video gamer growing up, and as a student was the director of the Berklee Video Game Choir.  She also did several internships, including one as a public relations manager for a small video game developer.  In her last semester, someone she knew from the Video Game Choir connected Criss with Harmonix, a Cambridge-based company that does music-based video games.  She got an internship as a community relations manager, which turned into a full-time job after graduating in December of 2014.

Criss worked at Harmonix for two and a half years, then got laid off and moved to San Francisco with her partner who got a job there.   Chriss started looking for video-game related jobs.  A friend who worked at helped her get a temporary job setting up their gaming convention Twitchcon 2017, while she interviewed and was hired by Pocket Gems right after the convention happened.  Initially hired to be the community relations manager for a game which had not yet been put out, Criss was shifted over to the popular War Dragons game after a month when the previous person left.


You can see Criss’s LinkedIn profile here.


Choice Quotes:  “Being a gamer, I am so passionate just about seeing other gamers have the best success they can with the game and truly enjoy it. I love being part of this community.   Also, I’m an extrovert. I enjoy meeting people and talking to people and learning about people. That really helps in a community relations position.”

“If you’re passionate about video games like I am, there are so many aspects of video game development you can go into.  You can be a designer, an artist, a sound engineer, a QA lead, a marketer. All these contribute to the same product. There’s probably something within those that could work for you. As you work in it, you can figure out what does and does not work for you.”

“If you want a public/community relations job, definitely understand how you approach people. The conversations you have and the relationships you make are crucial to the PR role.  Definitely evaluate how you communicate with strangers. You want them to be engaged in what you’re doing and what you’re providing. Not in a slimy way, but it really is about forging relationships. Will people feel more inclined to do what you ultimately want them to do, or will they decide it wasn’t a good experience? You only get that one shot to make a good impression.”



Criss at Harmonix.  “It felt a little weird for music not be part of my full time career, but when it came down to what I was doing at Harmonix, only a little part of that was music and my main job was social media and community work. At the end of the day, my transferable skills were more applicable to other games than to other areas of music.



Criss’s business card.  “The Music Business major definitely helped me in my career, especially understanding a brand, and understanding how to market yourself.  At Berklee it’s as a musician, but it applies more broadly. Understanding your strengths and being able to articulate those for potential employers.”



Criss in a reflective moment.  “It’s hard–you’re so fresh out of the gate after college. But trust yourself and understand that if something feels good and you want to pursue it more, go for it! Try things out and see what you like and pursue that. Or at least you’ll figure out what you don’t like and will want to steer away from. ”






See the full index of successful Berklee alumni.

Successful Berklee Alumni #146: Kevin Orlando

Kevin Orlando


Listen to the interview (approx. 49 min.) or download it.


Graduated in 2014 with majors in Music Production & Engineering and Music Business.  Principal instrument:  guitar.


Position:  Software Engineer (official rank:  “Associate Software Engineer” — essentially the middle level) at Red Ventures, marketing firm which builds interactive websites for other companies, mainly very large ones.  Kevin is one of 200-300 engineers at this 2,000-person firm, and is one of a half-dozen engineers on the 20-person “Product Team.”  He mostly does back end programming, building databases and APIs.


Overview:  After graduation, Kevin moved home to Charlotte, NC.  His initial plan was a get a masters degree and he took classes at a community college that fall, but by the end of 2014 decided he’d rather work.  He scoured Indeed, applied and got a job with Mood Media (formerly “Muzak”):  initially an administrative-type job, but in the spring of 2016 he was promoted to design engineer, designing speaker layouts, wiring diagrams, etc.  The job was good, but it was a 90-minute commute each way, which grew tiresome.

Meanwhile, in early 2015 Kevin decided on a whim to learn coding, taking free online courses at Codecademy, Udacity, etc.  “I don’t know why I started it. It just sort of happened. Someone told me about it and showed me what they did and I just started doing it and never stopped.”  Spending nearly all of his spare time developing his coding skills, by the middle of 2016 Kevin felt ready to look for a job.  It took a while, but in December, 2016 he was hired by his current company as a Quality Assurance (“QA”) engineer.   In February, 2018 Kevin was promoted into his current role.


You can see Kevin’s LinkedIn profile here.


Choice Quotes:  “I don’t want to say I replaced music with programming, but it has that same kind of feeling to me. It’s easy to get lost–code for 3-4 hours and not really care about anything else.  Also, like guitar, you can always get better–there’s always something to learn.”

