by Kathleen Dolan
Along with education and training, accepting opportunities, fostering relationships, and working hard can help students navigate the long and uncertain road toward working in the music industry.
This was the message imparted to Chestnut Hill College students during an event about the music business, “Making it in the Music Biz!: A Conversation with Award-Winning Music Producer Rodney Whittenberg and Movie Composer Joe Augustine.”
“I think it’s important if you want to make a living as a creative person that you know how to wear a lot of hats and don’t take too much offense to switching them out,” Augustine said at the event, held in the East Parlor of St. Joseph Hall on Nov. 11. “There is no aspect of the work that I’m unwilling to do or that is beneath me. When you’re doing something you love, you give up a lot for those opportunities, too.”
A music executive with more than 20 years of experience, Augustine has worked as a drummer, manager, A&R representative, and executive producer. Today, he owns a record production company, Narrative Music, which has produced scores for numerous TV shows and films, such as “Spotlight,” “Godzilla: King of Monsters,” and “The Walking Dead.”
Augustine said that being open to different types of opportunities is one of the most important things that artists, whether up-and-coming or established, can do to develop academically or professionally.
“I played in a wedding band for a number of years, carrying equipment at first, an everyday story, but then I started to play more,” Augustine said. “Still, to this day, some of the most accomplished musicians I have ever been involved with were in some of those bands.”
Augustine then described the curves and hurdles he faced throughout his professional career, from his early days working as a musician to identifying talent as an artist and repertoire representative to owning a record production company. He even relayed a story about an internship in which he was tasked with fetching a cheeseburger for the producer’s dog.
“If someone asks you to do something, say ‘Yes,’” said Augustine, who grew up in Philadelphia and now lives in Brooklyn. “‘Yes’ is always the right answer.”
Whittenberg, the founder of Melodyvision, spent his life working in the music industry and produced his first jingle for a small West Philly business when he was 17 years old. Over the course of his career, he has composed music for more than 34 films, TV shows, and dance performances. He received a Regional Emmy Award for his score for the TV documentary “Mother Dot’s Philadelphia” and an award for Best Sound Design at the Terror Film Festival for the movie “Toll Taker.” His credits as a filmmaker include WHYY’s “Wider Horizon,” and he most recently co-produced the feature-length documentary “Caregivers: Their Passion, Their Pain,” which was featured on WHYY’s “Radio Times” and written about in The Guardian.
Both Augustine and Whittenberg, old friends and former bandmates, said that second to accepting numerous opportunities comes collaboration.
“Connections and relationships are super important, not just in terms of getting a leg up but in terms of knowing who to call and what assets you can leverage at certain times. And then you’re an asset for somebody else, too,” Augustine said. “We all help each other along.”
Neither Whittenberg nor Augustine had a specific equation for how to ensure a career in the arts, acknowledging that it is an ever-changing industry and one without a definitive ladder. But, above all else, one must be passionate about the work.
“I’ve always loved music, obsessed with music, and sort of lived in a music world in my head, whether there was music on or not,” Augustine said.