College Collaboration Goes Three Ways

By Senah Yeboah-Sampong

Columbia’s student body has always included talented musicians among its student artists, and the college has always encouraged collaboration. The first-ever Music Industry Immersion Workshop, held July 23-28, exemplified this philosophy by bringing students from three programs together to record music and showcase artists.

According to Joshua Shapera, Audio Arts and Acoustics faculty member, the course developed by the Arts, Entertainment and Media Management and Music Departments allowed four bands to create music, record it and see it marketed by students. During the course, four bands were created, and their original music was recorded and performed. The AEMM students were responsible for marketing, managing and booking the bands. The class culminated in a showcase at Reggie’s Rock club July 28 and an EP to be released this fall by AEMMP, Columbia’s student-run record label.

Coordination was critical “because it’s a brand new course and because it’s not only interdisciplinary and interdepartmental but inter-school,” said Shapera, who oversaw all work in the studio.

Jerry Brindisi, AEMM faulty member and Curriculum Committee chairman, said the workshop’s impetus was the Music Department’s collaboration with German music school PopAkademie, leading to a re-envisioning of a camp they offer.

Brinidisi worked with AEMM faculty members Justin Sinkovich and Shawn Murphy, along with Chuck Webb and Gary Yerkins of the Music Department, in addition to Shapera, who kept everything moving.

Yerkins said the class was modeled after a previous AEMM collaboration with the Music Department’s Contemporary, Urban and Popular Music degree program, which he directs.

“The classes were meant to feel like working professionally under deadline as part of a team with common goals and outcomes, [and] all the music, creativity and ideas should be coming from the students,” Yerkins said.

Class members filled out forms indicating whom they would want to play with, formed bands on the spot and got to work the next day, Yerkins said. The groups’ sounds ranged from hip-hop and R & B to folk-pop. Students were free to experiment.

“Part of the concept is the mystery; you don’t know what’s going to happen,” Yerkins said. “You just sort of shuffle the cards, and it turns out with a lot of surprises as the week progresses.”

The bands, including Flashgasm, Ha Ha, No! and Das Ist This, came together quickly while AEMM students attacked the promotional side through a series of simulation games meant to identify and test their skills. Then they created marketing plans for the bands participating in the workshop.

“[The workshop], as a wrap-up course to incorporate everything I’d learned at Columbia and then summarize it into a one-week course at the very end, was perfect for me,” said Matthew McGraw, AEMM alumnus, who took the course as a senior.

McGraw and his team worked with the group Ha Ha, No!, whom he met in the busy AAA studios.

“We had sessions going on in every studio that the school has and rehearsals going on … and mixing and editing happening in all of our mini-suites,” Yerkins said. “It’s the first time that we’ve used our facility in this way.”

McGraw said there was a bit of tension at the first meeting, but his internship experiences helped guide him through it. He wanted to keep things operating correctly on his end and create the trust necessary to reconcile the creative and business aspects.

“It’s crucial that there’s trust and loyalty between the manager and the artist, because if there isn’t that trust, nothing is ever going to work out,” McGraw said.

Yerkins enjoyed the workshop’s structure and the enthusiasm it inspired. He felt the class worked well at honing the skills of advanced students and could see the class going on in J-term or during the summer.

“The staff and all the people that worked on it just did a tremendous job, [and] we’re going to have a meeting and go over how we can make it even better next year,” he said.

That’s the sort of rich environment Columbia can offer, Shapera said, and he would like to see more.