“I have a logical, problem-solving mind, and there’s always that problem to solve or way to make something better. That’s just kind of natural for me.”

“It wasn’t easy to move into full engineering from QA. I made friends with a lot of engineers and worked my butt off and kept taking online classes. At least I’d see them and know what I needed to know.”

“Berklee was a tough school in general, and with two majors I was always busy. It turned me into a really good worker and a really good learner. I used those entrepreneurial skills to better myself. and got really into just learning.”

“In your career path, don’t be afraid to say no. Pick things that you want to do and really excel and don’t just do a bunch of things that you won’t do well.  Also, don’t pick a career because you think it’s going to make you a lot of money. Pick something you’re good at and have an advantage and can enjoy doing.”


See the full index of successful Berklee alumni.

Successful Berklee Alumni #145: Lucy Patterson

Lucy Patterson


Listen to the interview (approx. 31 min.) or download it.


Graduated in 2017 with a major in Film Scoring.  Principal instrument:  voice.


Position:  Technical Recruiter at Elevano, a small technology staffing company based in Orange County, California, that specializes in finding computer programmers with the right skill sets to fill open positions at companies.  Recruiters receive territories and programming languages to focus on:  Lucy’s are the San Francisco Bay Area, and Java/Javascript.  She finds new developers, touches base with the ones she knows in case they want a new opportunity, and also sees if corporations are interested in working with Elevano.

Overview:  Lucy made money as a waitress while a Berklee student.  After finishing Berklee in August, 2017, Lucy moved home with her parents.  She waited tables while looking for film scoring work.  An advertising agency she had been working with sent her some projects, but not nearly enough to support herself, and she wasn’t interested in doing a long, unpaid internship   So by the end of the year Lucy had created a profile on Indeed, looking for marketing jobs.  Almost immediately after making that profile her boss now-boss reached out to her with an opportunity to work at Elevano.  “It was very bizarre to get recruited, but my boss was looking for something particular. He liked servers because we’re fast & determined. I also had a high GPA. he found Berklee interesting.”


You can see Lucy’s LinkedIn profile here.


Choice Quotes:  “I didn’t have a background in recruiting, but my boss hired me because he saw I had the personality to do this job. I’m determined and like winning–I’m the type to go after something and not stop until I get it.  That’s why this is a good job for me and I enjoy it.”

“Technical recruiting is a happy mix of sales and marketing. Like sales, you have to turn your head and get to the next thing and not waste time dwelling on something you can’t effect.”

“Training at Elevano is you start doing your job and they watch and follow you through the entire process and will tell if you if you’re doing it wrong. I was happy to jump in and do it that way–I got better fast.”

“My first day at the job I felt totally in over my head with all the lingo and technical terms everyone was using where I had no idea, but you learn by hearing it. It”s like speaking a language. I caugth on pretty quickly.”

“I graduated Berklee early and the film-scoring major isn’t a piece of cake. I didn’t know much about music theory and had to catch up really fast.  At Berklee I’d watch those who are the most successful and see what they’re doing differently and I’d try to do the same thing. I’ve done that in my job: being persistent, being determined, working hard and that would lead to being successful.”

“Of course we all have a passion and a love for music. If you’re thinking about a non-music career, don’t let that passion for music completely disappear. Keep it going, even if it’s just keep singing in the shower. I don’t have guitar calluses on my fingers, but I take any freelance scoring gig that comes along.  Even when I’m not doing a paying gig, I write music for fun so as to not get rusty.”



See the full index of successful Berklee alumni.

Successful Berklee/BoCo Alumni #144: Kelly Martin

Kelly Martin

Photo by Kelly Elaine Photo


Listen to the interview (approx. 56 min.) or download it.


Graduated in 2011 from the Boston Conservatory with a major in Musical Theater.


Position:  Interior Designer, the sole proprietor of her own Interior Design company, Kelly Martin Interiors.  Her company focuses on design for residences, middle to high-end, doing jobs ranging from full houses down to a single large bookcase.  While most work is done locally in L.A., the business also has an E-design component.  “She’s also launched an E-design part of the business , “All I need are dimensions and photos of the space and I can design for anywhere!  I’ve got clients in Boston, New York, Pennsylvania, and even someone in Pakistan.”  As a sole-proprietor, she handles all the administrative parts of the job as well as the creative aspects.


