Perfect Pitch: Byron Walker & Alejandro Di Mare
Founders, Engineers, Musicians
BYRON: Palo Alto, CA
ALEJANDRO: Heredia, Costa Rica
Current Job and Entrepreneurial Focus:
BYRON: Currently the COO & Co-founder of Strofe!
ALEJANDRO: I recently quit my job to create Strofe, a platform that allows users to create and customize music regardless of their knowledge of music theory.
Notable Prior Jobs:
BYRON: I worked at StartX supporting a community of over 1000 startup founders. I’ve taught music for nearly 15 years now and also spent time teaching at Khan Lab School and Bing Nursery School.
ALEJANDRO: I worked at edmodo.com. I was one of the 3 engineers who originally started it from scratch and stayed as the director of engineering for over 12 years where I oversaw its growth to hundreds of millions of users.
When I Started Performing:
BYRON: I started performing at an early age in piano recitals, and picked up experience in school bands as well. I began gigging in High School where I like to think I really earned my stripes playing in pit orchestras for local musicals.
ALEJANDRO: I started performing at 15 with my high school band.
Performing Arts Background:
BYRON: I got my start at an early age with beginner piano classes. I picked up on trombone later on and fell in love with music theory in High school. I was fortunate enough to have a school that taught Music theory, history, and analysis all 4 years! At that time I also started teaching music, continuing to this day. I couldn’t get enough of music, playing in local orchestras, musical productions, jazz combos, and garage bands. At Stanford I majored in Music, Science, and Technology at CCRMA (Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics) focusing on spatial sound and algorithmic composition. I kept up with performance as a member of the Stanford Symphony Orchestra, LSJUMB (Leland Stanford Junior University Marching Band), SLORK (Stanford Laptop Orchestra), various pit orchestras, and some jazz combos here and there.
ALEJANDRO: I started playing drums in cover bands in high school and never really stopped playing since then. After getting my college degree in CS the first job I took was just a means to save up and travel to study music more professionally at the LA College of Music. Once I graduated from LACM I started working a bit more seriously as a programmer and because of that never really committed to any of the bands that I’d play with. However, to this day I’m the stand-in drummer for several local bands and will play in gigs at least once a month.
How did your performing arts background supercharge your entrepreneurship?
BYRON: There’s a very direct through line between my life in music and the current focus of my entrepreneurial career, but I’ll focus more on the performance side here. The ability to perform in high pressure situations is a must-have skill for entrepreneurs. I used to be incredibly shy and nervous around performances, but through practice I learned to thrive in those kinds of situations. In many pit orchestras the difference between a mediocre ensemble and an excellent one rests on the ability for individuals within the team to inspire and motivate each other. Founders need to do exactly this as a company grows - inspiring team members, investors, advisors, and customers to believe in what they’re doing and come along for the ride.
ALEJANDRO: As a programmer you’re constantly thinking if it’s possible to translate real life skills into code, with certain things being a lot more complicated than others. When it comes to generating music, I can honestly say it wouldn’t have been possible to even begin solving the problem had I not been playing so many different styles of music with so many different musicians for years. What does a bass player need to definitely play for something to sound like an authentic bossa? How can the drummer play 4 funk tunes in a row and keep it interesting? How does the melody affect the style of comping the piano player chooses to use? How do the decisions made by the guitar player affect the drummer? These are all questions that are very hard to answer, can pretty much only be answered by having experience performing, and have all been necessary to tackle in order to get Strofe to produce music that sounds organic.
BYRON: Jacob Collier.
ALEJANDRO: Drummer Mark Guiliana for sure; he’s the perfect blend of an organic, flowing sound with astounding accuracy.
Follow Byron Walker & Alejandro Di Mare:
LinkedIn - byron-meng-walker
Facebook - @ale.dimare
LinkedIn - @alejandro-di-mare-b668a937