Internships give Adams State music students the business


"If you are going to be a musician, you're going to be in business," said Don Richmond, an accomplished musician who has performed for many years in the San Luis Valley and northern New Mexico. "It dawned on me early in my playing career that, gee, I need to be a business person. A degree in business would have been nice. I worked very hard to fill in that blank for myself."

Now, Adams State University music majors can fill that knowledge gap with an emphasis in music business, initiated in the Music Department five years ago. Assistant Professor of Music James Doyle oversees the emphasis and teaches "Topics in the Music Business." The emphasis also requires 18 credits of business courses.

"We teach students to develop multiple revenue streams," Doyle explained. "I ask them to think about how they can monetize things they are already doing. I have not worked outside the music business since my sophomore year of college. Musicians wear a lot of hats."

Music Business students (from left) Skyler Choice, Kayleen Peretto-Ortega, and David Webb (far right) have interned with Don Richmond (second from right) at Howlin' Dog Records, a music label and production company in Alamosa.

His class hears from a range experts via Skype, including both musicians and non-performers, such as an accountant with tax advice for musicians and the director of a music conservatory. As a service learning project, the entire class helped to package CDs by Richmond's band, the Rifters, for distribution to radio stations.

"The topics course rounds it all up," said junior Kayleen Peretto-Ortega. "I love how you have to take a course in all business disciplines, like accounting. It's hard, but you do it for your own business and it saves you money."

The class also gained experience producing off-campus events, in which the stakes are higher. They assisted with a show at Alamosa's newest performance venue, Society Hall. "Everybody learned a lot about the process of event production. There are countless details, down to making sure the restrooms are stocked with toilet paper," Doyle said.

Richmond's wife, Dr. Teri McCartney, ASU emeritus professor of counselor education, enlisted assistance from Doyle's students for the April concert she is coordinating to benefit the San Luis Valley Cancer Relief Fund. Students are handling ticket sales and marketing and working with musician contracts.

"These projects add the element of community service and working with non-profit organizations," Doyle said.

Hands on - Ears on

Music business students literally get into the business through internships. They earn three credit hours once they complete the 45-hour, unpaid internship. To date, 15 students have done so, according to Doyle. Depending on a student's goals and skill set, Doyle said internships help students build their resumes with experience in music, promotion, event planning, social media, and crowd sourcing. "If a student is interested in the business side or in becoming an engineer, we can make the experience relevant to their goals." Interns record their experiences in Google Sheet journals and undergo exit interviews.

Senior Cody Fricke interned with the Santa Fe Opera and with ALMA, the Alamosa Live Music Association, as a live sound engineer. Peretto-Ortega is the office manager/membership director/PSA director at KRZA Community Radio in Alamosa and will direct a summer internship program at the station for college students interested in mass communications or radio broadcasting. An internship with Richmond's Howlin' Dog Records gave her experience in another realm of music and resulted in a paid position with the company, cultivating relationships with DJs for radio promotion.

Richmond has produced recordings at his Howlin' Dog Studios in Alamosa for many years. A year ago, he launched the label Howlin' Dog Records in partnership with McCartney, ASU alumnus David Clemmer, and singer-songwriter Jana Pochop. It is a full-service record label, signing and promoting artists, as well as producing their recordings.

"The best part of the internship is all the connections you make, plus actually doing this work. You can read about it, but this is a different story," Peretto-Ortega said. A music performance major from Trinidad, Colo., she plays flute and sings, but has set a goal of becoming a mastering engineer. "Women are underrepresented in that field, and we have better high-frequency hearing."

"Having interns is really exciting to me," Richmond said. "Nobody knows what the music business is morphing into. It's changing so fast, and it's being driven by people their age. We need their perspectives as a record label."

One of Richmond's current interns, David Webb, said, "Your calling lies at the intersection of your strength and music needs. I'm figuring out where I can excel." A senior from Colorado Springs majoring in vocal performance, piano, and guitar, he first stepped inside a recording studio two years ago. Now he's in the midst of producing his second CD, as is his fellow intern Skyler Choice, a senior vocalist and guitarist from Denver. "I think everyone in music should take the topics class," Choice said. Both are planning careers as singer/songwriters. After graduation in May, Webb will head to New York City. He also gives vocal lessons and ultimately hopes to operate his own vocal studio. Drawing on what he learned in music business, Choice is organizing a national tour to perform his own work.

"It's awesome to have this connection to a local record label," Doyle said. "I try to drive home that the music industry is no longer just on the coasts. You don't have to go to Nashville to record. Howlin' Dog Records shows musicians can be anywhere. Our students can have a face-to-face relationship with producers and a record label, right here in Alamosa. This partnership gives our students the opportunity to learn all aspects of working with a record label: recording and production, merchandising, promotion, and touring. They see every side of the business."

McCartney said learning flows both ways. "There is so much to learn in the music business. Streaming has changed everything, and these students can help us to learn the ins and out of that world," she said. "I would love to turn that over to interns to research and develop," Richmond added. He hopes their internship will continue to grow and "become its own driving force."

Doyle noted, "Because Teri was a faculty member, it is easy to trust the students are getting an experience that meets Adams State's mission." For her part, McCartney said, "I enjoy the collaboration, because I'm basically a teacher at heart. Working with our interns lets me continue to be involved with students."

By Julie Waechter