The Graduates: The Class of ’16 Gets Real with Us About Post-Berklee Life

by Lily Lyons

It’s been a year since the class of 2016 walked and—as we draw close to commencement again—we at the Groove thought it would be cool to catch up with four graduates and see what they’ve been up to. The answer, unsurprisingly, is that they’re doing a lot: composing soundtracks for high-profile documentaries, playing with Beyoncé, bringing music therapy to the criminally insane, and releasing some seriously dope music… but despite their career highs they’ve stayed humble, and were honest with us about the financial and personal pressures that come with being in the industry. Here are their experiences and advice, in their own words:

JJ Adrian

Tell me about a project you’re working on now that you’re excited about! “I’m working on a lot of things that I’m excited about! I’m starting a music collective with my brother Indigo Blaize, I’m working on a collaborative EP, I’m being featured on a few projects that are going to be released soon, and I’m currently recording my second project that I’m insanely excited to release.”

What was the hardest thing about transitioning from Berklee to the real world?  “In terms of music I would have to say the hardest thing that I’ve encountered would have to be the access of musicians. At Berklee, you have so many talented musicians that are down to collaborate at your disposal! We’re privileged enough to have gone to a school where the next generation of world class musicians are only a call or caf swipe away. In terms of real life… paying bills and making money would have to be the biggest change. I was fortunate enough to land a full time job in Music Marketing, but the struggle of paying rent on time is definitely real. It’s hard to create when the need for money is in the way.”

Any advice for the class of 2017? “Be brave. Don’t let fear get in the way of auditions, goals, dreams, asking someone out, or even saying no. Fear isn’t worth it. Memories are.” These are words that Berklee Alum Aimee Cuevas told me when I was a tiny freshman, and they’ve stuck with me ever since. We’re in a cut throat industry and we can’t afford to miss opportunities due to being afraid. Don’t let anyone discourage your vision. And please don’t forget that you and your art are worth it.”

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Neguine Niktash

What’s a recent project you’re excited about? “My 4 track EP Who We Are is the most exciting thing I’ve been working on for the past year and it’s finally completed! I was a music therapy major at Berklee but I didn’t want to give up on my songwriting. Making the EP helped me connect with that part of myself and remember why I came to Berklee. I want to inspire others to realize that just because you do one major, you don’t have to give up on your other passions…You just have to find the time and make the balance. I think you have to remember you’re a musician before anything else. Some people forget that.”

Where are you working for your music therapy internship? “I am completing my music therapy internship at Wooster Recovery Center Hospital. I work with the criminally insane 5 days a week. It’s challenging for sure and definitely not for everybody but I’ve actually learned a lot from it. I really enjoy working there because I get to see the good in people who other people might think are horrible. But they have a mental illness and its important to see them as human…”

What is the hardest part of transitioning from Berklee to being out in the real world?  “The hardest part is when reality hits. When you’re a student you generally don’t make a full income. So definitely the financial aspect. I had to quit my music teaching job at the Boys & Girls club to do my internship. But although it’s hard there’s definitely work available when you graduate. Writing a good resume and cover letter is important. It’s always best to have more options than fewer.”

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Guido Consoli

Any advice for the class of 2017? “Trust your instincts! I considered many cities before L.A., did a huge amount of research and was very indecisive. I just went for it and I’m loving the experience. When you trust, you flow and that opens many doors for opportunities.”

What’s the most challenging thing about being out in the real world? “Definitely the hardest thing is to have patience! Sending resumes through emails and expecting a fast response only happens in utopia.”

What musical projects are you excited to start working on? “I’m excited to start a new band in the west coast, and about collaborating with films and video Games.”

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Arnetta Johnson

What’s your advice for the class of 2017? “My advice for the class of 2017 is utilize all the advice and resources that have been given to you. Don’t be afraid to explore with the extra time you’ll have on your hands and continue to work on the projects you started while in school. Lastly be open to hearing one’s story about their post grad life but ALWAYS REMEMBER that that is their story and not yours. One person’s experience does not create the destiny for those that come after, but shows the power of choice and outcome.”

Tell us about a project you’re working on that you’re excited about! “Currently I am working on original compositions. I recently put out a song called Juice & Candy which is pretty much Trap Jazz. I’m just trying to have fun with the music. For the next few months I’ll be working on my own music and also putting out quality music videos to match. My goal is to be an Artist rather than just an Instrumentalist.”

What was the hardest thing about transitioning from Berklee to the real world? “The most challenging thing about my transition from Berklee to the “real world” was realizing that I couldn’t carry all of my friends with me to the next step. Just because you go to Berklee doesn’t mean everyone is going to actually turn out to be a full time musician. Everyone isn’t granted the same opportunity and not everyone has the same method or drive. The challenging part was accepting that and letting them go. I never want to miss a opportunity while waiting for someone else. Everyone isn’t going to comprehend your goals, your desire, your favor, and blessings… AND THAT’S OK!”

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