Photo: courtesy of artist
How Berklee College Of Music Prepares Budding Artists For Major Music Festivals
Singer/songwriter Jackie Foster may have graduated from the prestigious Berklee College of Music just last year, but she's already preparing to make her music festival artist debut, at Lollapalooza 2019. She was one of the six artists the students of the Berklee Popular Music Institute course selected, from over 200 applicants, to work with and send to music festivals this year.
We spoke to Foster to learn more about her experience so far, and to Jeff Dorenfeld, the professor who launched the program about 10 years ago. We also asked experimental hip-hop performer MKULTRA, another artist selected by the students, who will be performing at Governors Ball, about his forthcoming festival debut, along with Jourdan Washington, one of the BPMI students working directly with MKULTRA to prepare him to the fest.
"The goal is to find artists we think match up and we think are interesting and current that we can bring and put on a festival stage. That is the ultimate goal," Dornfeld, who used to manage classic-rock heroes Boston, told us over the phone. "For the students, it's all the work and experience for them that they've gotten to work with these festivals, to understand the contractual relationship of them and making sure the logistics are done and the artist gets from point A to point B."
Foster, who was a semi-finalist on "The Voice" in 2018, shared over email how she's feeling around her forthcoming festival debut at Lolla.
"Lollapalooza will be the first music festival I have ever played and I feel beyond excited, I can't put it into words. This is something that I have dreamed of doing and worked hard towards pursuing since I really began my music career a few years ago. I am thrilled about getting to be on such an iconic stage in front of new fans, old fans, and incredible artists. I will be honest, I am so nervous because I know this moment has the potential to really push my career to new heights so that pressure sinks in a lot more than I am willing to admit. I just want to walk on that stage confident of myself and confident in my music!"
MKULTRA is one of the other young artists (all of whom must be current Berklee students or recent grads) working with the BPMI students to hone his performance skills for his first-ever festival performance. He reveals that it will also be the first music fest he's ever attended, which is a pretty good way to start!
"I'm most excited and nervous about the fact that I've never played on a stage this big, most of the shows I've done up until this point have been in smaller venues, so preparing for a show like this was a challenge," MKULTRA said over email.
Get Fest Ready: Your 2019 Guide To The Best Summer/Spring Music Festivals
As Gov Ball is happening at the end of the month, he and his BPMI student team, who act as an all-encompassing management and PR crew for him, have been busy helping prepare him for the event. "I think it helped me grow a lot as a performer; I love constructive criticism, and so it was awesome to rehearse with my BPMI team and really hone my set," he says.
Foster echoed the advice and support she's gotten from working with her team of BPMI students.
"BPMI has already placed a huge dream of mine on my plate. I feel like I need to be pinched knowing that Lollapalooza is just around the corner. BPMI is innovative and new and is giving artists like myself an experience of a lifetime. They help push your engagement, I am coached on my set and performance skills. They really take the time to fine-tune their artists. Their job is to make us look as good as possible."
Jourdan Washington, who would like to pursue a career in A&R and music marketing after graduation and is working on MKULTRA's team, spoke to her experience as a BPMI student.
"The biggest thing I learned while being in BPMI, is how to be a team player. We are all navigating spaces that some of us are more comfortable in than others, and it's important to give constructive feedback to your peers, while being respectful at the same time," she wrote to us. "Working with MKULTRA has been a great experience because he has been very receptive to our feedback when it comes to his performance. Each week he gets better and better, and it has been great to work with an artist that knows he’s not perfect, but is willing to put in the work to get there."
Dornfeld also told us a moving story about the first student artist he helped bring to Lolla, and how the experience built her confidence as performer.
"I had an artist, Julia Easterlin, who played the first Lollapalooza that we did…We worked with her and she did her performance and at that point there I remember it was download cards, so we printed up all these download cards for her to hand out. She did her show, she walked off, she came out front, started handing out cards, people started asking her for her autograph; she was a student. She came up to me and said, 'I can do this.' That was it, that's all I had to hear. She walked off the stage and said, 'I really can do this. I really feel like I can do it now.'"