In 2018, Desanka Ilic and David Pinder flew from LA to Boston to walk together in their commencement ceremony. One year later, the couple did it all over again, this time as graduates of Berklee Online’s Music Business master’s program.
“We were able to support each other throughout the process and have really great discussions about what we were learning in class that helped us develop the information that much further,” says Desanka. “I feel like the business side of my brain is super evolved, and being a musician in LA, it’s helpful to have that leg up on everyone else and know how the music industry works and operates.”
Desanka (a vocalist and actor) and David (a drummer) earned both their bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Music Business from Berklee Online. The two working musicians launched their own music publicity firm, Cold Coffee Entertainment, after they started their undergraduate program. They both continue to perform professionally while they run their business, though Desanka will be taking on the day-to-day responsibilities. David recently landed a position in the comedy department at Gersh in LA, a talent agency that represents comedians such as Dave Chappelle.
“Being out in LA, there are so many bigwigs with their master’s and doctorates,” says David. “We felt that having a bachelor’s degree wasn’t enough. Not only that, Berklee Online was such an amazing experience for the bachelor’s degree that doing the master’s degree was a no-brainer. We thought having that extra knowledge would be helpful and it has been. Without it I don’t think I’d be able to get this opportunity at Gersh.”
Like Desanka and David, many students from Berklee Online’s class of 2019 already work in entertainment. It’s not uncommon for students to complete assignments on tours, backstage before shows, and in between film shoots. This year’s graduating class is full of students with similar stories, who pushed the limits of what can be done within a 24-hour day, reorganizing their already-busy schedules to accommodate the pursuit of a degree.
Allison Scagliotti had a long list of acting and music credits before earning her Interdisciplinary Music Studies degree with Berklee Online. She has acted in TV shows such as Stitchers, The Vampire Diaries, Warehouse 13, and Drake & Josh.
“Sometimes by design and sometimes by accident, music has always found its way into my work on camera,” says Allison. “Likewise, my experience in crafting character and drama is invaluable to my songwriting process. … I’ve always wanted to be more like a Swiss Army knife than a steak knife. Why do one thing when you can do seven?”
Allison recently released a new EP within a genre she refers to as “French lounge horror ballads” titled All of Them Witches under La Femme Pendu, a musical persona birthed from her time at Berklee.
“I entered the program having written maybe half a song and playing covers at open mic nights in every dingy bar that would have me,” she says. “Thankfully, people change. The originality I struggled to find came through the battery of courses in ear training, artistry, entrepreneurship, and performance that shaped how I now approach creativity.”
Earlier in the career of Mikaela Attard, she relocated from Malta to Boston to study Vocal Performance at Berklee. After moving back to Malta, she enrolled in Berklee Online’s Music Production bachelor’s program and graduated this year. Mikaela excelled in her online classes while touring Europe as the vocalist for her symphonic black metal band, MartYrium.
“It was a bit challenging, I will admit, but at the same time it made me stronger as a musician,” says Mikaela. “I was so satisfied at the end and scored an A! Hell, yeah!”
Julio Barreto is familiar with the challenge of performing while taking classes online. The pianist from Argentina graduated from Berklee Online this year with his master’s degree in Music Production. After performing piano for most of his life, Julio is excited to start the transition into the production side of the music industry.
“The opportunity to have video sessions with my instructors every week was amazing,” says Julio. “You could ask them, ‘Hey, what was it like working with Radiohead?’ or ‘How do you get that drum sound for Paramore in Riot?’ They share their secrets with you and it’s amazing. I don’t know any other place where you can ask Grammy winners and the best in the industry to share their secrets with you.”
Another of Julio’s favorite aspects about studying with Berklee Online was the ability to collaborate with classmates from around the world.
“You can learn as much from your classmates as you can from your instructors,” says Julio. “One of the things I love most about Berklee Online is you can get feedback from your classmates who are all so talented.”
One of Julio’s classmates that he was happy to see at Commencement was RJ Strayhorn, who also graduated with his master’s in Music Production. RJ served in the United States Army Band Field for more than 20 years as a percussionist, and is a retired veteran based in Hawaii.
“The master’s program made me a better musician because I’m more aware of what needs to happen in the production process,” says RJ.
Julio agrees: “It’s not just about the piece of paper or the certificate on the wall,” he says. “Everything you learn just completely transforms your personal and professional life and Berklee takes you to the next level.”