What’s College for Anyway

One of the more frequently asked questions my students hit me with on the first day of school: Professor Green, How many absences can we have?

classroomWhat do you mean “how many can you have?”

Absences aren’t a given for the number of days you can plan to miss each semester. Having an excused absence is reserved for those family and health emergencies. And if it’s not excused, you probably shouldn’t be missing. But that’s not what many college students think. Their desire to know the attendance policy on the first day of class is so they can plan the number of days they can miss over the next 12 weeks of school.

I haven’t had a semester yet since when there hasn’t been at least one camping trip, cruise, or family vacation that some student didn’t knowingly plan at the start of school year; or on the backend of the fall or spring breaks; and even sometimes during finals week; trips that take the student out of class during the regular school schedule. Outings they either try to get excused or want you to change your schedule to accommodate theirs, and try to take the exams early, or turn in assignments late.

“My family planned this cruise six months ago,” I’ve heard. My response is, “the school calendar’s been posted online for over 18 months. Did no one think to look at when classes started?” Of course, not because they just assume all of their professors will be okay with it.

Then there are the tardies. Not the barley slip in before the door is closed or right after the roll is called type of tardies. But the walk in 10-15 minutes late regular routine of some students. That is mind boggling; especially when it’s not an early morning class. Since I teach mostly upperclassmen, I’ve often reminded them that they needed to start treating school just as they would a “real” job — people get fired from jobs for being habitually late, I tell them. I’m as sure that they all hear me as I am certain that I’m not the first person to tell them that.

I have several students who happen to have me for both a morning and an afternoon class on the same day. One day one showed up for the afternoon class, having missed the morning one. When I asked why they weren’t in the morning class, laughter was what I got; then a little honesty. That honesty was in the form of “I don’t even have an excuse.” That was the answer.

booksI was a commuting college student all four years of school, and lived about 18 miles from the campus. I had to get up early, even for a mid-morning class, because finding a parking space that wasn’t a half of mile from the building where my classes were, was challenging for anyone showing up after 9 a.m., and the school shuttle services weren’t always reliable, especially if you happen to show up seconds after the bus pulled off, and didn’t have the 15 minutes to wait for the next one.  I showed up early, hung out at the library, the student union, and sometimes in my car — with no electronic devices to entertain me, and then walked across campus to get to my class on time.

I don’t see the same “do what you can to get to class on time” commitment or attitude coming from many of my current students.  It’s usually the same two of three people who come in late, always with the “I couldn’t find a parking space,” excuse. Truthfully, there are plenty of parking spaces on the campus; they’re just not all located close to the building. Arriving early on campus would help to guarantee a better spot.

When I was in college, tuition wasn’t anywhere near the amount it has grown to now. Students are graduating with enormous amounts of student loan debt. And I guess that’s why it’s baffling to me to watch as some of them do what they can to not show up, not engage when they do show up, or talk or play on their devices in class, instead of listening to what’s being taught. The thought of me paying thousands of dollars per semester without trying to get my full money’s worth, is a foreign idea to me.

Last month, a friend of mine teaching at another university commented online that he was irritated that when he showed a video in clas,s that tied into what the students were learning, one student asked if material from the video was going to be on the midterm. When he said no, and explained why he was showing it, several students packed up and slipped out of class once the lights went down. Others, he said were on their smartphones and their laptops, and still others decided it was nap time. It was obvious that he was frustrated at the thought that there are students who only want to hear what they have to remember for an exam, and not actually learn about the business they plan to graduate in and try to find a job.

I knew exactly how he felt. Not only had I heard of that happening to other faculty members at my own school, but it used to happen to me. That was until I changed the syllabus to reflect that anything discussed, shown, or read in the class, and as assignments, including any guest speakers, videos, or articles, are all subject to being a part of the midterm or final exam. Because, as I explain to the students, I don’t give busy work. I have assignments that are designed to help them process and apply what they’ve been learning, and to give them a fuller understanding of the business. I no longer tell students what will and won’t be on exams, until we do a review for that exam.

But no one should have to trick students into learning; or even wanting to learn!

What’s college for anyway?

I paid for my own tuition. Maybe that’s why I took getting up and being there seriously. I paid for my own gas to drive the car I was blessed to have been able to use, passed down from my oldest sister. I worked a part-time job from high school through my first few years post-college (yes, working both a full-time and a part-time jobs during a period).

