Exclusive: A Behind the Scenes Look at the Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music at NYU

YKIGS March 18, 2014 20

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When it comes to colleges providing a degree in all things music, none are more prestigious than The Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music at NYU. The school, which was founded over 10 years ago, offers students a unique opportunity to acquire the skills needed to forge a career in the music industry. Although the school is known worldwide, there is still a lot of mystery around the program in terms of what is being taught and where students transition to after. As r&b fans, we know Elle Varner is one of their most famous alums; but who else? For that reason, when YouKnowIGotSoul was offered the exclusive invitation to tour the school, we were anxious to see what it was all about. We were lead on the tour by Marat Berenstein, a member of the faculty and who is also involved in artist management. In this article, we’ll be sharing with you what we learned on the trip, and just what makes the school so one of a kind.

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One of the biggest misconceptions we had going into the visit was that the school was all about creating artists; and we couldn’t have been more mistaken. On the contrary, the goal of the school is to nurture young entrepreneurs who will make their mark in all different aspects of the music industry. This means that in addition to artists, writers, producers, and engineers, the school helps to build everything from future CEO’s to journalists to an array of executive positions in the music business and beyond. At just 48 students admitted per year, it’s the toughest school to get into in NYU. It also makes the experience completely hands on and tailored to the benefit of the current students.

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The Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music is part of the NYU Tisch School of the Arts has its own dedicated space on the campus in lower Manhattan. Though it takes up just one floor in a multi-facility building, it is not lacking when it comes to resources. In addition to state of the art recording studios, classrooms and labs, the most important part of the school are the faculty who bring real world experiences to the school. We’re talking everything from entertainment lawyers, to artist managers, to label executives, to engineers, and even some artists. The courses are designed to be case study driven so that students can get the benefit of learning what the industry is really about first hand. Some examples of classes offered include: music supervision & building the soundtrack, writing the hit song, the basics of branding, and introduction to the music business. Ryan Leslie and Swizz Beatz have served as, artist, and producer in residence, respectfully, and ?uestlove is teaching a course on Prince this spring. There’s even a class on Jay-Z. The opportunities for learning are endless and often evolve depending on the current trends in the industry.

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In addition to a hand full of full time faculty, they’ve also got many adjunct professors, those who teach on a part time basis and also hold an outside job in the industry. One of the coolest aspects of the program is the Capstone course that’s required in order to graduate. In essence, you’ve got to pitch to a room full of investors your plan and your vision for where you plan to go as an entrepreneur from here. Experience through the years is also built up through the required internship which can get you real world hands on experience and major companies and record labels. In addition to the faculty, you’ve also got guest lecturers coming in all the time, many of who are in power positions at labels and are a great resource to have for the future. We told you how hard it was to get into this program, and those who get in are definitely rewarded.

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So what does it take to get into this prestigious school? Well, the application process is a bit different than applying to a typical college. In addition to having stellar grades, applicants must also have a portfolio of their work that shows the panel how advanced and talented they are and how much they want this. The school isn’t necessarily looking for applicants who want to find themselves, rather students who know who they are and realize what they are capable of. If you’re a writer, do you have an established blog? If you’re a business person, do you have a marketing plan? If you’re a musician, do you have music and have you done shows already? The portfolio of work doesn’t need to be perfect, but it does need to show ambition. Once you’re accepted in, you’ll be faced with many prerequisite classes just like any other school which involve standard textbooks and tests. Even if a student has became famous or verified on Twitter or doing well on The Voice, they still need to maintain their grades. This is school after all.

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As music fans, we’re really interested to know, who is the next Elle Varner coming out of The Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music? Well, that’s not an easy question to answer, but we’ve already been introduced to a few of the talents coming out of the school. Alum Kiah Victoria has headlined one of our showcases, and fellow alum DB2 is set to do the same this month. You watch a cover video of Rihanna’s “Diamonds” that the students put together and created from scratch last year just to get a great feel for the talent. However, just focusing on the artists would be a disservice to what the school is all about. As we learned on our trip, the school is all about building entrepreneurs and teaching them on the ever evolving business of the music industry. These students are being provided the tools necessary to put them on the fast track for a long lasting career in the music business. Not only is the school poised to create superstars creating music, but it’s also dedicated to creating superstars behind the scenes as well.

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