Alumni Share Success Stories at Music Industry Conference

Audience at conference

More than 130 music industry students from SUNY Oneonta, SUNY Broome, SUNY Purchase and Stevens Institute of Technology got a glimpse of what the future could hold for them Feb. 29 at the inaugural “Take a Leap” Music Industry Conference, coordinated and hosted by SUNY Oneonta’s Music Industry Club.

During the day-long conference, more than a dozen successful music industry professionals and alumni took part as panelists and speakers, discussing industry trends and tips, giving students insight into the field and providing networking opportunities.

Senior Temima Shames, president of the Music Industry Club, said the goal of the conference was to take what students learn in the classroom and give them real-world examples and success stories. Coordinating the event was a main goal and bucket list item of hers, and she hopes it continues after she graduates.

“It was such a surreal sight to see it all come together, seeing the students and panelists engaged and happy to be there,” Shames said. “Getting all the positive reviews from students and teachers saying, ‘Wow this is what our department needed’ made me feel like all the hard work and planning was worth it.”

“A lot of career opportunities ahead”

The event kicked off with a panel on the overall state of the music industry, including the transition from physical product to streaming and what’s next. It touched on new legislation such as the Music Modernization Act and how that will affect the future of the industry. This panel was moderated by John Northrup, production manager at Bethel Woods Center for the Arts, and included panelists Kendall Sherman ‘09, a creative director from Blackstone Entertainment; Mark Ambrosino, president of Sojourn Records; and Jeff Conkey ‘03, operations coordinator for Live Nation at Saratoga Performing Arts Center.

“All of the panelists on this panel were extremely knowledgeable and real,” said senior music industry major Jonah Cohn. “Mark Ambrosino was a panelist whose story really touched me. His history with the drums was very inspiring and motivational. Hearing from someone so successful helped encouraged me to continue to strive. As an up-and-coming graduate, it’s very nice to see that there are a lot of career opportunities ahead.”

During the second panel of the day, called “A Look into Record Labels,” panelists discussed their experiences working at different labels. With music industry lecturer Nancy Tarr acting as moderator, students heard from panelists from both major and indie labels to enhance student understanding of the differences between the two. Panelists included Reggie Huggins, president of Bedroc Records; Louis Pratt ‘14, digital marketing manager at BMG; David Enriquez ’02, senior vice president of marketing at RECORDS, LLC; and Michael Falligan Jr., coordinator at Warner Bros. Records.

The final session was focused on panelists’ personal experiences working within the music industry and featured Rayna Cooper ’19, assistant at The Wall Group; Jimmy King ’06, managerial assistant at Good Fight Entertainment; Clyde Johnson, president at Seraphim Sounds; and special guest performer, singer-songwriter Ryan Quinn ’13, who advanced to the top 20 on Season 10 of NBC’s “The Voice.” With Assistant Professor Anthony Scafide moderating, panelists discussed how to land an internship, mistakes made and lessons learned along the way, and specific things they wish they’d known when leaving college.

An Inspiring Day

The conference ended with a performance by Quinn. Students Luke Mock, a pop singer-songwriter, and Xavier Sharp – accompanied by Teddy Holly on guitar, Louie Balascie on keys and Jonah Cohn on drums – opened for Quinn after winning a contest prior to the conference that was open to all SUNY Oneonta student acoustic acts.

Quinn said it was “so much fun” to return to his alma mater, offer his perspective and take part in the event.

“The whole day was beautifully thought out,” he said. “Anyone who has been in the industry will tell you it’s easy to become bitter. That’s why I especially loved this event — the wisdom of the panelists, along with the enthusiasm of the students, made for a very inspiring day.”

Senior Vershone “Zy” Bowser, press management and networking chair for the Music Industry Club, said putting on the event offered “an awesome experience of event planning.”

“Creating an atmosphere that not only promoted learning, but also an environment for people to build new relationships and connections with people they wouldn’t have spoken to otherwise was a rewarding sight,” Bowser said. “I was so happy to hear both panelist and student responses after the conference’s conclusion, saying that they felt they got a lot out of it and enjoyed the entire event.”

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