College for me meant learning something in a field I had an interest, and then graduating and getting a job in that field. I was an average student, taking over two years of undergraduate time before I started understanding just how to study. But I learned, and I did, and I graduated. And I got a job. Returning for Graduate School was so that I could go into another direction that I’d become even more passionate about. And again, having to pay for my own education, while working, meant taking it seriously enough to at least show up.

Now, I will be the first to say that college isn’t for everyone; and especially not a 4-year degree program! But if you’re going to bother to apply, accept, pay, and attend school, why wouldn’t you want to do all that you could to succeed?

Show up. Be on time. Read the material. Ask questions. Complete the assignments. Do your part to learn!

One time my mother told me, to paraphrase, “You’re not doing me any favors by going to college.” Her point was that whether I was successful in college or in life, that was on me.  And she was right. She’d already done her part of getting me past the finish line of high school, and encouraging and preparing me for college. What road I took from that point was my responsibility.

But there are times I seriously think that many students feel that they’re doing us, their professors and administrators, a favor being at the school; coming to class! And sadly, for many of them, they will have a difficult time finding a job. Or being able to keep one if they get hired.

Advertisements

What Did You Get for Christmas?

Did you get what you wanted for Christmas? Was it a brand new guitar? No? Perhaps you already have one that’s been collecting dust because you never learned how to play. Or maybe you play a little, but haven’t figured out how to go from amateur hobbyist to a professional guitarist. If you’ve ever wanted to learn how to play guitar and work professionally at it, but haven’t found a teacher who can also share tips on making it in the music business, then meet singer/songwriter, and classically trained guitarist Robert Arthur! 

 
IMG_2236

In addition to his one-on-one personal lessons offered locally in Nashville, TN, Robert is now accepting guitar students via Skype and FaceTime. A graduate of the University of South Carolina with a Bachelors degree in classical guitar performance, Robert was a full-time guitar teacher in Union, SC before moving to Nashville in 1992. He has toured extensively with country music artists Brad Paisley, Jeff Bates, The Henningsens and many others, and has performed with legends like Johnny Cash and Waylon Jennings, and shared the stage with a number of other country music stars. 

“My guitars have seen all the lower 48 states, Canada, the Caribbean!” Robert Arthur

As a studio musician, Robert has spent many hours in different types of studios, recording hundreds of sessions, from very low-budget demos to major label records. As I songwriter he has been blessed to have had three major publishing deals, and over 100 songs recorded by small independent country and Gospel music artists, and major-label acts such as Chris Young and Brad Paisley. One instrumental cut with Paisley was nominated for a Grammy.

Robert wants to put his vast experience to work for you helping to equip you in many styles, on acoustic or electric, and to share his special insights for the guitar playing songwriter! He is passionate about the guitar and would love to put that passion to work for you! Contact Robert Arthur at: SirRobArtMusic@bellsouth.net for more information about pricing, scheduling, etc.

Where Education Meets Real Life!

As the calendar year winds to a close, I decided to take some time to think back over the last two academic semesters this year. This has been busy year, both in and outside the classroom.

I have always approached teaching in the Music Business program with the thought that Academia needs the Industry, as much as the Industry needs Academia. Educated graduates benefits everyone. So from day one, I’ve always looked beyond the textbook, choosing to incorporate guest speakers from the music and entertainment industry into the curriculum of every course I teach. In addition, I make it a personal practice to remain engaged in the industry, through organizational memberships, presentations at industry conferences, and attending industry events to maintain business relationships, and to continue learning and remaining current with what’s going on in the music business today. I do all that so that I’m always able to present my students not just with the knowledge of industry terms, definitions, and the basics of working in the business; which are all very important. But also in an effort to help them to be ready to walk across the commencement stage, right onto the stage of life; the real life of working, growing, and succeeding in their chosen field.

Bringing industry executives in to speak is always a real treat, as students have the opportunity to hear from Song Pluggers, Publishing Administrators, Booking Agents, Artist Managers, Entertainment Publicists, and Tour Managers.

We traveled down to Nashville for some industry showcases:

And again to Nashville to visit top Talent Agencies:

 

 

I also encourage my students to volunteer at various music conferences and attend networking events:

I’ll admit that my approach to teaching does require more of my energy, more creativity, and more out-of-the-classroom time, as I work to make every event tie-in to what we’re learning, and how to apply it to real world working. But it’s worth it as I watch some students listen more intently when they meet people who are doing what they want to do when they graduate. And pushing students out of their comfort zones, getting them to do some things they don’t want to do, or they didn’t think they could complete successfully. And then seeing the results of them making a connection, and getting that internship or job. Or getting email from former students who talk about how they didn’t realize just how much they were learning in class, until they had to apply that knowledge at work.

