Successful Berklee Alumni #10: Dan Thompson

Dan Thompson

Dan Thompson

(Near the end of the interview, we got cut off, so it’s in 2 parts.)  Download part 1 and part 2.

Graduated in 2010 with a major in Music Business (entrepreneur track).  Principal instrument:  guitar.

Position:  Senior data analyst at Nexant.   Dan designs, helps implements, and writes software code to analyze experiments to help utilities reduce energy usage by customers.

Overview:  Even before he graduated Berklee, Dan knew he was interested in policy.  He was living in New York, splitting his time between his Music Business internship doing publicity and political volunteering.  His internship  got him the experience to get a paid internship at Demos, doing communications.  That led to a paid half-time job with the same place 6 months later, while the other half of the time he helped with a socially-responsible investment fund.  However, Dan realized that to have a larger impact and advance his career he needed more technical knowledge.  Dan went to UC-Berkeley to get a Masters in Public Policy, and graduated in May, 2014.  While there, he found he really enjoyed statistics, so sought a job in that direction, getting his current position after reaching out to a alumni from his graduate program who worked at Nexant.

Choice quotes:  “Berklee’s environment honed my interest in creative problem solving.  I come at it from a more curious place.  It’s something I enjoy.   I go home and read statistics textbooks the way some guitarists go home & shred in the evening.  Most folks don’t learn the habits of treating work as a 24/7 lifestyle, but a musician can understand.”

Reach out to alumni!!!  It can feel like ‘Why would someone want to help me?  I’m just an unknown 22 year old.’   But the truth is often all it takes is you putting yourself out there.  Go understand what are people doing that have your interest and skill set. The first 3, 4, 5 people it may not go well as you don’t know what to say, but as you talk to more people you’ll be introduced to others, you’ll have learned the language..and you’ll be better prepared to impress people and land a job.”


See the full index of successful Berklee alumni.


Successful Berklee Alumni #9: Matt Clear

Matt Clear

Graduated in 2010 with a major in Music Production and Engineering (MP&E).  Principal instrument:  Voice.

Position:  Customer Success Manager at Pitchbook Data.  Matt finds, trains, and maintains clients for a “Google for venture capital” business.  He earns mostly salary, with opportunities for commissions on top of that.

Overview:  Upon graduation, Matt got an mostly-unpaid internship with a producer in Seattle, while bartending and waiting tables for money.  Eventually the producer moved away, and a bar client mentioned that his place, a contractor the National Cancer Institute, was hiring “cancer specialists” (basically working at a cancer information hotline.)  He put in the good word, and Matt got the job.  He stayed there over 2 years, it was an OK job, but dead-end, so he looked for something better.  He was helping a friend, who worked at Pitchbook Data, quit smoking.  When her company was hiring, she knew he wanted a new job and recommended him for the job and coached him on what to say during interviews.

You can see his LinkedIn profile here.

Choice quotes:  “I’m always open to opportunity and to learning something new.”

“Being an MP&E student taught me about collaboration, to be a good listener first.  To be a cancer specialist is to listen to people, meet them where they are, and give them info to take it a step further.    That’s exactly what being an engineer or producer is all about.”

“I wish Berklee taught us more more about professional networking and how to present yourself as a professional & demand that kind of respect.  Also how to handle our student loans (and our last day of school isn’t the time to do that).”



Successful Berklee Alumni #8: Leah Hinton

Leah Hinton

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

Position:  Staffing coordinator at RAD Employment Services, a temp agency.  Leah recruits and evaluated workers interested in temporary work and send appropriate people to client companies.

Overview:  While still a student at Berklee Leah worked for RAD as a temp worker (sent out to other offices), as a way to make money during breaks.  After graduation she planned to continue with that, but, having done well in various assignments, the RAD hired her directly as a part-time administrative employee.  At one point the office shrank and Leah was one of multiple people laid off, but soon afterward one of their full-time staffing coordinators left and Leah was contacted and offered that vacated position.

You can see her LinkedIn profile here.

Choice quotes: ” Studying business prepared me for my job in the sense that I learned how to speak well to people, how to interview, work with computers, work on documents.  I think a business education is helpful for everything, and it’s important to at least have the basics of that.  Working in the Berklee offices as a work-study student helped me as well. ”

“There are so many avenues you can take both in music and in business.  Don’t feel that you’re nothing if you’re not the rising pop star.  The skills you learn help you be confident and put youself out there.”




Successful Berklee Alumni #7: Dr. Dana Robertson

Dr. Dana Robertson


Graduated in 1996 with a major in Performance.  Principal Instrument:  drums.

Position:  Professor (rank:  Asst. Prof.) of Literacy Education at the University of Wyoming.  Dana teaches elementary school teachers-in-training how to teach reading, writing, speaking, and listening.

