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Climbing the Charts

With one of the top music business programs in North America, Albright College is helping to jumpstart careers on the stage and behind it.

By Hilary Bentman

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After graduation, Nick Homa '14 will move to Nashville to pursue a career in studio recording and performing.

Nick Homa ’14 came to Albright College to study communications. He ended up switching to psychology. But that didn’t seem quite right, either.

The longtime singer and guitarist finally struck the right chord with music business and philosophy. After he graduates this month, Homa will pack his guitar, recording equipment and diploma, and head to Nashville to pursue a career in studio recording and performing.

“I never thought there was a possibility to do something (professionally) with music,” he said.

All that changed in the summer of 2012, when Homa worked with faculty mentor Hal Weary on an Albright Creative Research Experience (ACRE) project to write, produce, record and market an album.

In the end, the indie-folk artist, who draws influence from Bob Dylan and Woody Guthrie, had his first album and gained the realization that “you can make a living making music.”

Homa is just one of Albright’s budding musicians whose careers have been jumpstarted here. The College’s music business program – ranked one of the top 35 in North America by Billboard magazine – takes a hands-on approach, exposing students to all aspects of the industry and partnering talented performers like Homa with those students interested in learning and pursuing careers in the backstage aspects of the biz.

“Student-musicians are provided with the opportunity to upstart their careers while music business students, who are non-musicians, develop management experience and build their portfolios,” said Weary, assistant professor and coordinator of the music business program.

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Milton McCauley '15 performs at the release party for his first album, "Simple Pleasures," at the Hard Rock Cafe in Philadelphia.
Photo Credit: Reji B Photography

The music business program works in concert with Lion Enterprises, Albright’s student-run organization that includes the College’s record label, Lion Records, as well as Albright Music Publishing Group, Songwriters Organization, and Lion Management.

Lion Enterprises runs the annual Albright Idol competition, whose winning performers get the chance to professionally record a song with Lion Records and release it through digital media outlets such as iTunes, Spotify and Amazon. Music management students handle artwork, social media, marketing, photo shoots and promotion for the artists.

Winning Albright Idol, or working with a winner, can certainly boost a portfolio. But as junior Milton McCauley learned, losing isn’t necessarily bad, either.

When then-senior Dan Emmons heard the artist, known simply as Milton, perform during an Idol competition, he was blown away by the then-freshman’s new wave R&B/soul sound.

“Milton is beyond his years vocally, not just in the ability, but what he’s able to put into songs emotionally,” said Emmons ’12.

Milton didn’t win Idol, but Emmons knew he wanted to work with him. After graduating with a degree in music business and business administration, Emmons introduced Milton to his childhood friend, Rob Devious, a music producer.

In March, Milton released his first album, “Simple Pleasures,” to much fanfare at the Hard Rock Café in Philadelphia. He is currently at work on his second record.

“The (first) album has been doing fantastically,” said Emmons, who serves as Milton’s manager. “The record is on iTunes, Spotify, everything like that. The goal is to keep him very busy.”

Milton is busy. Like other Albright musicians, he has to balance schoolwork with building his career. That means spending his days in class and his nights meeting with his manager or recording tracks. Milton also performs in venues around the region and finds time to play rugby on Albright’s club team.

Music business majors are not the only ones striking this school-career balance.

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Kaéla Edwards '17 performs at Albright Idol 2013, where she won best female vocalist.

Kaéla Edwards is majoring in biology and Spanish. But listen to the freshman sing and she’ll take your breath away. Appropriately, she won the 2013 Albright Idol best female vocalist category with her stirring song “Can’t Breathe,” now available on SoundCloud.

With a definite Alicia Keys vibe, Edwards undoubtedly has talent. But in the end, music may play second fiddle to her aspirations of being a pediatrician.

“I don’t ever expect to stop doing music. It’s something that’s always in me, entwined in my daily life,” said Edwards, who was initially drawn to Albright for the science program and facilities, the music program, and the ability to “dabble in a bunch of different things.”

Albright’s success in launching careers in an unquestionably difficult industry is directly tied to its experiential approach. Students learn all aspects of the business, on campus and off with internships.

Lion Enterprises also runs an annual Music Business Forum, bringing industry experts to campus and helping forge connections. The most recent forum in April featured alum Paul Sinclair ’97, executive vice president of digital strategy and innovation at Atlantic Records.

And Albright recognizes that today’s musicians are increasingly do-it-yourself artists, who bypass the more traditional pathways to get their music directly in the hands of consumers.

To that end, the College recently expanded its offerings with a Music Industry Studies major, which weaves together artistry, industry and technology in a fuller, more intentional and well-integrated curriculum.

“Albright plays a great hand (in my success),” said Milton. “It feeds me – building my music career and giving me knowledge.”

 

 

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