Overview:  Kelly’s family were bit Do-It-Yourselfers, and she became handy with tools while still a kid.  She also started performing at a young age, but by the time she was finishing up at BoCo she suspected she wanted a different career.  But she signed with an agent and went to New York after graduation.  Seven frustrating months later, she left New York and moved to L.A. where her then-boyfriend was living.  She worked many odd jobs during the first few months, then her skill with tools led to her spending a year working for a design build company, constructing high-end showroom sets.  It paid well, but was part time with variable hours.  A friend of a friend then got her a job as a production assistant for a home decorating TV show.  While working there, the show’s designer noticed that Kelly was good at design work, and she became his de facto assistant.  By the fall of 2012, the designer offered to set Kelly up with a job in either carpentry or interior design–she chose interior design.  One phone call, and she had a part-time job as a designer’s assistant.

Over the next few years, Kelly worked a series of interior design assistant jobs, mostly full time, at both large and small firms, getting great experience.  In 2014 she started Kelly Martin Interiors as a side thing while still working full-time, not sure if anything would come of it, but gradually she built up her reputation and clientele, so by late 2016 she was able to stop working for others and be on her own full-time.


You can see Kelly’s LinkedIn profile here.


Choice Quotes:    “Being self-employed, I get to make the decisions and don’t have to answer anyone else (With clients a collaboration, not someone telling me what to do).   Plus working on your own is how you make decent money in this field.  I do an hourly rate plus a commission on the goods I sell when I furnish a place.”

“After everything (furniture, etc.) is ordered it becomes a project management position and just making sure it all flows smoothly. I hate to say it, but my job is roughly 30% creative and 70% business.”

BoCo was really good at getting us to dip our toes in all aspects of musical theater:  performance, but also directing, production, and management, plus performance.  When I put together a show it was all about how it looked and she started to realize how I’m a very visual person.”

“I get most clients through word-of-mouth, but others find me through social media– mostly Instagram–plus some specialty design websites.”

“If you want to work in interior design, figure out a way to get a job in the field in some capacity, whether as a salesperson or an assistant or even doing receptionist/admin. work. Learn the ins and outs of the industry from whatever job you can get.  The design industry is forever growing and changing and there are always opportunities to move up.”



Kelly working on a project (photo by Meghan Bob Photography).  “I love the hands-on nature of my job. Even at BoCo I’d take classes at the MFA museum school, painting and art. I like getting my hands dirty. I’ve done carpentry and woodworking, and love watching the construction. It’s really cool to formulate an idea then, work with people to see it come to life.”



See the full index of successful Berklee/BoCo alumni

Successful Berklee Alumni #143: Dylan Nelson

Dylan Nelson


Listen to the interview (approx. 1 hr, 2 min.) or download it.


Graduated in 2014 with a major in Music Production & Engineering.  Principal instrument:  guitar.


Position:  Territory Manager (Sales).  Dylan works for an insurance company where he sells franchises.  He reaches out to people, typically those who work in the industry, in his geographical territory and encourages them to invest their time and money to open a franchise affiliated with this company.  There’s a base salary, but most of his pay is commission and bonus-based.

Overview:  While at Berklee, Dylan really wanted to work at a specific high-end rock studio in L.A., figuring he’d start as a runner and work his way up.  He did exactly that after graduation, getting a job there and becoming a de-facto assistant engineer after a year and a half.  However, he continued to be paid minimum wage and gradually grew to hate the long and unpredictable hours, feeling he had no life outside the studio.  One day in late 2016 Dylan was relaxing at the beach with friends and he got a call to come in right away to work with a famous rap artist and he expressed his unhappiness to his friends, who suggested that if engineering for a super-famous rap artist wasn’t making him happy, maybe he should find another career.

Dylan considered different options, and decided that sales was the best path toward what he wanted–he had family in sales and knew that it could provide excellent income.  Being from Texas and aware that it was booming economically, he searched online for sales jobs there.  Dylan found his current company and convinced them to give him a chance; he moved out there and started working at his current job in the spring of 2017.


Choice Quotes:  “I like the feeling of success when you finally make that sale that you’ve been working really hard at and you see it come to fruition and it’s really rewarding. A lot of the people I work with are middle-aged and have kids and it’s rewarding to help them put their life in a better position. Also the money is good–I got out of music because I wanted to be financially comfortable, buy a house, have a retirement, etc.”

