For the fourth consecutive year, Billboard has named SUNY Oneonta to its list of “Top Music Business Schools.” Oneonta is among 42 colleges and universities in the United States, England and Spain selected for inclusion on the 2023 list, which recognizes programs whose graduates "will be solidly positioned to pursue careers in an increasingly complex music industry." SUNY Oneonta also received this recognition in 2019, 2020 and 2022, and the annual list took a pandemic-related “gap year” in 2021 awaiting the return of in-person classes.
“We are delighted to again be recognized by Billboard for our efforts to prepare future generations of music industry professionals,” said Joseph Pignato, Music Department chair and professor of music. “The recognition reflects the many curricular and experiential learning opportunities offered by our faculty, staff and campus community. Students at SUNY Oneonta do remarkable things and that’s evident in the outstanding achievements of our alumni across so many and varied sectors of the music industry.”
An All-Encompassing Learning Experience and Curriculum
SUNY Oneonta’s Music Industry curriculum includes courses in pop culture, record label history, concert production and promotion, music products industry and legal issues. Additionally, audio arts classes give students who do not play traditional instruments the chance to create music using technology and to focus on recording, mixing and nontraditional composition techniques.
“The program for Music Industry is unique at SUNY Oneonta. It is an umbrella of a lot of different avenues of the industry,” said Hannah Goldberg, a 2023 Music Industry graduate who was selected to give a virtual presentation at the 13th International Music Business Research Days Young Scholars’ Workshop during her senior year. “Being at a college that doesn’t just focus on one avenue when they talk about music is important.”
SUNY Oneonta Music Industry majors have extensive opportunities to learn by doing. Through an on campus paid position or the Music Industry Club, students can handle booking, planning, operations, logistics, promotion and production for live music events, including the annual OH-Fest concert, which features a nationally known headliner.
Additionally, SUNY Oneonta offers an internship program that places students in hundreds of non-performing music, media and entertainment industry settings across the country. The university offers grants to help fund off-campus learning and networking experiences. These opportunities include an annual faculty-led trip to the National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) trade show in Los Angeles, Bonnaroo music festival externships through the Well Dunn Foundation, and Rock Litiz and New York is Music events.
Alumni Connections – and a Surprise Chat with John Mayer
“We encourage students to pursue highly individualized career paths ranging from executive management to creative and technical services to entrepreneurial musicianship,” said Pignato. “That diversity of possibilities is reflected in our outstanding alumni, many of whom maintain close ties with the program, returning regularly to mentor students and share their experiences.”
Noah Rakoski, a 2007 graduate, is a great example of a SUNY Oneonta alumnus who has helped mentor students through his experience as head of West Coast Label Relations for YouTube Music at Google. During a visit to the NAMM Show in June 2022, music industry students were treated to a tour of Google’s facility in Los Angeles, Calif., and learned about Rakoski’s work.
“That was definitely my favorite part – the Google tour and meeting Noah,” said Music Industry major and singer-songwriter Luke Mock, who graduated in May 2023. “He is an astounding and inspiring character who shared the most real and blunt advice about the music industry. I also really enjoyed going to panels and networking with other artists and music industry professionals.”
Gabi Rose Feliciano, a 2017 Music Industry graduate, is a SUNY Oneonta alumna who attended a show as a freshman at the Oneonta Theatre featuring multiple ensemble groups from the university. Afterward, she got involved with ensemble groups led by Associate Professor Jeremy Wall, Associate Professor Rob Roman and Pignato, as well as taking her first singing lessons with Music Department Lecturer Colby Thomas. Feliciano now plays the saxophone and flute professionally with the Jonas Brothers in arenas and stadiums during their world tour.
“Being involved in so many different ensembles was the best kind of music performance education I could have ever had,” said Feliciano. “I loved all of my professors, who are all experts in their fields. They taught me how to really play music. I try to stay in touch with them and hope to make them proud. Ever since my senior year, seeing alumni come back to speak and being so inspired by them, I hoped that would be me someday setting an example for what's possible out of a music career.”
More alumni who have connected with students through campus visits and online career networking sessions include Emilia Albarano ’16 from Columbia Artists Agency; Eric Lense ’07, vice president of creative operations at SESAC; and Scott Harris Friedman ’06, a multi-platinum, Grammy-nominated (“In My Blood,” Song of the Year) songwriter, producer and musician. SUNY Oneonta students also learn from visiting guest speakers such as Jack McMorrow from Atlantic Records and Dae Bogan, SVP of Global Music Rights at Jammber.
During the COVID-19 quarantine, students were treated to a video chat with singer/songwriter John Mayer that was organized by Rit Venerus ’93, founder and president of Cal Financial. Mayer gave the students advice and insight into the industry and even made up a jingle about SUNY Oneonta on the spot. Thanks to Venerus, music industry students also had the opportunity to meet with Dave Matthews in person and got a behind-the-scenes tour of a Dave Matthews Band concert in 2018.