Berklee Blogs

First-hand accounts of the Berklee experience

LAB: Life After Berklee – The Favor Trade: The Impact of Building a Team Out of Your Close Friends and Colleagues

The experience of going to Berklee blessed me with the priceless gift of having a group of friends who are immensely talented writers, musicians, engineers, and business minds. My album, “Peace, Love, & the Lack Thereof” that I released after graduating would have had quite a different sound without the thoughtful critiques I requested from some of those really talented friends.  I believe most artists DO naturally share their new work with close friends and family to get feedback towards the song or project completion, however, I found great benefit from creating an unofficial ‘team’ from the friends who were gifted in a lot of different aspects of the music business- including AND beyond the song. Making a team of some of the friends and colleagues you most respect is the best possible thing you can do for yourself as an artist next to hiring a consulting/artist development company. You’ll be hard-pressed to find strangers to advise you on a “starving musician’ budget like friends would for free or in exchange for the same type of favor- trusted friends are already invested in you outside of music and already want to see you succeed. If you help each other, you’ll both succeed together and THAT should be the mindset- yes, they are on your ‘team’, but in-return, you are also on theirs…or your ‘team’ will slowly disappear as the members lose motivation.

Here’s how you do it:

On a piece of paper, write down these categories: Business, PR Consulting, Songwriting Critiques, & Image. You can add as many other areas of your career that you can ‘friend-staff’. Underneath the categories you’ve written, write a few friends’ names whose advice in those areas you would find helpful.  Be mindful not to add too many names because you’ll have a number of favors to pay back for more people than you can handle! Now you have your ‘team’! If you want, you can unofficially let them know that they are a part of your unofficial team and that you’re TOTALLY down to be on theirs in return!

Connections are currency in this industry but so is dependability. As you utilize the brilliant minds on your team, understand that it is now your BUSINESS to be dependable for your ‘team’ members. No one likes a one-sided relationship in life OR in business so make SURE that you show up for your ‘team’ members’ parties, birthdays, album release parties, and concerts, recording sessions or gigs they’ve put asked you to be a part of, etc. as much as you can. Communicate effectively when you can’t. As musicians, it is easy to get caught up in our own projects so much that we can close off to the rest of the world, but you must make showing up/paying back favors for your ‘team members’ just as important as your art-they are unofficially your business partners. Be sure to appreciate them for playing both roles- friend and team member.

So now, I want to give a BIG ‘thank you’ to every friend of mine who has critiqued a song, arrangement, or mix, who has worked with my ‘starving musician’ budget for delayed or highly discounted services, and/ or who has consulted me in my marketing and promotion approach. I am happy to return the favor always and credit all of you with the growing success of “Peace, Love, & the Lack Thereof” as well as the growing success of my career.

It takes ‘team’ work to make all of our dreams work!


Since she was 5 years old, Tavonna Miller ’10 has been making her mark in the music industry. A native of Los Angeles, CA, she began singing with the children choir at church and soon ventured out to sing not only for her own church, but also for other churches and church events. Tavonna has been afforded the experience of working with both locally and widely acclaimed gospel artists like Kurt Carr, Judith Christie McAllister, and Tonex who is currently known as Brian Slade. Tavonna Miller encountered her greatest learning experience studying the discipline of classical voice at Fullerton College (California) before furthering her pop/jazz vocal studies at Berklee College of Music. Tavonna is known for her moving musical expression in the gospel genre and now branches out to sing not only gospel/Christian, but also R&B, jazz, soul, and classical. In addition to strictly vocal performing, Tavonna Miller has graduated with a degree in Songwriting from Berklee College of Music and performs nightly at manly local live music spots in Boston like The 6B Lounge, The Savant Project, The Lizard Lounge, The Milky Way Lounge, Midway Cafe, and All Asia. She looks forward to a long, successful career as a musician and songwriter who make music that she can respect and celebrate.


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1 Comment

  1. Amy

    Absolutely! I still have 99% of my best Berklee buds from the class of ’99 (and other years now as well) who I always show my songs to first and foremost… and when they share with me, I listen intently and respond honestly. It’s our passion, and I miss so many people so dearly for the simple fact that they love and appreciate the musical and artistic soul within everyone. What a great post! Thanks!

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