IMG_2207

An industry friend shared this graphic with a group of my students at a Tour Management Workshop.* I kept it because it applies to so much more; to life itself. It was a reminder to them that success (the iceberg) required a lot of sacrifice to achieve. Sometimes people only see what’s above the surface (the success), but they don’t take note of all of the hard work, persistence, discipline, rejection, courage, risks and other things required to achieve it. But that’s also why it’s important for people to surrounded themselves with good habits, passion, honesty, and dedication to maintain that success.

Education is important. But where education meets real life makes it even more worthwhile. Helps me to enjoy what I do even more. I can’t wait to get another year started!

 

  • Success graphic provided by Eric Kilby, Director of Touring for Compassion Productions

Labor Day is Not Just for Cookouts

So we’re two weeks into the new college academic school year, and we’re having our first break — Labor Day! Every few years, I like to remind myself of the historical significance of some of the holidays we often take for granted. Labor Day is one of those. Another day off from work; no school; an extension of the summer vacation. I’ve heard it referred to by almost everything except what it was designed for, and the reason the first Monday of every September was put aside as a holiday.

According to the Department of Labor’s website, Labor Day is intended to be dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.

The first governmental recognition of Labor Day came through municipal ordinances passed during 1885 and 1886. The first state bill was introduced into the New York legislature, but the first to become law was passed by Oregon on February 21, 1887. By 1894, 23 other states had adopted the holiday in honor of workers, and on June 28 of that year, Congress passed an act making the first Monday in September of each year a legal holiday.

Like many other American holidays, I sometimes think if the real meaning and purposes of these days, which we set aside for either celebration or remembrance of something significant to the values, growth, or protection our country, are buried under the day-long or weekend obligations of parties and picnics; camping and cookouts. Or drowned out by the advertising sounds of retail shopping, car dealer sales, and specials on in-ground pools and summer inventory clearance!

Social and economic achievements of American workers. That’s saying a lot; especially in these modern times. How often do we think about what we do, and how those things contribute to these achievements every day?

There’s a lot of “labor” that goes into working in the entertainment industry; whether you work in motion pictures, television, radio, sports; even gaming. And then there’s music, which I believe also helps to contribute to the “strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.”  They all require a labor force!

Not everyone understands that while from the outside, this industry might look glamorous, the truth of the matter is that it takes a lot of work to make it successful. “Overnight” successes are years in the making. And it could be decades before you see sustainability in many artist’s careers.

The word “labor,” means to “work” or “hard work.” The noun for “work,” is an activity involving mental or physical effort done in order to achieve a purpose or result. In spite of the definitions, people still complain when they have to “work;” and when what they’re doing is “hard,” and requires a mental or physical challenge.

I asked students an open-ended question on their first quiz this semester. I wanted to know what they were looking forward to learning and getting out of the Artist Management class. There were several predictable answers expected from someone taking a course such as this. But one student made mention of the fact that while they were interested in working in the music industry, they didn’t want a job that required more than a 40-hour work week.

I chuckled when I read this, but I did not directly challenge the student on their thinking. Obviously there are some jobs in the industry that are basic 9 to 5 type of positions. But I did take the opportunity to let them know that management was not one of them; neither would be most of the jobs related to building an artist’s career.

Working in the music industry, and certainly in artist management, is not for those more interested in keeping up with the clock and hitting some magical “end of the work week.” It requires labor. Hard work. And it will at times be taxing on both the mental and physical capacity of the person doing it. But if it’s something you’re seriously interested in doing, it can and will also be rewarding. And like most things, that means it’ll be worth the time.

Listening is not the same as Learning

Just two months before the start of another school year. I’m not counting down in anticipation of returning to work. But I am thinking about how fast life seems to be flying by. Three weeks ago I attended my niece’s high school graduation.

The thought of her being 18 and heading off to college this fall is just mind blowing. There’s the obvious…the passage of time that just doesn’t keep up with the calendar, the clock, and everything else that makes it unbelievable that I’m 18 years older this month, anymore than it does that she’s a high school graduate!

Then there’s the realization that she, like so many other teenagers, are heading off to college, ready of their freshmen year; full of knowledge, hope, excitement, and — unfortunately, already set in her way. You know, like many of us were who “knew everything already;” whose parents were old-fashion and out of touch, and couldn’t tell us anything. And even when they tried, we didn’t listen.

But these students? The ones I see in class and walking around campus. The teenage and young adults who spend the money and the time attending school, and who say they’re interested in a career in the music industry, but their actions (and inaction) doesn’t support what their words are saying. I’m still scratching my head at many of them.

