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January 29, 2019

Alumni Stories: Paths Taken Part VI

Paths Taken: A Personal Tour Part VI

by Alumni Advisory Council Chair Louis Alexander (MM ’79)

Most people I discover and present here surface through random searches in the Online Alumni Directory.

Featured in this installment of Paths Taken: A Personal Tour

  • Howard Herring (BM ’75, MM ’15, Hon DMA ’15)
  • Jason Jackson (MM ’95)
  • Eunbi Kim (MM ’12)
  • Michael Lynch (’83)
  • Wendy Talio (BM ’83)
  • Kavita Shah (MM ’12)

In this on-going series of articles, we get glimpses into the rich pathways that our fellow alumni have taken since leaving the School.

Alumni Advisory Council Chair, series author


The place of music in our lives is as varied as the lives we lead. Regardless of whether our career paths have taken us to the stage, classroom or studio, or a field outside of music, our training as musicians has given us fundamental skills that only a music education can offer. While we do not often think of them as being transferable, those countless hours of practicing, listening, and studying theory are indeed assets that can be applied in countless other occupations as well as to our musical endeavors. Think about how adept we are at interpreting symbolic language, shaping abstract forms, disciplining ourselves, always working in problem-solving mode while keeping a laser-like focus on whatever we are performing, and intently listening to others. Whatever our endeavors are, the one common denominator binding us together is the ever beating, breathing pulse that is music.

  • Louis

Howard Herring

President and CEO of the New World Symphony

Howard Herring (BM ’75, MM ’15, Hon DMA ’15) is in the enviable position of leading a unique orchestral academy, the New World Symphony (NWS). He joined NWS in 2001 with the charge of exploring the possibility of a new campus for the institution. Beginning in 2002, institutional leaders began to envision a futuristic educational and artistic program around the mission of training musician leaders and the vision of sharing classical music with as many people as possible.

In 2005, Frank Gehry and his team began to design a facility that would support and enliven the NWS program. Construction covered the period from 2008 through the opening of the New World Center in January 2011. With the campus completed on time and on budget, the Center is proving to be a laboratory for generating new ideas about the way music is taught, presented, and experienced.

The NWS fellowship program is built around a series of experiences that promote artistic excellence, community connectivity, and entrepreneurial projects that assume risk. Anticipating the importance of internet dialogue, fiber optic cable connects every room in the Center with music students and artists around the globe. MUSAIC, the New World Symphony’s online publication system, is a virtual library of useful teaching and performance content.

The performance hall supports multidisciplinary artistic projects, and the exterior, Wallcast, offers high-definition sight and sound for viewers in SoundScape Park, a phenomenon which has become a cultural center of gravity in Miami. In 2008, NWS embarked on a new audience initiative with alternate performance experiences, some as short as 30 minutes, tailored to specific audience segments, and all with classical music at the core.

Using data analytics, NWS systematically builds its audience base. There are over 1,150 NWS alumni, 90 percent of whom are active in the making of music day to day.  To learn more about the work of the New World Symphony, listen to a podcast of Howard being interviewed for the NEA program Art Works here and investigate the New World Symphony website.


Photo by Rob White

Jason Jackson

Trombonist, composer, and educator

Well deserving of the title jazz master is Jason Jackson (MM ’95), who has built an impressive career as a virtuoso of the trombone, a composer, and an educator. One of the most sought-after trombonists in New York, Jason is currently the lead trombonist in the Dizzy Gillespie All-Star Big Band and the Ron Carter Big Band. His many other former engagements include lead trombonist in orchestras led by Roy Hargrove and Charles Tolliver. No stranger to being in the spotlight on stage, he is equally comfortable playing in the pit bands of leading Broadway productions.

Among his many credits in productions on and off Broadway are The Color Purple, Wonderful Town, Nice Work If You Can Get It, The King and I, Kinky Boots, and Motown. Shortly after leaving MSM, Jason got his start touring with Ray Charles in the mid-1990s for two years, and for more than a decade he has been a member of the Grammy award-winning Vanguard Jazz Orchestra at the Village Vanguard.

Listen to Jason Jackson's track, Brazilian Bop, from "Inspiration"

As if his life on the stage were not enough, Jason is a dedicated educator who is a professor of jazz trombone at The Juilliard School, and gives private trombone lessons at City College of New York and the Dalton School. On top of this, he is a composer, arranger, and bandleader.

Jason has participated in many big band clinics with the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra in several places across the U.S., and has conducted other clinics in the U.S. as well as in Japan and Italy. There is still one more side to Jason and that is as a recording engineer in the Jack&Hill Recording Studio, which he founded with his wife, singer Rosena Hill Jackson.

One of their albums is the highly acclaimed Inspiration, in which not only do Jason’s virtuosic skills shine but also his talents as a composer, arranger, and bandleader. During the recording of Inspiration, which took place over a ten-year period in his own studio and at Capitol Studio A in Hollywood, Jason demonstrated both his musical and engineering skills.

To learn more about Jason, check out his website.


Photo by Shervin Lainez

Eunbi Kim

Pianist, speaker, and educator

For Eunbi Kim (MM ’12), life as a piano soloist is a personal quest in which she pursues an inner vision. Performing both on the stage and in the recording studio, her work has been characterized as genre-defying and interdisciplinary.

