Interlochen Connects Singer-Songwriters to Top Industry Talent

Crescendo issue: March 2014

In the classrooms and practice spaces beneath the Stone Hotel and Cafeteria star power is brewing.

This star power doesn’t just come from the talented students or the well-known faculty, it also comes from the Skyping screen. Since the beginning of the singer-songwriter program in 2012, online video chats have connected students with mentors from all facets of the music industry.

The most recent guests for the singer-songwriter program have included Interlochen alumni Damian Kulash and Timothy Nordwind of the band OK Go, and Kristopher Pooley, who is currently the music director on Katy Perry’s world tour but has also worked with Gwen Stefani, Pink and many other high profile artists. Ginger Pooley, bass player for The Smashing Pumpkins and other artists, also spoke with students.

“Each artist brings a different experience of the industry and a different creative process,” says Courtney Kaiser-Sandler, instrcutor of Interlochen's Singer-Songwriter program. “Both Kristopher and Ginger were able to share insights about being involved in another artist's project, which is often the first step to making a living and building a reputation as a professional. Kris gave a lot of advice about the importance of being easy to work and why that is essential to finding job opportunities as a side musician. He also cautioned students about not burning bridges - because in this industry, you'll always bump into that person again."

“OK Go shared their perspective on being successful in today's music market,” Kaiser-Sandler continued. “They are unique because they found a niche in marketing themselves with great videos. This enabled them to have their own brand of success. They explained the importance of being entrepreneurial and the challenges of being independent. The students appreciated Damian and Tim's candor about the music business, especially when they talked handling rejection, which happens even to successful artists."

“Having the chance to be educated in the music business - writing techniques, music theory, and how to communicate with others is a fantastic opportunity at any age - but giving the students this education in high school gives them a chance to learn hard lessons - the easy way - from others who have been there before.