Spotlight: All Access in the Class

Over the course of the recent school year, we’ve been in the classrooms filled with students studying music production and technology at Morningside and Lawndale High Schools in South Los Angeles, offering invaluable insights into the music industry. Our all-star facilitators, Chris Berry and Jo Votolato, played a pivotal role in equipping these students with tools for success across various paths of live entertainment and music industry careers they may pursue in the future. 

Discover more about their experiences in the classroom this year!

Lawndale students performing at Lawndalepalooza.

Jo is our facilitator for Lawndale High School in Lawndale, CA for students from grades 10 to 12. Chris facilitated for Morningside High School in Inglewood, CA for students from grades 11 to 12.

Our facilitators, Jo Votolato (left) and Chris Berry (right) at Lawndalepalooza.

Can you describe a bit of what your day-to-day looked like in the classroom? How has your experience been while teaching the students about the music industry?

Jo: Every day was different but each class ostensibly revolved around a topic, helping the students identify pathways to success in the music industry (e.g. “Pitching yourself and Networking”). However, the real magic during each class happened in seeing how students evolved and their personalities unfurled during each class and throughout the weeks of this program. Although we were talking specifically about the music industry, my intention was to have them feel empowered in their own lives in general. Some highlights included working with them individually on their resumes and have some of the students who initially thought they had zero experiences or skills to feature discover through answering my questions that not only they had an incredible number of highlights to feature on their resume but see them become more empowered with each answer.  

Another highlight was having them understand that the goal for many things is not to get rid of the discomfort but to be more comfortable in uncomfortable situations and that even their heroes feel the same imposter syndrome that they do! 

Chris: Every week I go to Morningside and present a music industry-focused workshop for the students in the digital music program. Through each week, we cover music industry-related topics, and in conjunction with the instructor, I help the students prepare for a final showcase at the end of the semester. The program is meant to help students understand concepts related to industry practice, networking, resume building, marketing, branding, and goal setting. The intention is to widen the student’s perspective when it comes to the roles that exist in the music industry and expose the students to the background activities that take place for an artist or product to be successful in the music market.

My experience teaching the students about the music industry has been nothing short of amazing. When students are exposed to the background information that is necessary for them to know in order to be successful, they are then able to make better decisions toward actually building a career in music and the music industry. Through Music Forward, we have been able to help students network with industry professionals, visit outstanding venues, and experience performances—or perform themselves—in spaces that lead to further opportunities. My favorite moment thus far has been All Access Fest 2024. I helped several students from the Inglewood School District and the Los Angeles Unified School District prepare for this event. During the event itself, I was able to see them put what we do in the classroom to work. It was amazing!

What does the future of music look like based on your experience with the students? Who are our future music executives, managers, and performers?

Jo: One of the other highlights was pivoting the impressions and rewiring my brain for what’s to come for the future of music based on my experiences with my students. Not only are they insanely talented (displayed at their annual Lawndalepalooza which blew me away not only with incredible covers but also original songs that they composed during their school year), they also displayed kindness and thoughtfulness and unmovable integrity, something I’ve previously experienced in (adult) heroes of mine or natural landmarks! It’s so refreshing to see that the future music executives, managers, and performers will hold these same characteristics.

Chris: Based on my experience with students, the future of music looks exactly like the music these students make—diverse. The students I work with have such a strong passion for creativity, breaking down barriers, and trying new things. All of the music I have heard them make pulls from so many different genres, and cultures; it’s almost like a melting pot of sound, and, if these students continue to pursue a career in the music industry, and if we continue to help build them up to become our future music executives, managers, performers, and music industry professionals, we will be playing an integral role in creating a more inclusive and diverse music industry.

Lawndale students celebrating the end of Lawndalepalooza.

This program is brought to you in part by the Los Angeles County Department of Arts & Culture.
This program is brought to you in part by the Sony Music Social Justice Fund.
Get Involved