ACM Celebrates 10 Year Anniversary

The Academy of Contemporary Music at the University of Central Oklahoma is celebrating its 10th year during the 2018-2019 school year with concerts, master classes and more.

“We’re going to, throughout the school year, continue to bring more [national] acts in,” said Scott Booker, ACM@UCO CEO. “We’ve decided instead of having just one show at the end, we’re taking the whole year.”

The Metro Music Series has expanded to run throughout the year, including the High Noon Showcase, ACM Performance Lab series and master classes, clinics and workshops.

Upcoming ACM Performance Lab shows include pop and R&B singer-songwriter Twin Shadow with indie electronic pop opener The Ivy; indie-Americana quartet Mipso with Americana singer-songwriter Jason Scott; and singer-songwriter Molly Burch with experimental alternative folk opener Seph(ra).

Upcoming High Noon Showcases in ACM’s Songwriting Room include Jason Scott, Trevor Lindley and Johnny Manchild and The Poor Bastards.

The High Noon Showcases and masterclasses are free and generally open to the public, but the ACM Performance Lab series is ticketed as it features national touring acts. A limited number of free tickets for UCO students are available with the code UCOFREE2018.

Masterclasses feature established artists that Booker creates conversations with about the beginning of their careers and howthey’ve dealt with pitfalls, which leads to a question-and-answer session with students.

Some of the masterclasses over the years have included Gary Numan, Roger Daltrey of The Who, Nile Rodgers of Chic and Elvis Costello.

“It’s really great because it’s [the concept of] ‘show, don’t tell,’” said Patrick Conlon, ACM assistant director. “Getting these people who are like superstars to come in and say ‘no my first record contract completely fell through and this is how I got my second record contract,’ it’s what we’re teaching them in classes.”

After managing bands, namely The Flaming Lips, and speaking at various conferences and colleges over the years, Booker started thinking about a program that taught the modern music business. There was a music business class at UCO at the time, but its focus was for traditional School of Music students, not bands or artists looking to get signed to a record label.

Booker met with then-President Roger Webb to discuss the idea and its feasibility. While at the Midem conference in France, Booker met with someone who worked at the Academy of Contemporary Music in Guildford, England, outside of London.

After meeting the head of their Business Development Center, who was at Midem to connect students directly to the music business, Booker knew that was exactly what he wanted UCO’s program to do.

“I thought ‘ that’s exactly what I want our program to do, is to…not only teach people how the music industry works, but to also simultaneously be directly connected to the music business,” Booker said.

Soon after, Webb and the State Board of Regent’s Vice-Chancellor at the time were going to England to visit the university’s program in Swansea, Wales and visited the ACM in Guildford. Booker said they loved it and wanted to partner with them.

“President Webb and I invited [the ACM] people over and they loved Oklahoma, they loved what we were trying to do here…the energy was what they were looking for,” Booker said. “They wanted to expand into the United States, so we basically formed a partnership with them and created the first…[and] only ACM in the United States.”

After establishing ACM@UCO, Webb asked Booker to run the program, while he still managed The Flaming Lips. Almost all of the current faculty and staff work in some aspect of the business, with some being solo artists or in bands, working at venues, recording original material or operating their own recording studios.

“Everyone here, really, is doing things and a lot of faculty and staff are doing multiple things [within the industry],” Booker said. “President Webb wanted us to grow the music industry, so that’s been a lot of what our Business Development Center focuses on…”

Although ACM@UCO has been a U.S. approach to the U.K. curriculum, a change in ownership at the English school solidified a split in everything but name. Booker said the curriculum had changed early on because of terminology and music rights differences between the U.S. and England.

“They were the catalyst of us being able to start quick,” Booker said.

The curriculum has grown to include changes in the music business, as well as more production elements. To keep track of changes in the industry, faculty and staff are encouraged to still be active within the industry so that they don’t stagnate.

“Our full-time faculty has really solidified [over the years] and everyone who’s been here has been here for a while and they’re experts in their field,” Conlon said.

Over the last 10 years, ACM@UCO has not only grown from 160 students to 400, but has expanded its space. It started in the top floor of the building it has now completely taken over, which includes four professional recording studios, recording spaces and technology labs, as well as the 500-capacity Performance Lab down the street.

Booker said his goal for the next decade is to organize the music industry in Oklahoma and focus on making Oklahoma a natural home base for the industry.

“What I would hope is that there’s an industry here that has been grown by the actions of everything we’ve done here and everyone here at ACM,” Booker said. “My goal is for Oklahoma City to become the next center, or to become the actual center, of the music industry in the United States.”

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