News Column

FAU students are learning the music business by doing it -- including making their own records.

November 2, 2013

YellowBrix

Keyboards come in first from the silence. Then the bass. And drumsand guitar. Finally, the haunting vocal duet of Tiana Raechelle andRicky Wilson.

Before long, Studio A inside Florida Atlantic University's musicschool is thumping with the alternative electric rhythms of theband The Pathetique, audibly vibrating with the success of itscommercial music program.

Theirs is the first track on CompOWLation Vol. 3, a double- albumpackage of songs by 19 artists who are students, alumni or facultyof the Boca Raton university. (The Owl, of course, is FAU'smascot.)

Every three semesters, FAU's commercial music students release analbum that is wholly produced, recorded and promoted in-house bythe school's student-run independent record label, Hoot/ WisdomRecordings, which signs artists to a one-year deal and helpsdistribute their music internationally.

"It's just a well-rounded approach for anyone who wants to enterthe music industry," said Wilson, The Pathetique's frontman and arecent FAU graduate whose band's extended play release was largelyrecorded and mastered at FAU.

Students here learn everything from recording and mixing music tomanaging artists, and marketing, distributing and selling therecords.

"If they're conscientious, they leave school ready to go into thebusiness," said Michael Zager, who founded FAU's commercial musicprogram 12 years ago.

Zager knows about commercial success. He discovered the lateWhitney Houston who sang background on one of his disco records inthe '70s. He would go on to receive 14 gold and platinum records,many of which decorate his office in the arts and humanitiesbuilding.

Here, where students routinely can be heard singing in the halls,commercial music students embark on a hybrid education of classicaland commercial music.

More than teaching from the lectern, professors want to seestudents actually produce a product. That's where the album comesin.

The double album, Hoot/Wisdom's 21st commercial release, began with90 submissions from artists with ties to FAU or Palm Beach StateCollege last fall. Over the next year, students and professorswhittled those down to the best 20 songs, said AlejandroSanchez-Samper, an FAU associate professor and the assistantdirector of commercial music who oversees the three- semesterproject.

"I want them to have this," said Sanchez-Samper, holding up theblue-and-red album, "something they can point to and say, 'Look atwhat I did. ...' Professionals in this industry are looking fordoers not 'sayers.' "

This fits into today's do-it-yourself music model, where artistsare being discovered on YouTube to those using Kickstarter to payfor time in studio. They learn to be self-sufficient and tirelessself-promoters.

The Pathetique started a Kickstarter campaign to raise $5,000 tofinish their album, which launches in December. In 10 days, theyhad raised more than $3,000.

"We attribute that success to the school," Wilson said.

On a recent Wednesday, The Pathetique laid down bass and drumtracks for their upcoming EP at Studio A, one of two studios in thearts and humanities building. Studio A is a small, two-room set- up,with wood and acoustic panels in the recording studio, andindustry-standard consoles, computers and audio equipment in thecontrol room.

"At any other school in the country, you're not even allowed totouch a mixing board until your junior year," said sophomore BenCross, 19, the band's pianist and sound engineer. "It's thedifference between doing and reading about doing."

And the artists benefit. They sign a one-year contract withHoot/ Wisdom, after which they are free to re-record their music forany independent or major record label.

"Our goal is to get them signed out of here," Zager said.

Since Hoot/Wisdom produced its first commercial release -- ThePeople Upstairs' full-length album "Synchrofunkinicity" in 2005-- it has served as a stepping stone to rising artists.

"X-Factor" contestant Alex Kinsey studied at FAU and returned toperform last month at an event to raise money for Hoot/ WisdomRecordings.

Israel Charles, artistic director at Fort Lauderdale's DillardCenter for the Arts, returned to school to work specifically withZager. He engineered, arranged and produced the single, "Let's Fallin Love Again," for Plantation singer Rachel Brown as part of histhesis project. They released the single, and it reached No. 5 onthe Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles Sales Chart in 2007.

"When you walk into that office, what do you see? Gold records,platinum records," Charles said. "This man has been to where I'mtrying to go."

Nineteen new artists on Hoot/Wisdom's latest release have the samegold-and-platinum dreams.

cfrias@pbpost.com Twitter: @Carlos_Frias

HEAR Music from 19 FAU ARTISTS

compowlation.bandcamp.com/

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This week's Patio Page crossword puzzle can be found on page D5.

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