During his first class two years ago, music industry professor Ken Kragen had the UCLA Bruin Marching Band blast through a lecture hall full of students, demonstrating one of the life lessons he teaches in his course “Stardom Strategies for Musicians.”
“You need something unique and special to engage people,” Kragen said. “I ask the students, ‘Where is the marching band in everything you do?’”
A seminar-style class, “Stardom Strategies for Musicians” is currently being taught this winter in the Jan Popper Theater. Kragen aims to give advice to all his students, including aspiring musicians, based on his concepts and experiences on career development and professional networking. Kragen invites a variety of musicians, including David Foster, Lionel Richie and Quincy Jones, to give career advice to the class. This week’s class featured nine-time Grammy Award-winning jazz trumpeter and UCLA donor Herb Alpert as well as jazz singer Lani Hall.
While most of his guests are famous musicians and people who work in the music industry, Kragen said the messages that his guests bring to the class and share to the students are in fact more important.
“They don’t have to be famous,” Kragen said. “It’s important they have something special to share with the students in their story, which can reinforce my teaching in the class.”
During the class, Kragen interviewed Alpert and Hall about their careers and their experiences within the music industry.
Alpert, most known for his work as the leader of Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass and co-founder of A&M; Records, said he remembered being in a recording studio as a young musician and wanting to adjust his instrument’s sound after listening to a playback. When he tried to adjust the bass level on the console, however, a sound engineer slapped his hand away and told him never to touch it again. Alpert said this was the moment when he realized if he ever set up his own company, he would create a place where artists could feel comfortable and would be treated fairly.
“Kindness is contagious,” Alpert said. “If you are kind, it will come back to you at tenfold. Don’t ever underestimate the value of kindness. … That’s the way I want to approach my own company.”
While kindness is important, Hall saidauthenticity is another key to success. When she first started singing as a young girl, Hall said she would sing along to recordings of famous jazz artists and try to sound like them.
However, she found it discouraging because she didn’t think she could sound like them. Later in her life, however, Hall found her passion in Latin music, learning Portuguese for her music career. In 1985, she won a Grammy Award for best Latin pop performance.
“I want to be authentic,” Hall said. “I don’t want to sound like an American singing Brazilian music … so I learned Portuguese phonetically. I want to find something I can make my own, and it’s really important in life to find something you can make your own.”
While the majority of people in the class are not music students, Kragen said these concepts are still applicable to their careers. Third-year chemistry student Josephine Wong, who is currently taking the class, said it has changed her perspective in looking at her career.
“I used to want to be a pharmacist,” Wong said. “We did an inventory of our personal interests in one lecture, and I found my interest lies in some other area in chemistry. This class let me realize that I can keep my goal in pursuing a career in chemistry while keeping my perspective open to allow for more options.”
Kragen said sharing what he learned throughout his career allows him to impart management knowledge and he can show the students how these concepts work.
“It’s very fulfilling for me to know that I can have an impact on a lot of young lives,” Kragen said. “My ultimate goal for the class is to give these students real tools to work in the real world. I want to teach them their career is just one tool for that life and how to make their career as successful as possible.”