The class, which traditionally sends students to major music festivals throughout the summer with Berklee-affiliated performers, pivoted to a new approach when festivals were canceled.
The Berklee Popular Music Institute (BPMI), an immersive education program that traditionally brings a group of students and Berklee performers to major North American music festivals, has partnered with publishing and talent management company Primary Wave for an innovative and creative summer project. Throughout their remote semester, BPMI students used Zoom and various technologies to produce, record, and create videos of iconic hits from Primary Wave’s artist catalogue. This project represents the first major partnership between a college music business program and a major publishing company.
“I pitched the idea to the BPMI for a creative collaboration that would turn virtual performances into a fully remote summer class program,” said Robert Dippold, partner and president of digital strategy for Primary Wave Music Publishing. “The premise was that Primary Wave would open our entire song catalog up to the students to encourage other covers of our copyrights, and discuss the songwriting aspects with the actual songwriters and artists themselves. With all of the students and our artists at home, I thought this could be a unique education experience–our songwriters met the students on Zoom, and discussed the music business and creative process with them. This collaboration has created a one-of-a-kind experience for the students, and brought our experts beyond the studio and into the classroom for an incredible summer.”
The project kicks off with a new recording and video for the iconic Grammy-nominated song “Why Can’t We Be Friends?” from the acclaimed Afro-Cuban, jazz, rock, and blues band WAR, which celebrates its 45th anniversary this year. Students collaborated with the group’s original co-songwriter and keyboard player to re-imagine the song with updated lyrics and a rap, exploring social justice issues that resonate today.
“The best parts of this experience for me were interacting with the students on Zoom, and learning from them about this new era. And while we are in a new era, they still bridged the gap between what the song was written for back then, and how it still applies today,” said Lonnie Jordan, the band’s keyboard player and vocalist on the original track. “I was hoping that the Berklee students would take the song and adapt it for today, and that is exactly what they achieved and they did it very well,” said Jerry Goldstein, producer and co-songwriter of the original version of the song and Why Can’t We Be Friends? album.
The videos and recordings for the class are entirely produced by BPMI students, often over Zoom and iPhone technology. The class will continue to release additional recordings and videos from Primary Wave Music Publishing songwriters including Paul Rogers, Bob Marley, Donny Hathaway, and others, timed with various milestone anniversaries for their hit songs.
“When Primary Wave reached out to discuss working with our students, I immediately knew this partnership would result in creative challenges and incredible opportunities,” said Jeff Dorenfeld, founder of the BPMI and a professor in Berklee’s Music Business/Management Department. “While we were unable to go to music festivals as a class this year, I am proud of the work our students have produced in collaboration with Primary Wave’s roster of artists, producers, and songwriters, all coordinated during a virtual summer semester.”