We were curious to hear what our participants have thought about our fall programming, therefore we asked our alum Heather Howard, a junior at Middle Tennessee State University, if she would share her experience with all of us. Read on for what this Recording Industry Music Business major has gleaned from our artist and career development opportunities.
Since I was very young, I always dreamed of pursuing music as a career.
I have been singing since I was very young and always told my family that one day when I grew up I would be famous. However, growing up in Baltimore did not always present me with the best access to the music community.
I searched for years for a company, like Music Forward Foundation, that would provide me with opportunities to develop as an artist and prepare for a career in the music industry. I had no luck and decided it was best to move to a city and school where my dreams could flourish. Around August of 2020, I had finally decided to take that leap and transfer universities mid-year. When I enrolled at Middle Tennessee State University, I had no idea that it would be one of the best decisions I would make for my future.
Just a few short months after transferring, in the beginning of the Spring 2021 semester, I was introduced to the Music Forward Foundation and all they had to offer. At first, I was taken aback by just how much this organization provided to the youth who were considering joining this industry.
They offer opportunities such as Office Hours for artist development and career development, All Access Fest (a music industry career fair), Industry Sessions, Scholarships, Gigternships (their version of an internship), Mentorships, Open Mic Showcases, among so much more. As someone who once thought that obtaining a career in the music industry was so out of reach, discovering this foundation and all of their programs was the inspiration I needed to continue to work towards my ultimate goal: a career in the music industry.
I started out this fall by diving into Music Forward’s Office Hours. In the month of September, the career development series launched and every Friday we focused on a new topic. The topics included things like building your resume and having it reviewed, developing a professional pitch, and then finishing it off with meeting a mentor to receive coaching and tactical advice. This was one of my first big exposures with the organization and the Music Forward team and I cannot express how lucky I felt to be a part of it.
All the staff who participated in these sessions were knowledgeable, ready to help, and showed an interest to get to know my professional background and aspirations. One of my favorite experiences was practicing my professional pitch with everyone in the session because not only could I speak about what I am hoping to accomplish in the world, but I could hear about others as well. Right away, I made connections with the fellow participants and the staff and knew that the Music Forward would be a place where I would feel safe to explore. I would say some of my biggest takeaways from the Career Development series include making connections with everyone who is in the session with you, not feeling afraid to ask questions, and feeling free to be yourself and tell your story.
Music Forward also offers an Artist Development Office Hours series. It started in late October and ran through last week. This installment of Office Hours focused on developing an artist pitch, creating an electronic press kit (EPK) and artist website, and once again brought mentors to answer questions and guide me and my fellow emerging artists on our career journeys. After having an incredible time with the Career Development Series, I had to give this one a try as well! I never quite knew how to develop an EPK before attending Music Forward’s Office Hours, but I left with multiple examples, an industry professional who was willing to help and answer further questions in the design process, and the right path to convey my brand to everyone else.
ALL ACCESS FEST
Outside of Office Hours, Music Forward also held a Music Industry Career Fair, All Access Fest, this year, and it ran for the entire day on September 30th, 2021!
The name is not an understatement either! This day-long career fair was complete with exciting panels, networking and job opportunities, lightning rounds with chances to showcase your music to A&R representatives or have your resume reviewed by HR pros. As soon as this was announced, there was no way I was going to miss it! Some of my favorite experiences included “Preparing your Next Release: The 45 Day Blueprint” with CD Baby, “Lightning Rounds with HR Pros,” “Helping Dollars Make Sense,” and “The Artist Team” to name a few. I simply walked away from this career fair with an insane amount of knowledge, industry connections, and so much confidence that I was on my way to discovering which path in this industry I was going to pursue.
OPEN MIC FRIDAYS
I recently as an artist got to participate in their Open Mic Fridays showcase line-up. When I was invited to showcase my talent, I thought it was the absolute coolest thing in the world.
Open Mic Fridays are a chance for emerging artists to showcase themselves on a virtual platform while having their fans engage and support them during their performance. I was given this opportunity and performed live virtually on Twitch. As part of my experience, I received performance coaching in advance of the big day. I also got the experience of creating my own marketing and promoting myself to my fans to get them to tune in and vote. However, the best part was that I got to receive actual real-time industry professional feedback on my performance. If you are starting out as an artist and do not know how to take yourself to the next level, I definitely recommend applying to their Open Mic Fridays!
BMG Mentorship Series
However, the greatness of the foundation does not end there. They also have an outstanding mentorship program in partnership with BMG and this semester, I was partnered with an established industry professional from BMG’s legal and business affairs division.
During this mentorship, I have received advice and coaching on networking and skill development, along with the amazing opportunity to create a lasting professional relationship with my mentor. I meet virtually with my mentor twice a month for an hour and we discuss career readiness, how to protect the rights to my music, finding internships, and so much more. This opportunity has given me the ability to break out of my shell and become more comfortable asking questions and seeking knowledge. It also further opened my eyes to how valuable networking is in an industry like this one and has given me the confidence that I am ready to enter an internship next semester.
To Music Forward, I am forever grateful and amazed at how far I have come from the beginning of the semester. I can honestly say that prior to Music Forward Foundation’s programs, I did not feel half as ready to pursue a career in the music industry as I do now.
If anyone is questioning whether to get involved, look no further.
Music Forward has a diverse range of program offerings and has something that will fit just about every need of anyone considering a career in this field. Not only does the foundation focus on empowering you as a young person, but they also provide you with the resources and experiences to gain hands-on knowledge to obtain that career you have always dreamed about. Music Forward Foundation truly cares about your dreams and wants to provide you with the best chance of success, so take the chance, dive into some amazing opportunities, and I promise after you are done you will never want to stop exploring what Music Forward has to offer.