Students sample music career opportunities at ‘All Access Fest’ – Daily News

Charting a career in the music industry can be tough if you don’t know where to start.

But Angelique Ceron, a sophomore at Lawndale High School, got a leg up Wednesday, April 26 when she attended Music Forward Foundation‘s free career fair at The Wiltern theater in Los Angeles.

“All Access Fest” featured panel discussions, hands-on technical learning stations and access to industry professionals from a variety of major entertainment companies, including Meta, Interscope Records, Dolby, Disney and the Recording Academy.

“I mainly came for the networking and to see the kinds of programs are open to students my age,” Ceron said. “You get to see all of the different branches you can work in, whether it’s up front or in the background.”

Emmy Award-winning music director, composer and producer Rickey Minor participated in a Q&A session with Nurit Smith, executive director of the Music Forward Foundation, at Wednesday’s “All Access Fest” music career fair at The Wiltern theater in Los Angeles. (Photo by Sandy Altamirano courtesy of Music Forward Foundation)

The event, which was sidelined by the pandemic for three years, targets students ages 16 to 24 in underserved communities who are looking to network and make their way into the music industry. And there are lots of opportunities — some of which students are likely unaware of.

Nurit Smith, Music Forward’s executive director, said industry panels offered students a look at the “spectrum” of music and live entertainment.

“We’re getting people to understand that venue careers are a pathway, for example,” she said. “There are opportunities with music labels, publishing, artist management, touring, brand marketing and audio engineering.”

Students and teachers traveled from a variety of Southern California high schools, community colleges and universities, including Lawndale High School, Long Beach City College, Cal State Long Beach, Cal State Fullerton and UCLA, among others.

They got to rub shoulders with a variety of industry professionals, including Rickey Minor, a past musical director for the Oscars, Grammys and Kennedy Center Honors along with the “Tonight Show.”

Wednesday’s event attracted students and teachers from a variety of Southern California high schools, community colleges and universities. (Photo by Sandy Altamirano courtesy of Music Forward Foundation)

Smith said the music industry, like many others, is struggling to fill job openings.

“Between the impacts from COVID-19 and an aging demographic inside the industry, there is a workforce shortfall,” she said. “Our efforts are driven through equity and exclusivity. A lot of companies understand that to remain vibrant you have to bring in a more inclusive workforce.”

Marc Nieves, a senior at Lawndale High, said he wants to explore the technology side of the business, including sound mixing and stage setup. But his true passion is singing.

“We have a stage band program at school where we form our own bands, and we just did a performance for the city,” he said. “I just remember being up there on that stage and showing everyone who I was and saying my name .. it just gives me a sense that I belong there.”

Music Forward Foundation — part of the House of Blues and Live Nation Entertainment family — is working with the California Department of Education to expand the music curriculum at schools beyond band and orchestra to include courses that prepare students for careers in the arts, entertainment and music-media fields.

“We would like to see sequential courses that start as early as middle school and really ramp up in high school,” she said. “We want to be more responsive to youths who identify with that path.”

Manuel Moran, vice president of Latin programming at Live Nation, said there are definite career openings out there, including opportunities in marketing, touring and event production.

“A lot of students have an idea of what they want to do, but they need some guidance in who to call, what the expectations are and if it’s an environment where they’ll feel comfortable,” he said.

Moran said the music business requires a different kind of commitment.

“You have to be passionate about music and know that your life has a different dynamic than any other job,” he said. “I remember when I first wanted to be part of the industry. There weren’t a lot of people you could go talk to then.”

Ceron, who is interested in the music or film industries, has that kind of passion.

“I have always had music in my life,” the 15-year-old Lawndale resident said. “My mom used to say I was singing before I could talk. I’ve always wanted to be onstage to entertain and bring people joy.”

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