Berklee Alumni Spotlight: Sarah Scarlata ’97
Written by: Shantell Ogden ’05
For alumna Sarah Scarlata, Berklee College of Music was a jumping off point to a diverse musical career.
Scarlata grew up in Westborough, Massachusetts as the daughter of two music lovers.
“My parents bought a piano when I was five and I took two years of guitar when I was eight,” she said. “I had small hands which was limiting on those instruments, so when I was 10 I enrolled in drum lessons. It was a natural fit for me musically.”
Despite what the world thought of her as a ‘chick drummer’ she wasn’t afraid to play in grungy Worcester bars at age 16.
“I was the anomaly because I was female and I was playing with musicians much older than I was,” she said. “My parents were supportive, but they were clear that if I gigged at night there was no calling in sick to school the next day. It was good training because as a working musician that’s what you do- play a gig at night and work a day job the next day.”
Scarlata enrolled in Berklee in 1995 as a drum set performance major, one of three women in the major at that time. She finished two years later with a certificate.
“It was a relief to be around people who were like-minded, and who had the same goals and aspirations,” she said. “High school can be awkward and it was a dream come true to really focus on music full time.”
Learning how to communicate musically was one of the biggest benefits of Berklee for Scarlata. She also noted the importance of ear training and how the courses have helped her over the years with building harmonies.
“Berklee helped me expand my scope,” she said. “I learned how to compose music and write a chart, and that has come in handy in a lot of situations,” she said.
After finishing at Berklee, Scarlata moved to Atascadero, California with Berklee classmate Tyson Leonard and their Boston-based band Glider (formed with Tyson’s brother and cousin). They rented rooms from Tyson’s mom and played the club scene between LA and San Francisco.
“The song structures were fluid; we ended up being a jam band because we had to fill the night and play for hours,” she said.
After several years, Scarlata was ready for a new musical journey. In 2002, she reconnected with Travis Warren who was forming a new band called Rain Fur Rent. He asked Scarlata and two of her Glider band mates to join the band.
“We did the same club circuit between LA and San Francisco with Rain Fur Rent, but we were alternative rock which fit with Travis’ rock vocals,” she said. “We were noticed in LA by Owen Husney (the man who discovered Prince and was his first manager). He became our manager and we moved to LA to take the next step in our career.”
There were several major labels interested in the group at this point, but as Scarlata put it, “sometimes bands don’t always work well under that pressure.”
The band disbanded, and Warren went on to front Blind Melon after the passing of their original lead singer, Shannon Hoon. Scarlata stayed in contact with Warren and they continued to play music together.
Building on their musical kinship, they formed The LookOut Kids in 2011, a two-piece rock duo who just recently released their debut album “Snitches Get Stiches.”
“We have always made a good musical team,” said Scarlata. “It’s a fun challenge to walk a tightrope without a net as just a guitar/vocal/percussion duo. It’s the first band I’ve sang harmonies in, and it’s new and exciting for me.
In addition to playing in bands, Scarlata worked at Firehouse Recording Studios as a nighttime errand runner, before working for DMI, their music branding company. It was through her role at DMI that she met Maddie Madsen (another Berklee alumna) and Cassie Lord of 5 alarm music.
“I joined 5 alarm in 2007 and began working as an administrative assistant in the mailroom,“ she said. “I am now the East Coast Music Director, a producer, creative writing manager and digital content coordinator. I work on music searches for music supervisors, produce music library CDs for film and TV, write the company blog and post our content online for more than 60 online libraries we represent.”
Scarlata is also a writer and has had several prominent film and TV placements alread. Her writing credits include a song in the movie Tower Heist, as well as drum tracks for 30 Rock, Clean House, Duck Commanders and the CBS College Sports Network.
She works in the studio as a session player from time to time as well and emphasized the ability to deliver quickly and accurately in the studio environment.
“If you can’t deliver when you’re handed the chart, you’re sunk in the studio,” she said. “You have to adapt musically to any situation and be quick about it.”
Scarlata has also taught private lessons to other aspiring drummers.
“I used to have a one track mind,” says Scarlata. “I thought I was going to make a living by performing. I’ve learned over the years to be flexible, challenge myself and keep my eyes open for new opportunities.”
As hard as she works, Scarlata has a bright future of opportunity ahead.
“Music is something that’s inside of me and it’s something I will always do,” she said. “Music surrounds me, I love making music and seeing where it tak