by Dylan Sams
Two years ago, Sam Gwin was wide awake at 7 a.m., the day of student orientation at Ohio State, and he wasn’t sure he wanted to go.
He wanted to pursue a career in music production, but ironically, the home of The Best Damn Band in the Land doesn’t have an audio production major.
“I had thought about going to Capital (University), and looked at their program, looked at the expenses, thought about the Recording Workshop, down in Chillicothe (in addition to OSU),” Gwin said. “There was nothing that was really solidly focused on the industry.”
Gwin’s father suggested a new school, Groove U, a new, two-year program, opened by a music industry professional dissatisfied with how educators and the industry had been slow to embrace technological advancements like the MP3 for the past 10 years
Fast forward two years, and Gwin, with five other students, have completed their first year as part of the inaugural class of Groove U.
Groove U has a hands-on, immersive approach to the music business, which Gwin and the others quickly discovered upon first entering the school’s doors last September in what used to be the Fifth Avenue Alternative Elementary School.
Dwight Heckelman, a 15-year music industry veteran and founder of Groove U, graduated from Belmont University and started the music business school at Hocking College as well as serving as the career development and job recruitment coordinator at Berklee College of Music in 2008-2009. He said Groove U was designed for his students to prepare for all aspects of the music industry.
“I like to think we’re one of the few schools in the country that invest so heavily into plugging our students into the business,” Heckelman said.
With the school’s emphasis on practical application instead of sitting through typical college lectures, the maiden class of six was kept busy with a variety of projects around Columbus outside of normal classes. These projects included running sound at events like Independents’ Day, recording projects like the Columbus Steel Drum Band, and organizing Instaband, this year’s successful battle-of-the-bands competition to raise money for local arts-centered charities, such as the Dick & Jane Project. The entire school also took a trip to South By Southwest to network with music professionals, attend conferences and see the concerts.
First-year students taking general classes in five categories: audio production, live sound, music business, video, and interactive. Students choose one of those five as a major in their second year, and all must complete two summer internships to graduate – something Heckelman believes critical in an industry so driven by relationships.
The students have taken this entrepreneurial spirit to heart in different ways. One student is Aaron Dill, who recently signed his first band to his own artist-management company, Dilligent Management (“it’s kind of punny,” he said).
“Most artists have a story they’re wanting to convey through their music,” Dill said. “That’s really what I’m interested in, helping them reach their story out to more people.”
Gwin took another approach, working as a member of a street team for XL Recordings, which features bands like Vampire Weekend and The XX on its roster, as well as working to help book festivals for Beyonce’s sister, indie artist Solange.
“(The students) understand how the industry works; they’re flexible and adaptable, and encouraged by changes in the industry,” Heckelman said.
“We fully expect to see our students photo bombing the Grammy Awards, and doing those types of things in a few years, because we’ve given them the right prep.”
Groove U has eight two-week music camps starting the second week of June for teens (age 13-19). Registration is now open for our Camp Wanna-Make-A-Hit workshops for pop music and urban music. Students may register by calling (614) 291-6122. Deadline is June 5.