Program Connects Students to Music Industry

Home to many recording studios and a regular destination for touring bands, Los Angeles is a musical mecca separated from Claremont by a mere one-hour train ride. But despite its proximity, the city’s vibrant music scene seems a world away for many students interested in the music industry. A new program at the Claremont Colleges, GRAMMY U, is trying to change that. 

GRAMMY U, a program created by The Recording Academy, gives students "opportunities to meet with musicians and producers and people who are working in concert production and sort of all areas of the music business,” said Claremont McKenna College literature professor Audrey Bilger, who is the faculty adviser for GRAMMY U.

“I would like to see this become a pipeline for students to get internships in various areas of the music business,” Bilger said.

GRAMMY U works with schools across the LA area, holding networking events for students such as sound checks for concerts at venues like Hollywood Bowl and the Greek Theatre, songwriting workshops, and other opportunities where students can talk with professionals in the music industry, Bilger said.

“When students can meet people who are actually doing this work, they learn things that they didn’t know they even wanted to learn and it can be life-changing; it can be transformative,” Bilger said.

"It’s a really excellent opportunity for students interested in the music industry to get firsthand experience at meeting and working with artists, recorders, producers, and label heads," said Sam Blomberg CM ’16, who is interested in songwriting and works on coordinating GRAMMY U events. 

“Coming to CMC, I really felt discouraged about going into media studies, seeing that that’s not one of CMC’s strong points. But through GRAMMY U, I saw that even though my school doesn’t specify in the entertainment industry, I still have opportunities to get experience in that field,” said Kaylilani Minami CM '16, who is also helping to establish GRAMMY U's presence on campus.  

Bilger said that she got to know the music business through her wife, Cheryl Pawelski, a three-time Grammy-nominated producer who owns a record label and has been affiliated with The Recording Academy for several decades.

“Because of her, I go to lots of Recording Academy events, and I’ve met with lots of people on the board, and I know a lot of musicians and artists,” Bilger said.

GRAMMY U held its kickoff event Sept. 6 at The Village Recording Studio in LA, a base of operations for several producers and performers such as Lady Gaga, The Rolling Stones, Coldplay, and John Mayer.

Students also met GRAMMY U representatives and the members of Vintage Trouble, the band that performed at the kickoff, who answered students' questions about getting started in the music industry.

“The band had some really insightful advice,” said Briana Smith SC ’14, who attended the event.

Smith, a computational media major who is interested in media in technology, said that she plans to become a member of GRAMMY U to form relationships with professionals in the music industry. 

Students can pay $50 for a membership that is valid for the duration of their college career and an additional two years after. 

GRAMMY U will host a panel event Nov. 20 at CMC’s Marian Miner Cook Athenaeum featuring four guest speakers: Pawelski; Tremaine Williams, a recording engineer; Marcy Kraft, a Live Nation concert and festival specialist; and Mindi Abair, a singer, songwriter, and instrumentalist.

This article has been updated to correct several errors in the printed version, which incorrectly stated that Cheryl Pawelski owns a recording studio. Pawelski owns a record label. The article also incorrectly identified Sam Blomberg CM ’16 as a student ambassador with the organization and Kaylilani Minami CM '16 as an assistant student ambassador. While both have been assisting to plan GRAMMY U events on campus, neither has an official role within the organization.