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Issue #210

Weekly Newsletter

by Liya Swift

Student Successes

Recording Connection grad Alexa Cooper Lands Top Job &
Gets Going on New EP!

RC grad Alexa Cooper with A$AP Rocky's FOH Manager and DJ Recording Connection graduate Alexa Cooper (Vancouver, BC) has never been one to shy from a challenge or hard work. Over the past two years since she completed her externship it’s paid off for her in spades. From going on tour with A$AP Rocky, to working with artists like Lauryn Hill, Common, Alicia Keys, Emeli Sandé, Nicki Minaj, Jay-Z and Beyoncé, Alexa is proof-positive that a having a great work ethic and great attitude can get you far, fast.   Having heard that Alexa had some more exciting stuff on the horizon, we recently reached out to her to get the full scoop. Turns out she’s got a lot going on!   So you’re still with VER, now we hear you landed a new job as a production manager with Promosa Management. Could you tell us more about that?   So it’s been really incredible. I’ve been setting up a lot of really big profile shows. We do FVDED In The Park in Vancouver, we do Bumbershoot, Center of Gravity, basically all the major festivals all over Canada, and then a few in the States, like Sasquatch! Music Festival.   How’d the production manager job come about?   “I was living down in San Diego and commuting to L.A. almost every day, and got to go on tour with A$AP Rocky, as you guys know, and it led to the other opportunities I had with Dillon Francis and then Beyoncé, and I just kind of felt this calling to come back up to Vancouver. When I got here I was almost immediately hired fulltime as a production manager for one of the local companies up here… I was fortunate enough to be picked specifically. They even had a meeting about me before it happened and then reached out to me to ask me if I wanted to take the position.”   Regarding your upcoming album, what’s the inspiration behind it? And, how much of it are you recording and mixing yourself?     “It’s intended to inspire a sense of freedom, joy, and expansion. I want to create a space where people can feel okay with being who they truly are and step into the highest version of themselves. Whether that’s through feeling an emotion that needs to be felt, letting loose and dancing, getting down with the not so pretty nitty gritty of life, or through appreciating the moment…I want to move people…   Since I do have the training from school to be able to do a lot of stuff myself, I’m doing what I can at my little home studio. Then I’ve got the engineers in the studio that I helped build from the ground up [to help]… because there are things that I’m not able to track at home, like a full drum set… And then I also want to bring in some artists to also co-create on my tracks. I have a rolodex of insanely talented people, and I want to get them involved as well.”   Great. So could you tell us about this song and the music video we’ve been hearing about?     “Work sent me to Burning Man last year, and I got to do my first lighting design job. And actually Skrillex showed up and I got to operate lights for Skrillex, which was wild. I had gotten back from Burning Man and felt really raw and inspired, and had a new renewed faith in myself and in humanity, and this song started to come out. So it’s my first song and video that I’m doing that is more emotional and has more feeling to it.”   We know you’ve worked with stars like Beyoncé and other major talent. Has seeing them in action changed or informed what you do as an artist?   “I’d say absolutely, on multiple different levels. One big thing is seeing the drive and how much work behind the scenes they’re actually doing, because they see this big stage performance and it was like, they come on, it’s magic, and there was so much work that went behind that. And we kind of know that. It’s different when you see it, though. So just seeing Beyoncé in complete rehearsal mode where she’s barely talking to anybody, she’s just fully concentrated on what she’s doing to make sure she’s getting everything right, it was an incredible moment. Same with everybody else who came out, and also as far as for me, my goal is I want to be a performer and tour myself. So seeing the behind the scenes and actually seeing what lighting fixtures they’re using, what audio systems they’re using, and all of those details that actually make the show has been massively beneficial.”   Do you have any advice for DIY artists including those who’ve graduated Recording Connection and know how to engineer and produce their own tracks, what can they do to take things to the next level?   “I know for me it’s been a journey of kind of working through my own self-worth and feeling like I deserve it…It’s just a matter of actually doing it, because we always have these big ideas in our heads of the things that we want, and then we can get so convoluted and clouded with our self-doubt and self-worth when it’s like, action is what creates results. Thoughts absolutely matter and they’re going to absolutely help, and it’s also important to back up those thoughts and dreams with effective action, because those two combined can become an unstoppable force. It’s just a matter of first getting clear on what you actually want, which can be the biggest challenge for everybody. At the end of the day, what do you find the most joy in doing?”   You seem to have mastered being artistic as well as pragmatic in your approach. How do you make it work for you?   “I think a big part of it for me is letting go of needing things to happen my way exactly, because there are formulas for success out there that have been used time and time again, like song structure, for example. I never really wrote good song structure until my last song that I put out. Everyone who’s heard it is just like, ‘Who wrote that?’ and I’m like, that’s a great sign if people are asking who wrote that. So I think it’s absolutely being creative, and then it’s also being open to other ideas and other formulas that are successful, and not being cookie-cutter and all that. It’s like creating something new out of something that already works.”  
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Mentor News