“Even in the studio I was always very buttoned up and professional. There were no bad habits to unlearn.   But I was still surprised very quickly how hard/stressful sales could be. You make a lot of money in sales, but you’re working really hard. It’s a skill which you can have or not, but he equalizer is hard work.”

“When I left the studio for the job, every single person at work and all my acquaintances thought I was crazy–the looks some people gave me!  But my closest friends were like ‘Dude, do it.'”.

“At Berklee I got to interact with many different people–all the international students and those with different backgrounds. You get out of the box of your hometown and see the world through other people’s eyes, which in sales is an experience worth its weight in gold.”

“When interviewing for this job, I sold myself by saying, ‘When I was in the studio working on projects I was working with egotistical whack-jobs doing the most important project in their life. Being in a windowless small room with these people you learn a lot about relating and working with people. Selling franchises is the same thing. I’ve got to help them through this hugely important process without stepping on their toes. It’s a jump, but I want to win and I’m ready to start making some money.'”



See the full index of successful Berklee alumni.

Successful Berklee Alumni #142: Michael Ranieri

Michael Ranieri


Listen to the interview (approx. 49 min.) or download it.


Graduated in 2010 with a major in Music Business.  Principal Instrument:  guitar.

Position:  Registered Nurse in the acute psychiatric care wing of Cooley Dickinson Hospital, a community hospital in Northampton, Massachusetts which treats many different medical conditions.  Here’s the primary contact person for 7 patients, who typically are there for less than two weeks.  He does a medical status assessment on each patient, “charts” their progress (enterins the data) and makes sure each patient is OK and takes whatever medicine is needed.  He’ll also suggest treatment options to the doctor or team.  He’s currently working part time (24 hours/week), but the pay is good.   He could work more hours if he wanted to, but has a small child at the moment.

Overview:  After finishing Berklee at the end of 2010, Michael moved home (Connecticut) after graduation, and sold guitars at Sam Ashe while teaching guitar a bit on the side.  In the fall of 2011, though a temp. agency he got a job as a substitute teacher in the public elementary schools.  Michael wanted to profession in which he helped people.  He considered getting his M.Ed. and becoming a classroom teacher, but noticed that it was hard to get a job and was scared of ending up unemployed.  Many members of his family, including his then-girlfriend (now wife) worked in medicine, and that seemed like a safe way to earn a good income, so in the fall of 2012 he started taking prerequisites to go to Nursing school.  His wife finished Optometry school and got a job in  Northamption, so they moved up there in the fall of 2013.  Paperwork issues delayed his enrollment in nursing school for a year, but he was able to spend the year working at a special ed. teacher’s assistant, experience which proved relevant to his current job.

September 2014 Michael entered the Accelerated Second Bachelors Degree in Nursing program at Elms College.   He got good grades, and graduating in the spring of 2016, got his license in July, and started looking for hospital-based jobs, sending out over 100 applications.  Finally in November, his third interview led to a job at Cooley Dickinson hospital, working the night shift in the medical/surgical unit.  Michael liked his job, but really didn’t like working nights as he rarely saw his then-pregnant wife, so when a daytime position opened up in the psychiatric wing he took it.


You can see Michael’s LinkedIn profile here.


Choice Quotes:

“As a psychiatric nurse you get to know the patients on a very deep, personal level often. They share their deepest, darkest secrets–abuse, trauma history. Often the people are readmitted.  It’s often a chronic thing, like diabetes, you’re just trying to keep the symptoms under control and help people live with it.”

“I really like the interactions with patients and my colleagues. This is huge: I get along really well with your bosses–that’s important anywhere no matter where you work. I also really like psychopharmacology, learning about the medications and how they work.”

“Those first few weeks as a nurse are hard. You learn knowledge at school,and you need it, but then you do it and you feel a lot of pressure and no school was enough preparation.”You learn to grow up and be independent very quickly!”

“You always have options–don’t feel that your Berklee degree limits what you can do. Just the name “Berklee” will help you stand out — it definitely helped me as I was applying to nursing jobs.


Michael as a Berklee student.  “To be a good musician you have to be disciplined–same as being a good nurse or student. It took real commitment to finish Berklee’s program, and similar commitment to do a nursing program.”

“I still practice to keep my chops up. Music is ingrained in me, but these days it’s more a hobby than anything else.”





 Michael with his son and “Santa.”  “If you want to continually learn and grow as a person, the medical field is great!  Nursing is a good career choice because you don’t have to go back to school for 8 years–you can do it as an adult learner.”





See the full index of successful Berklee alumni.