Post by Jason Camelio, director of international programs.

If you look hard enough, you might see an ever-so-slight difference in the traffic patterns on the LA freeways during the week of SXSW. For alum and program consultant Tom Griesgraber and I, it really did not make a difference as we crisscrossed the city for meetings and scouting locations in preparation for the new Berklee in Los Angeles summer programs to be held this August. You heard correctly “p-r-o-g-r-a-m-S”.  Two to be specific. In what has become standard practice, we have reached out to some key Berklee alumni to help us prepare for two programs with that will have a detailed focus on the craft of songwriting, performance and production. 

Our first stop was in Studio City to meet with a few of the alumni faculty members who will be teaching at the programs, including a veteran of the program and Berklee Online faculty member David Franz. Our discussions cover a lot of territory and will be massaged into some compelling program content.

2013 Berklee in Los Angeles I at SAMOHI and Barnum Hall in Santa Monica.

Our next stop was in Santa Monica. With the help of alum and director of jazz bands at Santa Monica High School Tom Whaley and director of theater operations Carey Upton, we have secured the music department facility at SAMOHI for the Berklee in Los Angeles: It’s All in the Song I – Songwriter and Performer program. This includes the historic Barnum Hall. During our walk though, we had the chance to hear some of these awarding winning groups as they prepared for the spring band competition and Masterworks Concert.

2013 Berklee in Los Angeles II - The Village Recording Studio.

With the details covered in Santa Monica, we headed into town to a world-renown landmark The Village recording studio to meet with alum and manager Tina Morris. Thanks to chief of staff Carl Beatty, director of the Berklee Center in Los Angeles Peter Gordon and Tina, we will be producing a fantastic program in this state-of-the-art facility in West LA. Upon walking through the entrance, we were met with a comfortable reception area with high walls covered with gold and platinum albums.  Among them were two of my favorites including Frank Zappa’s Joe’s Garage and the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Californication. Imagine sitting in these rooms for a week of classes this summer learning about the craft of songwriting and production.

After finalizing some additional preparatory details, we headed over to Sunset for a semi-annual pilgrimage to Amoeba. Tom and I did a fine job shopping. A few items I picked up included some choice Wayne Shorter classics, some Reverend Horton Heat, the newest Trey Anastasio, a sweet Jerry Reed double album (at Rick Peckham’s suggestion), the King’s X Live in London box and more. Plenty of ear candy to last me until August when I get back for the programs.

A surprising final stop for me during this visit was to the School of Rock in Burbank. The school is directed by a fantastic musician and alum of the college from Venezuala, Demian Arriaga. I had the opportunity to meet with an all-star group of his students, talk about music and Berklee and then hear them rip into No Doubt’s “Sunday Morning”. I did not know what to expect from these young musicians. Demian had only high praise for them. What I heard and saw was some exceptional musicianship, which tells me that the teachers and students are truly dedicated.

Demian Arriaga directs an all-star group at the School of Rock in Burbank.

I could easily spend many more days and leave many more miles of pavement behind me meeting up with our exceptional alumni who play such an important role in supporting the college. They teach and inspire one another and the next generation of young talents that we will soon get to hear. It is a prime reason for Berklee to be holding programs on Los Angeles.  I am honored and thankful for our alums’ help with laying the groundwork.