Film and Recording Mentor Johny Fischer on
Branding Oneself Authentically

music video production Denver COJohny Fischer aka Johny Rocketz (Denver, CO) is a mentor for both the Recording Connection and Film Connection. A modern day Renaissance man and artist in his own right who works in both film and video production and music, Johny gets the students who extern with him working on music videos and in-studio where they’re learning the ins and out of what it takes to make music and chart one’s course by being entrepreneurial, driven, and multifaceted in one’s talents.   Johny doesn’t miss a beat when it comes to helping hardworking, committed students get going on real world projects, learning what it takes to see their visions from concept to completion. Under his mentorship recent Film Connection grad William Ninivaggi shot and edited Black Pegasus’ music video “Gauntlet.” And that’s not all. Black Pegasus’ recent release “Idolatry” which features Madchild & Mr Biscuit, has more than 1.5 million views to date and was shot and edited by multiple Film Connection students: Alex Willey, Rachel Sobson, Leticia Rodriguez, Ryan Morris and William Ninivaggi.   We recently connected with Johny who graciously peeled back the curtain and offered some extremely useful advice on something many DIYs and up-and-comers find pretty mystifying—branding. So dig in and get Johny’s insights on savvy, authentic branding. Enjoy!   FOR ARTISTS, BUILDING A BRAND IS OF VITAL IMPORTANCE:   “In today’s day in age, especially right now, everything is contingent on your branding and who you are and building that identity, so artists need to think about branding as being really important and something that they need to adopt if they’re going to take their art seriously…   I went on tour with MMG, that’s Maybach Music Group…Guaranteed my group had their branding together. Our manager made sure it happened, otherwise without that it would be limiting your success and where you’re trying to take it…So yeah, it’s definitely important. When your branding is packaged properly, you start winning people over and you start getting a bigger following, a bigger presence, because you’re that much more out there, you know?”   AUTHENTIC BRANDING THAT SHOWS WHAT YOU’RE ABOUT IS A WORTHWHILE ENDEAVOR:     “Most people find themselves running into the wall of, ‘Who am I? What am I about?’ And if you’re dealing with a publicist and they ask you, ‘What is your bio?’ and they send you these questions and they, ‘Who are you? What are you about? In a sentence, what defines you as an artist?’ you’ll find yourself with these questions, and you find a lot of artists giving the same regurgitated answer because they haven’t really thought about it…   Finding out who you are is a big part of being an artist, because if you don’t know who you are, your music can stand for yourself, but at the end of the day if your image doesn’t match your audio content, there’s a big detach there, you know? Branding is that staple that bridges the two together to make things make sense and make a real brand.   What’s going to engage with that listener is if your branding is good. By that I mean, if they hear a song and they’re like, ‘Oh, I’m going to Shazam this. Oh, it’s on iTunes. That’s cool. Is it on YouTube? Is it on SoundCloud? And they’re going to go to these platforms and look to see and hear what more that this artist has to offer. They want to learn more about this person and kind of involve themselves in knowing who this person is and really become a fan.”   JOHNY BRAGS ON STUDENTS’ SUCCESSES:   Johny’s former extern Mark Doster went on to win the coveted Award of Merit from the Accolade Global Film Competition for his suspense horror short “God Rest Your Soul.”   Another star student who impressed Johny is recent Film Connection graduate William Ninivaggi, who racked up considerable experience under his direction. “The last 10 projects he learned how to do it so well that I let him DP every music video because he was that good. We did a music video with another famous rapper (Chino XL). He shot the whole music video…He did the whole thing himself and it came out phenomenal. He learned so fast. I was just amazed…So he’s definitely a success story.”   ON WHY HE CHOOSES TO MENTOR FOR US:   “My father was a teacher, and I feel like he took that teaching that he taught every day and he taught me as a kid. And I think that just stayed with me and manifested into me doing it, me being a teacher to other people and really feeling passionate about what I do, and being able to express that passion to someone else who’s trying to come up.”  
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Apprentices in Action

A Day in the Life of Our Students

   Film Connection student Lloyd Schallenberger who externs with Allan Simmons at Simmons Creative Productions (Jackson, MS) is staying busy and getting in on the day-to-day action: “I have helped my mentor with filming two commercials and a book signing and speech….Next week I have two things so far, I will be an extra down in New Orleans. The shows I know I will be on is NCIS: New Orleans and a new one called Skinny Dip. I may get more while I’m down there…next time I get the studio with my mentor I’m supposed to get hands-on training in the editing, which I am excited about…I’m having fun with the scriptwriting and learning how it all ties into a crew.”   Keep us posted Lloyd!     Recording Connection student Lisa Del Bosque (Dallas, TX) is willing to go the distance. She’s holding down her regular job while she’s doing her externship with Rick Rooney at Planet Dallas at Empire Sound: “The saying goes ‘All those early mornings and late nights will pay off’ and I literally feel like that is currently my life… I’m not going to lie. My car has become my closet [since] many outfit changes have now taken place there but like I said, I know all of the madness and running around will be worth it one day soon…   As far as being in the studio, this week I learned how to use Pro Tools so that was a little success within itself. I was thanking my current job so much [because] the computer and memorization skills I have developed were definitely put to good use. It also just goes back to me not realizing until now just how essential all of the small steps in life I have taken all serve a purpose towards the bigger picture… I was literally running out of the office just to make it to the studio on time because these dreams ain’t gon’ chase themselves.”       
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Apprentice Media

Check Out Our Students’ Work

    Heard our Student Music Mixtape yet? In partnership with Symphonic Distribution, we’re excited to help our students get their music out to the world!   The Recording Connection is now offering this great opportunity for our students to broaden their understanding of the new role digital distribution companies like Symphonic Distribution can play in helping release their tracks and propel their careers forward!