Eighteen is a consequential age; it marks the border between youth and adulthood, between adolescent angst and alleged independence. Blue Hawk Records, the student-run record label at Monmouth University, wanted to capture that transitory stage and spirit in the mood and music of its 18th compilation EP, aptly titled, “Eighteen.”
“We want to capture the newfound independence and freedom that comes with turning that age in both our music and artwork,” wrote Blue Hawk Records Creative Director Michelle Etienne in the creative brief sent to the University Art Department class that the label partners with to produce the graphic treatment for promotional material and for the EP itself.
“After the year we have had, our students needed to do something liberating. I wanted to enable that expression for this class. We met in person, under all the most stringent safety protocols – 25 of us in a theater space designed for 150 – so the team could feel the energy of the room,” says Joe Rapolla, chair of the Music & Theatre Department and director of the Music Industry program at Monmouth University.
It seemed to work. The label team put together a musically diverse collection of well-produced songs written and performed by student-artists. As in past compilation projects, students from across all majors and programs at the University were invited to audition to perform on the release. “Some students approached the assignment with complete songs that only need to be recorded and produced, while some came with frameworks of songs that need a lot of arrangement,” Rapolla said.
Even for students who joined the project with only a rough idea for a song were welcome, he added. Rapolla emphasizes that the Blue Hawk Records experience is about more than just performance; it also involves the comprehensive work of music professionals, which includes artist development. As Rapolla puts it, “our team loves the challenge of developing an artist, producing their music, and helping them to realize their vision. During the process they inject a newfound confidence in the artist, and in themselves. It’s really wonderful to see.”
One of the artists on “Eighteen.” Mona Ray Cobb, came to the audition with no music, no instruments, and only a few lyrics that she had penned. There was a lot of work to do with the artist and the song. “When Mona first showed up to audition, what immediately stood out to me about her was her confidence in who she was as a person and a singer. Her first words were ‘I am not a songwriter, I just like to sing, and I’m just auditioning for the experience.’ The song wasn’t complete, but her courage to come and at least try was all I needed to see,” explained co-GM/A&R rep and Monmouth University football team wide-receiver, Ezrah Archie. “Her audition to me felt like a ‘Hey, if you help me, we’ll have something special, because I don’t have all the tools for knowing where to go with what I have.’ Knowing that I had the qualities to take her from point A to the finish line, I was passionate about getting her on the album because I felt like she was deserving of the experience more than anything,” he said.
Archie and the team helped turn Mona Ray’s song outline into a dynamite upbeat pop song about having a passion and taking a chance.
Recorded and produced in the midst of a pandemic, the record label class had to stay focused, make good decisions, and figure out all the kinks to make the most of the production process of the album through the restrictions imposed by health and safety guidelines.
In total, the team chose six great artists for the 18th compilation album. The lineup includes Alexander Giorgi, a senior business administration major, Brian Smith a junior communication major, Josh Heckler, a sophomore music industry major, Kid Ace (Asad Whitehead), a first-year music industry major, Sarah Lambert, and Mona Ray Cobb, a junior political science major.
Alex Jeffrey, a music industry major and production manager for the release of “Eighteen,” said, “We were blessed with fantastic musicians that made all the artists’ visions for their songs come alive. Student musicians such as Mikey Sanchez, Ethan Christiansen, and recent graduate BJ Biedebach were critical to the success of the recording sessions. The sessions went so well, and everyone had a great time recording their songs.”
The label will celebrate the release of “Eighteen” with a virtual live simulcast on April 21 at 8 p.m.The live show, hosted by Monmouth junior and label co-GM Kayla Booker, will be broadcast live from both the University’s radio station, WMCX 88.9FM, and Instagram Live on the Blue Hawk Records Instagram page, @bluehawkrecordsofficial. The worldwide release of the EP, on all major digital streaming channels, will be April 30.
Thanks to a newly formed partnership, “Eighteen” will be distributed through music industry service provider, Vydia, which will feature Blue Hawk Records as its first university label partner as part of its new content management, distribution, and royalty tracking platform for the music industry. Other Vydia partners include Apple, Spotify, TikTok, and YouTube.
Blue Hawk Records is the student-run record label at Monmouth University. Blue Hawk Records releases a compilation EP every semester, featuring top talent from across the University community. To learn more or to get involved, go to www.bluehawkrecords.com or follow our social media accounts.
