Beginning a career in the music industry can be a winding and often rocky path, with few signposts to guide the way. But when you combine the enthusiasm of eager students and young professionals with the wisdom and guidance of industry veterans, no mountain is too difficult to climb.
Every semester, the GRAMMY U mentorship program sets out to create these connections, pairing professionals with student members pursuing a career in the same field. In some cases, mentors give their mentees a chance to get their hands dirty, working firsthand on industry projects and participating in professional settings.
With the GRAMMY U fall 2022 program wrapped up for the holidays, hear from student members and mentors for a glimpse at some of the opportunities and connections from this semester.
Jeff Silverman | Mentor | Nashville Chapter
Alex Wons | Mentee | Nashville Chapter
Alex Wons is a student at Middle Tennessee State University, double majoring in commercial songwriting and audio production, with several of his own releases out on all major platforms. He was paired with Jeff Silverman, a producer, engineer, songwriter, composer for film and TV, and former Motown staff writer with nearly 40 years of experience in the music industry. Silverman took to his social network pages to share his mentorship of Wons. "I looked at it as an opportunity to introduce Alex to all of the people that support me, with hopes that they too will support his work."
What started out as a Zoom meet and greet turned into an in-studio lesson on production, engineering, and the future of audio via Dolby Atmos. Silverman invited Wons to his studio, where they listened to 7.1.4 mixes and discussed go-to programs and plugins. The veteran listened to one of Won’s recent productions that he produced, mixed, mastered, and performed on. "I was so impressed that I asked if he would mind if I pass it around to a few of my film TV licensing contacts and see if there would be any interest," Silverman rounted, before encouraging Alex to always seek legal advice before signing an exclusive deal on his songs.
"We all need a mentor at some point in our lives if we’re going to grow. And I have many to thank for those landmark growing times in my lifetime in the music business," says Silverman.
Call Me Ace | Mentor | San Francisco Chapter
Vinal Chand | Mentee | San Francisco Chapter
Vinal Chand, an economics and communications student and rising senior at the UC Davis was paired with Ace Patterson, a strategy and operations consultant, marketer, designer, and hip-hop recording artist. The pair’s original focus for mentorship was securing an internship in the industry, a goal that proved attainable with Ace’s help, offering Chand an internship at his record label, Heir Quality.
"When my mentee told me that he wanted to work in music marketing but felt his recruitment options were limited by a lack of tangible experience in that space, I devised a plan with him to create an internship program through the new label I started, granting him a sizable opportunity to flex his digital marketing experience and demonstrate impact before he graduates college," Ace says.
Chand says one of the most transformative lessons he learned from Ace is that you need to create your own opportunities in the industry. "We don’t need a specific role or title to gain experience. The best people in the music industry are those that actively gain experiences on their own, whether it’s helping to promote local artists, editing your own projects, or creating content," Chand says. "The thing to remember is that you must trust in your own capabilities. You, too, deserve to be a part of this industry, just as anyone else."
Gene More | Mentor | Texas Chapter
Victor Fernando Aguilar | Mentee | Texas Chapter
Victor Aguilar, a student at Visible Music College studying modern music and looking to pursue a career as a performing and touring musician, was paired with Gene Moore, a gospel artist, GRAMMY nominee, and radio announcer based in Houston. The two met weekly, talking through any roadblocks Aguilar faced that week and how to push himself to the next level. They met in person for their first session, in which Aguilar played a few songs while Moore's good friend, Chris Walker, offered feedback via FaceTime. Victor says he learned essential lessons about working hands-on during that session, noting "the most important thing … was to stay calm under pressure. Never let them see you sweat."
Aguilar emphasized his mentor's drive to go the extra mile for him numerous times, creating an invaluable experience with priceless advice. "We will stay in touch even after this semester is over. I am planning a trip to Houston soon so that I can keep learning from him," Aguilar says. "These past months have been full of improvements thanks to his teachings, and his work ethic has inspired me to give my very best."
Michael Wansley | Mentor | PNW Chapter
Isaac Selby | Mentee | PNW Chapter
Isaac Selby is a recent Emory University marketing graduate, rap artist, and music marketer working for Yonas Media as well as a day-to-day manager for Latin GRAMMY nominated rock band Making Movies. He was paired with Michael Wansley, or Wanz, a GRAMMY-winning artist and vocalist based in Seattle. The pair met several times over Zoom and in person, including a recording session to track their collab song, the perfect project for Selby to put Wansley’s lessons in songwriting into action.