With a passion for new music, Eunbi has commissioned a new work from Daniel Bernard Roumain (DBR), created a music-theatre performance inspired by the novels of Haruki Murakami, and recently released an album of concert music by 10-time Grammy-nominated jazz pianist and composer Fred Hersch on Albany Records. In her work, she does not shy away from intimate and challenging themes, such as a mental breakdown, based on that of a literary character, or the inner workings of her family.

Eunbi describes her life as a musician in her own words in her TEDx talk, "Performance Through Fear"

An advocate for entrepreneurship and innovation in the arts, Eunbi was one of just 50 artists selected for the New York Foundation for the Arts 2012 Artist as Entrepreneur program. Putting theory into practice, she and Gina Izzo (BM ’09) are cofounders of bespoken, a program that mentors young women musicians and helps them to navigate all aspects of the music industry as they develop their own careers.

To find out more about Eunbi, visit her webpage.


Michael Lynch

Cofounder and CEO of upBOARD

In today’s complex business environments, syncing together a large number of moving parts is not all that different from directing an orchestra or a Broadway musical. After studying opera at MSM, Michael Lynch (’83), Cofounder and CEO of upBOARD, went on to fashion a career as an actor, singer, and dancer before turning his sights to technology. In his credits are starring roles in Broadway productions of Fiddler on the Roof, Jerome Robbins’ Broadway, Les Misérables, and the TV series General Hospital.

In the technology world, Michael is widely recognized as a creative and successful executive who has extensive leadership experience in delivering innovative, collaborative products and building global businesses. Indeed, his passion for innovation has been a guiding light throughout his career.

In one of his early gigs, Michael was in charge of creative product development at 7th Level, where he led the production of over 30 award-winning internet, education, and entertainment software products for such companies as Disney, IBM, Real Networks, Microsoft, and Sony. Before founding upBOARD, he led the fast growing Internet of Things business at SAP.

Now in his current work at upBOARD, he is focused on business strategy, digitization, and growth opportunities that leverage disruptive technologies and apply emerging technology to business strategy and the innovation process. Clearly Michael is passionate about technology and the transformations it is capable of.

Not at all a stranger to the stage, he is often found expounding the joys of the creative process in business environments. In his speaking engagements, the musician is ever present in Michael where from time to time he bursts into song. Check out this sample of talks to see Michael in action here.


Wendy Talio

Founder of Living Artist Society

Wendy Talio (BM ’83) was drawn to music from a very young age while watching her older sister’s ballet class. By the time of her fifth birthday, she was already playing the piano and dancing. And, by the age of ten she had established herself as an accompanist for school plays, soloists, ballet classes, and choral groups.

It was at Rice University doing graduate work that Wendy became involved in various projects that gradually drew her into the world of information technology. It did not take long for her to realize that the problem-solving training she had developed in music could be directed towards this new interest in computer programming.

Wendy went on to hold several leadership positions across a gamut of data and marketing services to a wide variety of clients as she built a career at Reader’s Digest and Consumer Reports. But that musical spark, the source of her inspiration, never diminished, and today she is pursuing a new direction, one that will bring together the skills she honed in the worlds of data technology and music.

Wendy is in the throes of birthing a start-up, the Living Artist Society, and through it tackling head on some of the major challenges independent artists face: making a living and building an audience. Combining her deep knowledge of music with her experience in data analytics and marketing, Wendy has created a web-based platform that helps artists plan and promote performances more effectively to maximize profit potential. The platform launches in beta this spring.

Indeed, the power of data science is an exciting new frontier that is transforming the lives of artists everywhere. To get a sense of how Wendy is tackling these issues, visit her webpage.


Photo by Julien Charpentier

Kavita Shah

Vocalist and composer

From space, Earth may look like a silent orb in the heavens, but down here at ground level the planet pulsates with music. Reveling in the myriad sounds and rhythms is singer, composer, and arranger Kavita Shah (MM ’12).  Having been raised in Manhattan with its rich mixture of musical cultures, she was trained as a classical pianist, sang in the Young People’s Chorus of New York City, and discovered jazz at an early age through her neighbor, the great saxophonist Patience Higgins, with whom she later performed at Minton’s and the Lenox Lounge.

In her formative years, Kavita was so drawn to Spanish literature that she became fluent in the language and pursued a degree in Latin American Studies at Harvard, where she also became fluent in Portuguese and conducted research on Afro-Brazilian music. Kavita has had a lifelong fascination with folk cultures, and she has done extensive research on traditional music in Brazil, Cape Verde, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Tanzania, Turkey, and India. Especially important to her are the ways in which cultural traditions are captured in and embodied in songs, which informs her approach to modern jazz.

As a composer and arranger, Kavita is fascinated by complex structures, improvisation, and novel approaches to using the voice as an instrument. Her performance life is quite varied, ranging from projects with her own band (her debut Visions, coproduced by Lionel Loueke, was released in 2014), to her interdisciplinary vocal work Folk Songs of Naboréa (which premiered at the Park Avenue Armory in 2017), to a duo with virtuoso bassist François Moutin (their 2018 album Interplay was nominated for a French Grammy for Jazz album of the year), to collaborations with contemporary composers.

Kavita regularly sings her music at major concert halls, festivals, and clubs on six continents. Check out her webpage and her blog, the Folkalist.

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