The music industry is a competitive place. Getting a job in it has almost nothing to do with what degree you earn. But it does have to do with what information you learned; knowledge you gained; experiences you had; people you met; abilities and talents you have; and the drive to succeed.

I spoke at and lead a panel discussion at the Music Biz conference in Nashville back in May. The topic was on how students could increase their chances of alining internships during school, and jobs after graduation. The three-day conference cost several hundreds of dollars for industry persons attending, but less than $75.00 for students. There were dozens of seminars offered throughout the day; industry-related social activities each night; an awards luncheon included in the costs, and literally hundreds of professional industry executives and other persons speaking, sitting on panels, and walking the halls of the event. I spent months talking about the event coming up; weeks strongly encouraging students to register and attend; and even in the final days of school, had emails sent to everyone in the program. In spite of that, not even a dozen students attended.

 

So if a student or anyone else, says they’re interested in finding a job in the music industry, why would they not want to take advantage of opportunities to learn more about it; to meet people doing it; and to network with others who are also trying to get in it? Why does a student need to be pushed into finding internships, or volunteering at industry functions, or joining industry-related clubs and organizations?

Shouldn’t those who are serious about a career in the industry be in happy active pursuit and doing all they can to be competitive enough to get the job!?

My niece isn’t pursing a degree or career in the music industry. She wants to be a nurse; a neonatal nurse to be exact. She plans to spend her life helping to save babies’ lives. I applaud her for that. It’s something she’s been interested in since she was a young child herself; and it never changed through the years. But my prayer for her is the same thing that I say to my students — that their desire is not to learn enough to pass a test or get a good grade in class. But their desire should be to gain the kind of knowledge they will need to put what they’ve learned to use in the real world, and do something to make it a better place for everyone!

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!

Yes, I know we’re already two weeks into this new year, but it is, after all, still a NEW year! I don’t know where the last two weeks have gone; I mean Christmas was only three weeks ago! But next week, the students will be back, and everything will be ready, set, GO for the new semester.

I enjoy teaching in the recording industry field; helping students to learn more about the “business” of the music business. I love when you see the look on their faces when they finally “get it.” Or when you have a guest speaker from the industry, and the students are in awe of the opportunity of hearing from industry greats. And I especially love getting those phone calls or email when students have landed a job or a regular gig, and their so excited that everything came together for them.

Don’t get me wrong, though. It can also oftentimes be very challenging. Many students come in the classroom and into the program convinced they will be the exception; that they’ve figured out the answers to breaking into the business or “saving” the recording industry. And of course, there are the few who think they’ll accomplish their major life goal with minimal effort; that someone will just see them and want to sign them to a record deal; hear their song and sign them to a publishing deal; learn about them, and want them to produce their next album. It can definitely be a delicate balance trying to teach and encourage students, wanting them to keep their dreams and passions alive, while also helping them to understand the reality of the world of entertainment and the music business.

But it’s not just students who have some of these “fantasy” thoughts. I run into the same challenges with many of the new artists I work with. It’s not always evident right away; but it typically comes out when it’s time to commit to a routine; sacrifice regular lifestyle items in order to work longer and harder to strengthen and then exploit their talent; or pay a bill for an extra resource, service, or business assistance designed to help build and increase their brand.

I liken getting into and succeeding in the music industry to that of the sporting world.

  • If you want to make the team, you have to understand the sport; learn how to play the position you’re trying out for; establish a practice routine; and make other changes to become competitive. For an athlete, that includes working out, possibly doing weights, eating well, and other things related to their field of competition. Getting a job, or signed in the music industry isn’t much different — understand the business, learn how to do the job you’re trying to get, and do other things, like networking and reading industry publications, etc. to become competitive in your field.
  • If you want to stay on the team, you have to learn how to execute the plays, keep up with the changes that impact what you do and make the necessary adjustments, and show improvement in your skills. No different with the music industry, and perhaps even moreso, since changes in the music industry can happen so often — some from technology and some from laws and policies that impact how you make, distribute, buy, or listen to music.

So whether you’re a student looking for a degree in a Music Business program, or an aspiring artist looking to break into the industry, or someone interested in working for a record label, becoming a talent agent, or working as an artist manager — the short answer is this. You’re going to have to work hard for what you want. There will be competition. Talent isn’t everything; but defining what is becomes  as challenging as explaining the “IT” factor. And while who you know may get your foot in the door, only what you know will enable you to stay there and become successful.