Red Caiman owner and head engineer Jesse Naus in the recording studio with artist and SAEM student Hannah Jenkins.
Hannah Jenkins, a sophomore at Point Park University, unwinds by strumming her guitar and writing songs. Music is her passion, and the 19-year-old is obsessed with shows such as American Idol that thrust unknown singers into stardom. This spring, the musician will get her own pop-star moment when she becomes the first artist featured on Point Park’s new label, Pioneer Records.
The record label will not only showcase her voice, and original songs with titles like Illusions and Something out of Nothing, but it will tap the business talents of students like herself who are enrolled in the Sports, Arts, Entertainment and Management (SAEM) program, part of the School of Business.
During a recording session inside Red Caiman Media in Pittsburgh, students will observe owner and head engineer Jesse Naus record and re-record Jenkins as she croons lyrics such as, “I can’t help but wonder what it would be like if we like each other.”
A Career in Music
Students will design a logo for the recording, draw up a contract for the artist, and market a CD launch party for this spring, where Jenkins will perform on campus and receive 300 copies. Business students also will devise a marketing plan for Jenkins to carry her musical career forward. “It’s awesome,” said Jenkins, an SAEM major.
Ed Traversari, an associate professor in the SAEM program and a longtime concert promoter, said, “The students in our major already have an interest in the recording business. This is another way for them to experience what it is like.”
Steve Tanzilli, chair of the Department of Management and the SAEM program, said the record label will teach students how their business skills can bring an MP3 to life. He said the idea grew out of the enthusiasm for Traversari’s “Business and Live Entertainment” class that features visits to Stage AE in the North Shore. To get even more hands-on experience, the students from at least three classes will work on the record label.
Tanzilli, a sports agent and attorney, will teach students how to draw up the contract in his law class, while David Rowell’s marketing class will create buzz for Jenkins on Facebook and other social media platforms.
Both current and prospective students are looking forward to working on the record label. “I have talked to high school seniors for the fall of 2015 and they are very excited,” Tanzilli said.
Other colleges have a recording label that showcases the music school’s work, but Tanzilli doesn’t know of another collegiate record label put out by a business school.
Mixing Music and Business
Students will observe the recording session and not operate the mixing board. “We are not trying to turn students into producers and engineers,” said Naus, who teaches a class at SAEM. “We want them to understand what producers and engineers do.”
He said students will come to appreciate the painstaking process behind a three-minute song, which often takes five to 15 hours of studio time. “They will understand that it’s not just walking into a room and hitting a red button and playing a song.”
“Usually the two sides of the business don’t mix. We want to make music that sounds great,” Naus said. “The business side wants to make sure it actually sells.”
Each year, a student from the University will be selected as the new featured artist (though Traversari said it may eventually be opened to the Pittsburgh community as a whole). Jenkins just happened to be an SAEM student, but was selected because of her melodic soft voice and her original songs.
“The songs have core quality,” Naus said. “The lyrics are good. Everything is there, but her stuff is raw, just her and her guitar.”
Naus said he will bring out Jenkins' natural talent by putting a band behind her and mixing the sound in his studio to make the debut recording by Pioneer Records. Jenkins still can’t believe she will have her own recordings and live performance on campus.
“This is the perfect opportunity.”
Text by Cristina Rouvalis
Photo by Martha Rial
The Point is a magazine for alumni and friends of Point Park University