Berklee Blogs

First-hand accounts of the Berklee experience

Alumni (Page 1 of 56)


Where are they now. . . find out how Berklee grads make their way in the music world.

Thinking ‘Big Picture’ in Nashville: Drummer John Rodrigue ’09

In this interview, alumna Shantell Ogden sits down with alumnus John Rodrigue to talk about his road to Nashville success.

By Shantell Ogden B.M. ’05

Nashville drummer John Rodrigue

Drummer John Rodrigue ’09

Born and raised in Houma, Louisiana, John Rodrigue ’09 was raised on classic rock and roll by two music-loving parents. Rodrigue received a drum set for his 11th birthday and that was just the beginning.

By the time he was 13, he was playing on the club and bar scene in a punk band with his older brother. Through high school he played in marching, jazz, and concert bands before starting Berklee in the spring of 2006 after being awarded a partial scholarship.

John took a moment out of his busy touring schedule to answer a few questions.

Could you tell us about your time at Berklee and what you learned there?

John Rodrigue: My time at Berklee was one of not only musical, but personal and intellectual growth. I developed an ability to adapt. It started as moving to a strange place with a crazy schedule and making music with people I’d never met in styles I had hardly played. It turned into calling Boston home for four years, making friends from all over the world, learning time management (pun intended) and being open to new ways of thinking not just about music, but about the world around me. You don’t get much of that growing up in a small city.

I learned to rise to the occasion and opportunities that get presented in daily life, which has served me extremely well in Nashville. Half of all success is showing up. If you are positive and professional, the rest will take care of itself. I owe much of this mindset to Berklee. 

Since moving to Nashville you’ve been backing some artists and playing in your own band. I hear you even opened up for Bon Jovi! What have been some of your ‘pinch me’ moments so far?

JR: There’s always a part of me that thinks, “I’m really doing this. This is awesome.” A big one was a night a few years ago when my parents were in town visiting and a song I played on came on the radio in the restaurant where we were having dinner.

The band Maradeen with Bon Jovi

Rodrigue and his band, Maradeen, backstage with Bon Jovi. From left: Sterling Miller, Whit Murray ‘14, Jon Bon Jovi, Kaitlyn Connor, John Rodrigue, and Tom Galloway.

I’ve also been really lucky to serve as direct support for some great artists who are incredibly kind and genuine people. Little Big Town, Old Dominion, Big & Rich, Joe Nichols in the early years and recently Moon Taxi, the Revivalists, the Nth Power and of course, Bon Jovi. The venues we’ve been playing recently: House of Blues in New Orleans, Newport Music Hall in Columbus, Ohio, Georgia Theatre in Athens, Georgia, Lincoln Theatre in Raleigh, North Carolina, Asheville Music Hall, Arlene’s Grocery in Manhattan and Philips Arena in Atlanta, Georgia are all next-level rooms as well, and I’m amazed every time we step on one of those stages.

What do you think it takes to be successful in today’s music business?

JR: You definitely have to think big-picture. I’ve done some sessions or one-off gigs for little to no money that have all for the most part paid off in the long run in some way. You have to play the tape forward and ask yourself, “Where could this lead?” Also, don’t make it more complicated than writing music and playing shows. It’s great to know as much about the business side of things as possible, but never forget why you’re doing this in the first place. Enjoy the ride.

Half of all success is showing up. If you are positive and professional, the rest will take care of itself. I owe much of this mindset to Berklee. 

What can we expect from you in 2018? What’s next for you?

JR: I’ve recently accepted the position of in-house session drummer at Benchmark Productions in East Nashville with veteran producer Mark Allen. I’m looking forward to capitalizing on what was a great 2017 there.

[My band] Maradeen’s tour calendar for Spring and Summer is filling up and we just released our new single “Believe” on Spotify, which was recorded here in town at Sound Emporium Studio A. We are constantly writing music for our next album.

Also, for the last couple years I have been teaching drum lessons out of Virginia’s Music Center in Bellevue, just on the outskirts of Nashville. I feel lucky to have the opportunity to give back what I’ve learned from all these years of studying and performing and owe much of my teaching approach to the great professors I had at Berklee.

