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6 questions with a Music Technology major

Joshua Smith, an undergraduate at Drexel University, Philadelphia, explains what the Music Industry major is all about.
BY Uma Asher |   19-07-2016

Joshua Robert Smith, 21, is an undergraduate student at Drexel University, Philadelphia. Originally from Woodbridge, Virginia, he veered from playing music to producing it. Now he studies music technology – how to make things sound good, as he puts it. In this email interview with BrainGain Magazine, he explains what he does, how he got here, and where he wants to go. You can also check out some of his work below.

Thanks so much for taking the time to do this interview! Tell us a bit about yourself - what kind of music do you like? And how did you choose music technology as your major?
I first picked up the saxophone when I was around 11. I then began playing guitar for my church a few months later. Back then, I thought the saxophone was cool and smooth, and the guitar was more aggressive and raw. I really felt I could speak with the guitar in ways I could not with the former.

I was inspired by Slash from Guns N’ Roses, Kirk Hammet from Metallica, Joe Satriani, Jimi Hendrix, Eddie Van Halen, Angus Young, and many more, and I still believe they’re some of the best. Of course, as I got older I was exposed to other genres and musicians. I began doing everything from writing and recording rap songs to producing music from scratch. They were hard skills to develop, and I continue to practice them daily. My interests led me to audio recording and engineering which, in my mind, is the art of making things sound good. It led me to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where I study music tech at Drexel University.

Could you tell us a little bit about the program? What kind of hands-on experience do you get as a student?
Music technology is a sub-grouping of students within Drexel’s Music Industry major. After two years of studying the same subjects and attending the same classes as everyone in the major, you decide between the Music Business and Music Tech concentrations. I’ve finished three years, and look forward to my senior year, starting this fall.

A few classes in the program that I think of as highlights include: (1) Audio for Video, where we learned things like Foley and ADR, (2) Music Production, where work with an on-campus artist of our choice and record, mix, and master their three-song EP, and (3) Mad Dragon Studios, where we present personal projects to a class for support and critique.

Our program offers professional-grade recording studios that students may use for personal and academic work. In this program, you can look forward to many recording, production, and mixing assignments that can be tedious, fun, and challenging.

One of the school’s unique offerings is its Co-Op program. This has us work one quarter a year in a professional environment relevant to our field. The school helps us find a Co-Op. I worked at a music studio in the Philadelphia area, where I learned plenty about the recording and business aspects of music. One matters as much as the other.

How did you decide on Drexel?
My decision was primarily based on the opportunity I thought would come with the setting and how unique Drexel’s Music Industry major was. I applied with an intention for Early Decision, so upon being accepted I wiped my hands clean of all other prospects. I attend the school using military benefits my father earned through his years of service in the US Army, which cover tuition and fees 100%. Rest assured, there are underlying costs to attending the school and living in Philadelphia, but the benefits are sizable.

What are your professors’ backgrounds? What do you value the most about working with them?
My professors here come from all over the country and the world, with highly diverse backgrounds in the music industry. They fall in anywhere between publishing house lawyers and recording studio engineers. They truly know what they’re doing and they’d never let you forget that. What I value most as their student is the assurance that I’m learning from people who have experienced the best and worst of the industry, and know from hands-on, hard-earned experience what you need to have, to have a chance in this business.

Can you take classes in business, too?
During the first two years of this program, we took many general education classes (English, math, accounting) alongside musically inclined classes (music theory, arranging techniques, music history). There are many mandatory business classes (marketing, economics, entrepreneurship) whether you are on the Technology or Business track, but the latter has even more of them.

What do you plan to do after graduation?
The nature of my field is freelance opportunities, so it’s difficult to say where I’ll end up after I graduate. Still, I know I’ll always be making music and I’m excited to see where that may take me.


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