Overview:  Dana gigged and toured full-time for several years after finishing Berklee, but decided that touring wasn’t the life for him.  He started substitute teaching, which allows great flexibility on which day you do and don’t work and worked well with his schedule.  He enjoyed that, so got his Masters in Education (M.Ed.) and started teaching fifth grade.  He continued to take classes and after a few years enrolled in a Ph.D. program, while continuing to teach and gig on the side.  Upon receiving his Ph.D. he applied for teaching positions at research universities across the country, and got his current job.

You can see his LinkedIn profile here.

Choice quotes:  “Don’t just take any job, but think about what it is that you really enjoy doing–as well as playing music.  Every job hasn’t really seemed like a job for me, because I’ve enjoyed everything I’ve done.”

“I learned to network as a musician, which applies directly to my job, which requires networking with people at other universities, collaborating, etc.   Also the discipline & focus required to master an instrument..transferred directly over to other aspects of my life, such being able to spend a long time working on a paper.”



Successful Berklee Alumni #6: Charlie Shaughnessy

Charlie Shaughnessy

Graduated in 2008 with a double-major in Performance and Music Business.  Principal Instrument:  Guitar.

Position:  Wireless telecommunications brand advocate at MarketSource, Inc.  Charlie visits retailers of cell phones in his territory, providing training, support, and connecting with sales managers in support of Microsoft products.

Overview:  Graduating during the worst job market in decades, Charlie moved back home (Washington State).  He made a living doing three jobs:  gigging and local touring with bands, working at Best Buy selling cell phones (for near minimum wage) and helping at his brother’s funeral home.  During his almost-3 years at Best Buy he became friendly with the product vendors.  One day he asked one of them about their job.  She described a job to his liking put in the good word for him, which got him an interview.  He was hired to to product vending/support part time, and was promoted to his full-time position within a year.

You can see his LinkedIn profile here.

Choice Quotes: “I made a really good decision by focusing on the business aspect (of music).  I think some of those business classes should be required.”

“Networking and relationship building is what it really boils down to–at least in this field–for us in the corporate environment.  There are plenty of opportunities that students at Berklee can seize to do (and learn) this naturally…You’re putting together bands with people you see in the hall, doing different projects, etc.”



Successful Berklee Alumni #5: Omid Majdi

Omid Majdi

Omid 1


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


Graduated in 2010 with a major in Music Production & Engineering.  Principal Instrument:  Guitar.

Position:  Senior Product Manager at DogVacay.  He manages, designs, and maintains the website and other apps of this online business, “AirB&B for dogs.”

Overview:  Looking for “any job” after graduation, Omid used craigslist to get a job that started his career after a few months.  Omid worked as a project manager at a startup company that developed apps, coordinating the work of mostly-overseas programmers.  The pay wasn’t great, but he learned a lot, and was able to use LinkedIn to get his next job–similar work at a larger company, with professional-level pay.  After a year, he asked to transition from project management to product management (designing the products themselves.)  Two years later his current company hired him as a product manager, and recently promoted him to senior product manager.


You can see his LinkedIn profile here.

Choice Quotes:  “(Someone making a hiring decision) looking at a particular degree or school on a resume really cares about the fact that the person was able to complete the journey–see it through and show that level of commitment to get that degree.  If the person studied something related to the job, bonus (but not expected).”

“You never know what sort of opportunities are going to arise.  Keep an optimistic outlook and be ready to seize those opportunities.”





Successful Berklee Alumni #4: Gabriella Mastrangelo (formerly Howard)

Gabriella Mastrangelo (formerly Howard)

Gabriella Howard professional

Listen to the interview (approx. 35 min.) or download it.

Graduated in 2011 with a major in Music Business (Entrepreneur Track), Principal Instrument:  Voice

Position:  Senior Administrative Associate at Boston Children’s Hospital.  She intends to stay in medicine, but is about to start a 14-month intensive program to become a Registered Nurse.

UPDATE December, 2018:  This spring Gabriella received her Bachelors in Science in Nursing (“BSN”) degree from MGH Institute of Health Professionals in Boston in the spring of 2018, took some time off to be with her baby, and just started a new position as a Registered Nurse at Melrose Wakefield Hospital.

Overview:  A few months after graduation, Gabriella contacted a temp agency and did many short-term administrative jobs, which supplemented her income from teaching music & figure skating part time.  After doing those for a few months, she realized she really wanted to work at Children’s hospital.  She found a part-time job on their website, applied, and got it.  Her good work and enthusiasm led to her taking on more hours and converting to full time after about 8 months.


You can see her Linkedin profile here.


Choice Quotes:  “(Certain Berklee classes) taught me professionalism:  deadlines, being cordial and professional, compassionate and understanding with the people you work with.  Those are thing I really carry with me every day.”

