A Discussion with Four Professors at the new Music Talks Educational Center

Written by on March 18, 2010 in Interviews, March 18, 2010 - Comments Off on A Discussion with Four Professors at the new Music Talks Educational Center

I’d Like To Teach The Virtual World To Sing


MTEC stands for Music Talks Educational Center and features an art gallery, dorm rooms, a theatre and recording studio. The concept was developed by Music Talks founder David Knight who says, “My initial concept for MTEC was this idea of holistic health centers where you have twenty teachers on staff teaching a whole menu of courses ranging from health and nutrition to spiritual healing for the mind and spirit. I wanted a whole list of teachers offering classes in everything from personal to artist development.”

Keeping with that theme Knight has assembled a group of like-minded teachers with decades of working experience in the music industry. MTEC’s publicity course teacher Nikki O’Neal notes that, “David is very much about the holistic approach to the music business. It’s about how you take care of yourself, how you maintain your relationships. It’s not just the sex, drugs and rock and roll lifestyle. It’s about living a healthy lifestyle and having a positive mental outlook. I feel the same way.”

O’Neal and MTEC’s critical listening course instructor Drew Daniels agree that the concept of the virtual school offers a lot of possibilities. Says Daniels, “When I saw the MTEC campus for the first time I realized that there might be an interesting use for the technology in remote classroom settings.  It could be an enabling technology and a way to reach students who are located anywhere.” O’Neal concurs, “It’s a unique thing. I’ve never been in a virtual reality campus. I can only imagine once this takes off its going to be a really fascinating experience. It is definitely taking things a step further than what online courses do today because you get to interact in real time.”

MTECKnight recalls, “When I’d return home to New York after my L.A. Music Talks sessions I would notice a lot of requests for Music Talks to go international. I began to see the value of what I was doing so I researched how I could reach more people.” MTEC’s business coach Debra Russell agrees, “People’s success is very much a factor of their education. The ability to immerse in the knowledge of the craft and business of music is available in major music cities like Nashville, LA and NYC… But a lot of people are driven to be musicians outside of these cities and their ability to continue education is limited. What David is doing via the internet is phenomenal.”

Nikki O’Neal and Debra Russell are teaching courses at MTEC on the marketing and business side of the music industry.  Both teachers share similar feelings on preparedness in the field with an emphasis on being a DIY artist, what Knight calls the “creative entrepreneur.” Debra Russell is a professional business coach and her MTEC course “Business Management for the Creative Mind” will teach how to generate multiple revenue streams to sustain a small business. Russell says “The concept is about employing niche marketing. Business management is a team sport. People limit their business greatly by wanting to do it all themselves.” Russell continues, “There is a lot of mythology around making a living and what ‘making it’ looks like, meaning your platinum records, mansions and yachts…That this is the only definition of ‘making it.’ You can have a good life and not live paycheck to paycheck. Is music your passion? Fame has nothing to do with being a professional in the music industry.”

MTEC’s publicity course teacher Nikki O’Neal has over twenty years experience in music journalism and is herself a singer/songwriter. Her class is for any music industry professional, although O’Neal does emphasize the DIY approach and niche marketing. “You don’t shoot for spin. Work locally and then outward. Market yourself to genre specific media.” O’Neal’s course puts an emphasis on defining your message, not only for your biography but as a long term business goal. “It’s really important to define the message you want to convey with your music. There are so many people who want to get noticed. What is it about you that is going to stand out?” However, O’Neal strongly emphasizes that preparation is key before taking it to the next level: “So many bands and artists try to get into all this media and marketing stuff before they are ready for it. If you start forgetting about writing songs and aren’t actively building your following then you are doing everything backwards because you don’t have anything to promote. I hope my course will help those who are ready to form relationships with media in the right way.”

Marketing and business are only a part of the full roster of courses available at MTEC. Also on board is Drew Daniels, who teaches at UCLA and has worked as an electroacoustical consultant for some big clients doing everything from “climbing three-story ladders at Dodger Stadium to directing a crew where to spray acoustic absorbent fluff in a Disney flume ride.” Daniel’s critical listening course will focus on the monitoring environment using loudspeakers. Daniels says, “Critical listening is an essential tool, the principles of which are the same for mixing, mastering and performance. I hope my students can get better results from their setups, and become aware of the possible pitfalls. Amateurs have spent years mixing what a pro in a good setup could easily mix in a few hours.”

Also teaching critical listening with an emphasis on performance is John Durbin, who has maintained a sustainable income as a composer and performing musician for over 25 years. John has formerly taught for the music department at Pepperdine and has maintained private students and group classes in his own California based studio Music Works. When Durbin teaches studio preparedness he will discuss the “Comfort Zone.” This relates to Knight’s holistic philosophy of personal development. Durbin explains, “The comfort zone relates more to how you can perform in a stressful situation. It’s more a matter of how you can become at peace with yourself in a stressful situation so you can perform to your best ability.”

Although the courses listed above do require registration fees like any college campus course, it is free to register for MTEC, to download and run the software and to tour the campus. Additionally, free events will periodically be held on campus. A DSL or a cable connection is recommended. You can learn how to start up at: http://www.musictalksedu.net/content/quick-star To learn more about MTEC go to: www.musictalksedu.net/content/welcome-mtec-music-talks-educational-center