Selby recognized that he needed a deeper understanding of song structure to improve on his existing talents, and applied his mentor's lessons in structure, hook writing, and building interest. "He has gained a widened perspective of music outside of his preferred genre. The songwriting concepts we've discussed have gotten him excited about writing in a 'new' way," Wansley says.
Witness the mentorship magic as they have paired up to do a show on Jan. 11 at The Highdive in Seattle.
Geronimo Vannicola | Mentor | Philadelphia Chapter
Dannon Johnson | Mentee | Philadelphia Chapter
Dannon Johnson is a junior at Duquesne University majoring in sound recording, and is the owner/operator of a recording studio and live sound reinforcement company. She was paired with Geronimo Vannicola, a member of the production team for Fox’s music catalog and a vendor for Paramount providing music for sync.
Although the pair primarily connected virtually because of their location in different states, they met at the Audio Engineering Society convention in New York where Vannicola connected Johnson with professional peers. "To hear Geronimo speak so highly of me to his peers and for him to take the time to take my career as seriously as he has, has helped to validate my place in this industry," Johnson says. "He's shown me that my aspirations are possible and my dreams are closer to being reached than they may seem."
Vannicola encouraged Johnson to "build her own empire" by learning to delegate work and share workload — a key ingredient to the growth of any business. "Being so busy with work makes things like keeping up on my studio's social media difficult, and he's taught me to enlist those around me for help," Johnson says.
Working remotely didn’t stop the two from getting hands-on. Johnson updated Geronimo’s previous ProTools mixes and received expert feedback. "To have him look at my workflow and shoot back his own iteration of my mixes is something I cannot stress the invaluable nature of enough," she said. Vannicola spoke to the importance of this hands-on work, emphasizing that good mentorship is as much about shaping mindset as it is "about giving something tangible, whether it's a skill or opportunity to move forward with, shaping a bright future."
Craig Campbell | Mentor | Nashville Chapter
Sydney Pasceri | Mentee | Nashville Chapter
Sydney Pasceri — a student at Wake Forest University studying communications, and pursuing a career in music journalism, marketing, and public relations — was paired with Craig Campbell, the President of Campbell Entertainment, working in publicity and artist management.
Since Pasceri is based in North Carolina and Campbell in Nashville, the two didn’t work in person, but Campbell still found ways to engage with his mentee. He added Sydney to his press release distribution list so she could see how he writes about new releases, announces festivals and other related topics. "I still plan to get her the bones of a release, so she can write one!" Campbell says.
Pasceri said she appreciated how intentional Campbell was in getting to know her — the same skill and care that makes him stellar in the world of A&R. "I admire this dedication to getting to understand the person, rather than just the artist, and hope to carry this into my own career." Through their conversations, Pasceri learned that the music scene is very small, with Campbell knowing someone from every corner of the industry she mentioned. "It made me realize how important it is to make meaningful relationships with people in all different jobs in the business."
Campbell joined the mentorship program with an open mindset to potentially learn from someone at any point in their career. "As a mentor, I want to impart knowledge, but I also want to be challenged… I welcome someone questioning why or offering a different viewpoint." Campbell was thrilled to get the chance to mentor Pasceri: "Sydney is driven, curious, interesting, ambitious, and very focused; I'll probably be working for her one day!"
Al Thrash | Mentor | Atlanta Chapter
Jasmine Gordon | Mentee | Atlanta Chapter
Spelman College student Jasmine Gordon hopes to pursue a career in branding and marketing for clients in the music, sports, and entertainment industry, and is studying comparative women’s studies with a focus on branding and marketing in the media. Gordon was paired with Al Thrash, the Professor of Practice at Georgia State University and Project Manager at Thirty Tigers — one of the premiere music distribution companies in the industry.
"My mentor and I visited the record label, LVRN, and I sat in on one of his meetings with the CEO of the label. I learned how to adequately build and nurture relationships and the importance of your network," Gordon says, adding that she participated in the meeting and learned about opportunities at the label.
Thrash also introduced Gordon to the founders of Project Go Dark, an Atlanta-based intensive music industry pipeline for college students. Thrash highlighted that he collaborated with Gordon’s organization, Spelman College Women in Hip-Hop, for an alumni mixer during the historic SpelHouse Homecoming weekend. "This was an awesome experience, and I look forward to continuing to work with Jasmine as she develops into a professional," Thrash says.
The GRAMMY U Mentorship program is not only an invaluable experience for students to get direct feedback and career advice from an industry professional, but it can be the seed of a life-long relationship and the roots of a rich network. Applications are now open for the spring GRAMMY U mentorship program, which runs from Feb.y 13 – May 5, 2023. Apply to be a mentor or mentee by Jan. 27.