MONMOUTH UNIVERSITY’S BLUE HAWK RECORDS TO RELEASE FIRST EVER REMOTELY PRODUCED COMPILATION EP, “SWEET 16”.
Students to host Live Release Show on Instagram on May 6th, at 8p
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Over the past few weeks, student life at Monmouth University, and everywhere, has changed dramatically, due to COVID - 19. Like all other schools and universities across the country, Monmouth has moved to online instruction for the remainder of the spring semester. This led to the postponement and cancellation of many on-campus events and activities. It also required faculty and students to change the way the they conduct, and take classes. Essentially overnight, all classes moved to a virtual environment. That’s hard enough for lecture courses, but is especially challenging for studio and performance-based courses, with group projects.
However, despite the chaotic and tumultuous situation students found themselves, Blue Hawk Records carried on with its plans to release its 16th studio album, this semester. They innovated and found a way to remotely produce, promote and release the spring 2020 compilation EP, “Sweet 16”. A first for the student-run record label, as well as most major record labels.
The Record Label Strategies course at Monmouth is where students work together, under the direction of Professor Joe Rapolla, to release the Blue Hawk Records compilation EP each semester. This requires that students hold auditions, select artists, prepare them to record, develop marketing strategies, decide on artwork, and plan and produce a live event. It’s a significant amount of work under ordinary circumstances. But, with a shutdown requiring that everyone shelter-in-place, it presented unprecedented challenges.
Impressively, Monmouth students, rose to the challenge. Professor Rapolla continued to conduct live class meetings online, where the team devised a plan to accomplish all the required tasks remotely. With just one recording session able to be conducted, at Lakehouse Recording Studio in Asbury Park, before the shutdown, student managers and producers remotely worked with artists to record tracks in home or local studios. The tracks were then sent in to be mixed and mastered. All the while artwork was being designed, and online promotions were being executed to get people excited about the album. As in past semesters, the class partnered with Monmouth’s Professor Linh Dao’s art class to design the album art.
“The resilience of these students astounds me”, said Music and Theatre department chair, and Music Industry Program Director, Joe Rapolla. “Their spirit and commitment to the project, and each other is heartening. They will be able to apply this experience, in many different professional, and personal, situations their entire lives. That’s what most gratifying in all of this. Getting together with the students is the highlight of my workweek, and especially during this virus shutdown.”
Artists on “Sweet 16” include Monmouth students, Shadiyah, featuring Gabe Garcia, Nicole Totland, Bruce Davis, featuring Janae, Mikey Sanchez, Drew Fournier, and Monmouth alumni, Anya Schildge Angeloni ‘12M, along with an ensemble of accompanying student musicians and producers.
As music industry sophomore and Blue Hawk Records press coordinator, Ben Davis, puts it, “a lot of effort is being put in to make this album happen, and we know it will be worth it in the end.”
The only major change concerning the album is the cancellation of the planned on-campus release show at the Rebecca Stafford Student Center. However, this does not mean that there won’t be an event celebrating the release. This semester’s team will be hosting the first-ever Blue Hawk Records virtual release show, on the Blue Hawk Records Instagram page, on May 6th, at 8pm. “This way, music lovers from all over the world will be able to tune in to hear our artists, and what we’ve been working so hard on”, says Davis.
“Sweet 16” will be available for streaming on all digital platforms on May 8th.
You can find and follow Blue Hawk Records at @bluehawkrecordsofficial
For press inquiries, contact:
About Blue Hawk Records
Blue Hawk Records is Monmouth University’s student-run record label and music organization designed to provide music and hands-on experience for the students. Its mission is to equip music industry majors, as well as others in the University, with relevant, real-world experience and familiarize them with the typical workings of different occupations in the current music industry.
Blue Hawk Record label carries out the functions of a commercial recording company, with students holding all requisite roles and positions inherent in the corporate model. Students are able to capitalize on this specialized experience as they function in performing and recording, talent scouting, artist management, promotion, branding and development, and live music production.
Blue Hawk Records has released 15 compilation albums since its inception in 2013. It has active affiliations with major music industry organizations, such as Warner Music Group, the Music Business Association, and the GRAMMY Museum, and with notable Jersey Shore music scene organizations, including Lakehouse Music Academy and The Stone Pony, in Asbury Park.
Days Until Live Show
May 6th on Instagram Live @bluehawkrecordsofficial