Other than that, “it’s have sticks will travel,” as my dad says.

/ / /

For more information about John visit his website or follow him on Instagram or twitter at @JohnOfRodrigue.

Shantell OgdenAuthor Shantell Ogden is an award-winning singer-songwriter whose songs have reached no. 2 hit chart positions in both the U.S. and Europe. Ogden’s songs, known for being lyrically rich with authentic vocals, have also appeared on TV and in feature films. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Berklee College of Music in professional music and a bachelor’s degree from Utah State University in business.

From Grief to the Opry: Jenn Bostic ’08

In this post, singer-songwriter, author, and alumna Shantell Ogden sat down with fellow alumna Jenn Bostic to talk about Bostic’s musical journey. In this profile penned by Ogden, Bostic discusses her road to the Grand Ole Opry and beyond.

By Shantell Ogden B.M. ’05

Country music rising star Jenn Bostic

Jenn Bostic

“I threw myself into music to grieve,” says artist and songwriter Jenn Bostic ’08.

The Nashville-based Berklee alumni lost her father at age 10 and music became a place to process the loss she felt. It wasn’t until entering Berklee in the fall of 2004 that she really became a fan of country music.

“I studied music education at Berklee and while there started doing weekend gigs with a local country band called Digger Dawg with fellow alum Charlie Hutto, singing all the country hits,” she explained. “I would attend classes all week and play shows on Friday and Saturday nights. Sunday I would do all my homework, and the process would start again.”

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Real World: Nashville (Part 3)—Don’t Run from an Imperfect World

In early 2018, alumna Eva Cassel answered the call of the muse and left a steady restaurant job in Nashville in order to take her songwriting skills and habits to new heights. What follows below is part three of a series chronicling her experience. (Read parts one and two)

By Eva Cassel B.M. ’17

Eva Cassel and band rehears before filming a music video

Gearing up to film the video for “Don’t Run.”

In a perfect world I would report a successful week of writing a song a day, inspired and uplifted. But if the world were perfect, I’d have nothing to write about. I’m going to be real with y’all, I did not write a song a day. I could make excuses, but life will always get in the way if I let it. Wallowing in guilt is just an easy way out; I constantly have to stop myself from diving head first into that whirlpool. Having the energy to forgive myself has been an essential part of getting my butt to the chair and writing. One verse, chorus, or idea is better than nothing. It was hard not to feel defeated, but feeling defeated isn’t the point—writing is.

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Discovering Fado: Touring and Recording with Mariza

In fall 2017, bassist Lucy Clifford got the chance to record and tour with Portuguese fado sensation Mariza. Clifford reflects on the experience in the following selections from a travel journal she kept. You can also read the full version.

By Lucy Clifford ’16

Mariza poses with her 2017 touring band

The Mariza band, from left: Joao Frade, Mariza, Lucy Clifford, Luis Guerreiro, Pedro Joia

I was fortunate enough to accompany Mariza on her latest tour of the U.S., and in doing so, learned about the world of fado, a music in which Mariza can easily be described as the world’s reigning artist of today. I quickly gathered that no one has embraced fado with greater charisma than Mariza, and was amazed at how her, and the brilliant players that accompany her, have been reinventing its traditions. It was an opportunity that I am forever grateful for, and can sincerely say that not one concert went by on this tour where I didn’t learn something new about fine musicianship, fado, and its charming home – Lisbon, Portugal.

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Real World: Nashville (Part 1)—A Songwriter Takes a Risk for Her Art

In early 2018, alumna Eva Cassel answered the call of the muse and left a steady restaurant job in Nashville in order to take her songwriting skills and habits to new heights. What follows below is part one of a series chronicling her experience. (Read parts two and three).

By Eva Cassel B.M. ’17

Songwriter Eva CasselEveryone tells you about the struggles of life after college, but you can’t comprehend exactly how terrifying and exciting it is until you’re actually living it in real time. All those stories you’ve heard about horrific first jobs in retail or restaurants become your life.

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