Imagine that in a city like New Orleans—a music city, a city where musicians abound and music is made 24 hours a day—access to learning about the business of music wasn’t readily available.
There are so many musicians who have not received payment for their creative products. Hundreds have been cheated out of the fruits of their labor. They had either no experience in covering their rights, or trusted the wrong, inexperienced (or possibly nefarious) person to “take care of them.”
When OffBeat was started, one the key issues was to develop an educational system for musicians. Back then, Cyril Neville and George Green had started an effort (NOMO—New Orleans Musicians Organized) to give his colleagues, and young musicians, training not only in music, but in the business side of music, along with the New Orleans Music & Entertainment Association.
Now, this is before efforts like South by Southwest in Austin existed. Or the Music Business Institute/Cutting Edge that started in City Hall as a project of the New Orleans Music Commission and was transformed into a private non-profit. Then there was a state music commission, a music conference called LMNOP (modeled after South by Southwest), the Delta Music Iniitiative, and so on and so on. But there was no institutionalized education program.
In the mid ‘90s, Loyola University began developing a Music Industry Studies program as did Delgado Community College. Loyola finally established the first official four-year university MIS program in 2000.
The progam was a cooperative endeavor between the university’s Schools of Music and Business; the program was started with a grant from the Hilton Foundation which endowed two chairs for the degree program.
The first head of the program was Dr. Scott Fredrickson, who left Loyola when the Grammy-award winning John Snyder took over in 2004. Since then, the world-class Music Industry Studies program has become probably the most popular degree program on campus. It’s interesting to note that when Loyola recently restructured its degree programs as a result of falling enrollment (not unlike other universities nationwide and locally), the MIS program was left intact…because it’s growing.
Professor Sandy Hinderlie, who joined Loyola in 1981, recently told OffBeat that the MIS program is expanding rapidly, and currently has 350 students enrolled (up from 25 when the program started). “We’ve expanded our curriculum now by offering two new degrees in the MIS program: a B.S. in Popular and Commercial Music and a B.S. in Digital Filmmaking,” he said.
Loyola staff and administrators could see the handwriting on the wall with the burgeoning film industry in Louisiana. The new degree in Pop and Commercial Music is performance-oriented. Hinderlie laughs, “When I started in the early ‘80s, the dean at the time told me that as long as he was there ‘rock ‘n’ roll would never be taught.’” But times have changes and we are changing with them. I pushed for the new programs and we’re starting to change our focus.”
John Snyder agrees: “We are training people to be successful in creative professions, to be successful business people in creative professions.”
Himderlie says “In the beginning we had mostly local students, but now our students are from all over the world, in fact about sixty percent. These kids come to New Orleans because it’s New Orleans, known worldwide for its music; the city is an attraction in itself for our students. We have so many fantastic local musicians here that kids who move here to go to Loyola can actually play with their idols. There was one young man, 18 years-old, who was told by his music teacher in Seattle to go to college someplace where he could gig and get training from Johnny Vidacovich!”
“Lots of our kids who are getting a degree in jazz are gigging all over town with world-class musicians, people they could have probably never have played with if they didn’t attend Loyola,” he says. “Our kids get training in marketing, management, digital marketing, technology and recording, legal issues for entertainment, music history, the whole spectrum of what you need to know to be successful in the music business, or as musicians who need to know about how their profession works, business-wise. When our kids graduate, they’ve gone on to work in the industry, locally and nationally.”
Hinderlie tells the tale of a Loyola student who happened to talk to some Indians in the Atlanta Airport. He’s since produced two music festivals in India and one in Vietnam. “He’s also now teaching a class in festival production at Loyola,” Hinderlie added.
All students in the programs have to serve internships, and this has coincidentally spawned a collaboration with the House of Blues. Mark Roberts, the Director of Promotions at the club, has had excellent experiences with Loyola interns, and reached out to the university. How about performers? Could the HOB give them the opportunity to perform in front of a live audience?
Roberts weighed in on the new partnership, “The Loyola School of Music Industry Studies is such a special place. We’ve been inspired by the talent, creativity, and ambition of its students. We want to provide an opportunity for those talented individuals to pursue their areas of focus at the next level and give them a broader platform to perform, promote, market, and produce events. We’re so happy to work with this very special group of students and faculty as we launch Uptown: Downtown.”
The students from the Pop and Commercial music program will perform at the House of Blues at the HOB Parish on November 19 in Uptown: Downtown, an event series (open to the public) that will not only give students an opportunity to play, but will involve MIS students who will also literally run the production and business sides of the shows. Uptown: Downtown will consist of five, diverse 30-minute performances, under the direction of Hinderlie (an accomplished jazz and blues pianist and producer himself) and Lo Faber, a Loyola instructor and founding member and front man for the New York-based jam rock band God Street Wine. Performances will cover a range of genres ― rap, R&B, rock, pop, and funk ― and include covers of familiar and well-loved songs, as well as student originals.
The event is expected to become a new tradition at Loyola, both for the students and for the public when they see what a little music education–and music business education–can accomplish.