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Elbert, Dan

Dan Elbert
Acalanes Class of 2004
U.C. Berkeley Business Degree, Deloitte, Thailand, Jazz Musician,
Current Student Berklee School of Music

Music was always Dan's passion. He played the saxophone seriously, beginning in 5th grade and his love of music continued through high school, even as he worked hard academically. It was his "big thing." When it came time to apply to college, he applied to numerous music programs at “big name” schools. Although he was accepted into most of them, he couldn't get enough scholarship money to make them work. Instead, he went to CAL Berkeley and majored in business. During college, he played music less and less.

In his junior year he was offered an internship with Deloitte in San Francisco which lead to a full time position after graduation in 2008. He was there for almost five years. Although it was interesting and paid well, he was working what he calls “a soul crushing 95 hours per week." He knew would not work for him in the long run, and started to look into startup companies. His vision of his future took an even bigger shift when he was asked by a friend to join her band. He started playing the saxophone again, at first playing a gig a month and soon playing a gig a week. When he was asked to join a different band opening for Dave Matthews in front of 30,000 people, he decided "this is it!" and quit his day job, resigning from Deloitte. Just imagine his disappointment when the gig with Matthews’ opening band fell through! Tough as this was, Dan realized that he still didn't regret leaving Deloitte. 

He decided he needed to focus on improving as a musician and bought a one-way ticket to Thailand. There, he spent three months exploring the country, finally settling down in a quiet mountain hamlet of 5000 people, where he spent the next year practicing sax 10 hours a day. He had thought he would leave Thailand after a year but wound up staying two more years in Chiang Mai where he found himself amongst an amazing community of musicians from around the world. There, he learned from great mentors and earned money by playing gigs, giving private lessons and appearing at jazz festivals.

Then, a year ago, a former teacher from the Bay Area asked him why he had never gone to music school. Though he now liked the idea, he didn't think could afford it. Still, his former teacher persisted, persuading him to apply. He got a call from Berklee School of Music in Boston offering him a substantial scholarship and now he is thoroughly enjoying working on his music degree. His long term aim is to go to Tokyo where jazz is “huge.” He wants to play creative music that inspires. His advice? “Don’t overthink everything. Don’t plan your life out 5 years in advance. Do what you love. It's hard to work so hard at something you don't love but easy if you love it - it doesn't feel like work!"