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For Berklee Artists and A&R Talent, a New Path to a Big Break


For Berklee Artists and A&R Talent, a New Path to a Big Break Thanks to a new Career Center program, students are building their own pipeline to industry success.


Nick Balkin

January 24, 2022

Berklee artist Isa Ansin (right) performs at Brighton Music Hall.

Image by Lilly Patterson

Last fall, Berklee student Isa Ansin took the stage at Brighton Music Hall, a 500-capacity Boston venue booked mainly by national touring acts. As the first of two openers, her job was to warm up the crowd for indie-pop singer V rit , the show's headliner.

For most young artists, such a gig would serve as an early career milestone. For Ansin, who landed the booking with help from Berklee's new talent relations ambassador program, it was notable for another reason: it was the first time she'd ever performed her own music live. But you wouldn't know that based on the crowd's reaction. The show was so well-received that V rit invited Ansin to open for her again a few nights later, at New York City's Bowery Ballroom, covering Ansin's travel expenses and bumping her up to the lineup's second support slot, ensuring an even larger group of potential new fans to win over. The payoff was immediate: after the Brighton and Bowery shows, Ansin had gained hundreds of new Instagram followers.

It was crazy, said Ansin, who performs under the stage name Chrysalis. It was such an amazing experience, and the crowds, at both shows, were so welcoming it was honestly a really good reinforcement for me that writing music and performing my originals is what I want to do for the rest of my life.

Building a Talent Pipeline In terms of audience growth, few things move the needle like opening for a popular touring act. But with hundreds of artists vying for these coveted gigs, the chances of landing one, without connections or a proper strategy, can feel about as likely as winning the lottery.

Thanks to a new initiative from the Berklee Career Center, more student and alumni artists are snagging these in-demand support slots. The talent relations ambassador program, launched last fall as part of the Hire Berklee Talent campaign, is composed of student A&R scouts who identify, develop, and track talent within the Berklee community for specific performance, recording, writing, and producing opportunities. The current team-Lilly Patterson, Karissa Bone, Austyn Jones, Jordan Hall, and Daniel Ramos-represents an array of Berklee majors, from songwriting and production to business and musical theater.

Liza Levy

Image by Tyler Matthews

Patterson, who booked Ansin's show with V rit , seeks out Berklee artists who offer a balance to the headliner's style. She found Ansin through Berklee Connect (login required), a student and alumni directory where artists can upload unreleased music, videos, and other media. While [Ansin] didn't have any releases, and that definitely made me a little nervous, I really loved her artistry and personability, and so did V rit 's team, said Patterson. Isa is a lyrically captivating writer; she's literally a poet. I anticipated that her set would be super chill, which I thought would contrast and complement V rit 's more upbeat, danceable discography.

They're building a talent pipeline to the industry while helping to super-serve the needs of our employer partners, said the program's director, Liza Levy, talent relations manager for the Career Center.

The results speak for themselves, with ambassadors securing paid gigs for Berklee acts at major venues in the Boston area and beyond. In addition to Ansin's gigs with V rit , other program highlights have included Lindsay Whiteman, a seventh-semester student, opening for TikTok sensation JORDY at Brighton Music Hall; Jay Alan, a songwriting major, and Laura Danae, a graduate student at Berklee NYC, opening for Evan Giia B.M. '14, respectively, at the Sinclair (Boston) and Elsewhere (Brooklyn); and Cinya Khan, a professional music major, who's set to open for indie phenom Clairo at the House of Blues in Boston next month.

Theres nothing more powerful than listening to a student talk about why another students work is inspiring to them.

-Liza Levy, talent relations manager

Levy credits a recent student employee, Rehan Manickam B.M. '21, for sparking the idea behind the program. Rehan put me on to all of these Berklee artists, producers, and songwriters that were making incredible music. From there we started sharing this work with A&R execs, publishers, bookers, and managers in the industry, said Levy. Theres nothing more powerful than listening to a student talk about why another students work is inspiring to them. (After graduating, Manickam got a job working in A&R at Love Renaissance, the label home to Summer Walker, 6lack, and others.)

The program began to take shape last fall when Blythe Scokin, manager for Nashville singer-songwriter Ingrid Andress '13, proposed having a Berklee student open for Andress's upcoming Boston date. The benefits were two-fold: adding a student to the bill would help build an organic buzz on campus for the show, and Andress could give back to her alma mater by showcasing a developing artist.

Levy sent over a list of potential Berklee acts, and Scokin and Andress fell in love with an artist named Zoe Sparks, who opened the show and ended up attracting a ton of people to it. So we were like, this is interesting, we could take this whole structure and offer it to other artists-and it doesn't just have to be Berklee alumni, it could be any artist coming to Boston, said Levy. Then, if the pilot goes well, we can talk to managers about extending the campaign to New York and our Berklee NYC students.

Watch Zoe Sparks perform on Berklees Two Track series:

When pitching an opening act, there are many factors to
See more stories from berklee

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