“Don’t lose sight of what you really want.  If you do stray away from it, that’s OK.  There are back roads to where you want to end up.  And it’s OK if you find your passions lie elsewhere. ”



Successful Berklee Alumni #3: Michael Wright

Third in a biweekly series of interviews with Berklee graduates who have successful careers not involving music.

Michael Wright

Michael Wright


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


*UPDATE* March 2018:  In late 2016 Michael was hired as a regional sales manager for Kainos, a large digital tech firm.  In 2017 Michael started an online MBA program at the University of Liverpool; he expects to graduate in 2019.


Graduated in 2008 with a major in Music Business (Management track).  Principal instrument: drums.

PositionSalesperson, working for Micro Focus, (a.k.a. Borland Software) a large multinational corporation that provides many computer software products used by businesses.

Overview:  Michael has had a varied career, working as an audio/visual “technical supervisor” (a.k.a. “the sound guy”) at a Marriott hotel, being a counselor at both camps and a college, touring with the Christian rock band while handling their merch.  After marrying a woman from Northern Ireland and moving there, he founded his own music school, Stateside Drum Studios, where he still works on weekends.   Michael applied to his current position via an agency and went to a high-pressure 3-day “camp,” where he was among the 6 out of 45 “campers” who was offered a job.  Another three months of (paid) intensive training and his software sales career with Microfocus started.

You can view his LinkedIn profile here.  Michael asks that if anyone wants to connect with him that they mention me and Berklee in the “connect” message, as he doesn’t like to just connect with random people.  (In general, introducing yourself to someone who doesn’t know you is good form.)


Choice quotes:  “As a musician at Berklee, you’re surrounded by and have to work with a very diverse group of people.  You listen to and approach things differently, such as when you’re in an ensemble and are hearing the other musicians and are able to pick up whether we’re going to repeat a section or whether we’re going to drop the dynamics.  You take that same sort of understanding and ‘unspoken language’ into the business world.”

“I found I can be just as much myself in the corporate world as I was in the music world, and still be able to have the fun I had in the music world, and just blend the two together.”





Successful Berklee Alumni #2: Prayre Finley

Prayre Finley


Prayre Current Headshot

Listen to the interview (approx 1 hr, 7 min) or download it.


Graduated in 2013 with a major in Music Business.  Principal instrument:  voice.

Positions:  Co-runs the family business, ELF’s Cakery, substitute teacher in local high schools, private academic tutor (mostly math) and music instructor (voice & piano).  Prayre also does freelance design work (resumes, websites), and still gigs with corporate/wedding bands and does original music.

Overview:  Prayre moved home (Atlanta, GA) after graduation.  While at Berklee, all of her business-related projects used her family business, and were implemented.  She works there part time.  For over six months she worked at a bank, but didn’t like it.  She had wanted to teach, but was rejected when she applied to work as a substitute teacher in the summer of 2013.  One year later a regular customer of ELF’s Cakery who worked as a substitute teacher gave her advice on how to apply and make herself a desirable candidate (what her resume should look like, etc.) and put in the good  word for her.  She was accepted, and started substitute teaching in the fall of 2014.  Substitute teaching doesn’t pay great, but the hours are flexible, and substitute teaching gets her many (well-paying) private students.  She hopes to open her own school one day!


You can view her LinkedIn profile here.

Choice quotes:  “The business part of the (Berklee) degree has helped me be a better performer, because I understand more about the business so I know how to approach situations.  I know how to keep up with people.  I know the importance of building that brand and how to market yourself and your image.”

“It will be tough, but there are things out there that you can find to do that will still fulfill your financial obligations while  allowing you to pursue your passion in music as well.  Don’t have unrealistic expectations.  Give yourself time and it’s OK to stay at home until you figure it out.  Had I tried to just completely go out on my own from the beginning, I might have had to stay at the bank and been completely unhappy.”





Successful Berklee Alumni #1: Casey Kidd

First in a biweekly series of interviews with Berklee graduates who have successful careers not involving music.

Casey Kidd


Casey Kidd Professional Photo

Listen to the interview (approx. 26 minutes) or download it.



Graduated in 2012 with a major in CWP (Contemporary Writing & Production).

PositionData Analyst at The Retail Coach.  Casey uses statistics to predict which business will succeed in a given municipality.

Update August 2016 (1 year after the interview):  Casey left his job at The Retail Coach to start his own company in the same field, NaviRetail.

Overview:  Casey enjoyed computers both before and during Berklee.  He got particularly good experience while in a work-study job at Berklee (laying out Fusion Magazine), learning software that helped him get a position at his company soon after graduating.  He did not know anyone at this relatively small company near where he was living, but saw their newspaper ad, applied, and got the job.

You can see his LinkedIn profile here.

Choice quote:  “Too many people (graduates from both Berklee and other colleges) have no idea how a business works.  Everyone at Berklee should have to take a couple of business classes.”


See the full index of Successful Berklee Grads.