The Business of Making Music
A new program prepares students to work in the music industry
Program coordinator Keala Chock, seated, provides hands-on instruction to MELE students like Sean Stewart, left, and Ken Callahan
Honolulu Community College has composed a new MELE that it hopes will be Hawaiʻi’s next musical hit. Music and Entertainment Learning Experience opened in fall 2007 with two introductory courses on the music business and dreams of helping the state develop the bridge between local musical talent and the global music industry.
MELE was initially proposed as part of the Hawaiʻi Innovation Initiative, developed through start-up grants from the Department of Business Economic Development and Tourism and Hawaiʻi Legislature and promoted in Gov. Linda Lingle’s 2008 State of the State address. It operates through a partnership with Nashville’s Mike Curb College of Entertainment and Music Business at Belmont University.
In addition to its pioneer program in the country music capital, Belmont offers programs in New York and Los Angeles.
"Our program is fairly new, and being able to make connections with a college that has more than 30 years of experience is a huge opportunity," says Keala Chock, MELE program coordinator. "Belmont has expressed a strong willingness to provide a supportive atmosphere for our students in a world-class program. We could not have asked for more support and a better opportunity for our students."
"Classes are going really great," enthuses John Tussey, a MELE program student who is pursuing music business and songwriting. "The distance learning courses with Belmont’s professors are working out very well. The instructors have volumes of practical knowledge about the music business and can answer most any question you can think of." Tussey and 24 other students attend online classes that prepare them for a future in the industry.
"As a keyboard recording artist, arranger, songwriter, music publisher and private music instructor, I want to gain as much knowledge as I can. I also look forward to networking and possibly collaborating with those in the program who have the same interests," Tussey says.
Among these students and professors, the vision is the same: partaking in a program that enables them to collaborate with the best in the business.
MELE is for students interested in careers in business and professional aspects of the music industry. Participants focus on three areas of interest—artist creativity, entertainment business expertise and technical production skills—and have access to internship opportunities in the music industry across the country.
"Now students have a unique opportunity to access the technology, skills and opportunities that will allow them to grow and succeed in the music industry," says Chock.
The payoff is more than economic, he adds. "As a community, we continue to support the Hawaiian culture. This program will allow our students endless opportunities and provide a more educated workforce to help our culture to flourish."
MELE is a new twist on UH community colleges’ nod to the local music scene. Windward Community College’s Hawaiʻi Music Institute offers non-credit classes with a focus on performance.
Honolulu Community College offers two associate in science degrees through MELE—in music business and production and in audio engineering technology—beginning in fall 2008. Graduates can segue into Belmont’s bachelor’s programs in music business, audio engineering, entertainment industry studies or songwriting.
"The MELE program is exceptional in that it offers students the opportunity to seek an associate degree through an open-door, low-cost, no-prerequisite program while gaining real-world technical and musical skills," says Chock.
With enrollment growth from 25 students the first semester to more than 60 during the spring, the program is off to a great start, he adds.
"Honolulu CC will continue to offer innovative course work in both music business and audio engineering during the next two years and looks forward to further increasing opportunities." MELE courses are team-taught via live distance learning by Belmont and Honolulu CC faculty. Students participate in live discussions with faculty and students from Belmont as well as join in on the Insider’s View, live lectures or chats with professionals in the field.
MELE will provide those serious about musical professions with opportunities to be seen and heard. Within 5–10 years, officials hope, the graduates will have a far greater impact on the music business, creating a broader world identity for Hawaiian music.