How Art Alexakis Became Chairman of LACM’s Songwriting Program

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Meet The New Boss…

Aside from the cutting edge music gear, this year’s NAMM convention offered yet another debut to the musical masses. As a way of reflecting a new era in music education, the Los Angeles Music Academy has now officially changed its name to the Los Angeles College of Music (LACM). The school now offers its students the opportunity to earn 4-year BA degrees in various musical subjects. As part of this new era, the school has also created an opportunity for students to earn a degree in songwriting. To help launch the program, LACM has enlisted the multi-platinum, Grammy-nominated principal songwriter of Everclear, Art Alexakis, to serve as chairman of the new department.

With the music industry becoming more competitive, the school is looking to enlist working musicians to help students learn real world, hands-on skills that can enable them to better hone their craft. It is LACM’s goal to create students who will graduate from the program with the necessary tools and skills to adapt to an ever-changing market. Performer was fortunate enough to speak with Alexakis shortly after the announcement at NAMM to get a better idea of what he and the school are looking to create in the upcoming school year.

So to start, do you have a history with the school? How did you and the college start working together?

This is what happened: I had been speaking with them the last two or three years about doing small groups or workshops, and eventually I met Erin Workman who worked at the Musicians Institute in Hollywood. When she left there last year she went over to, what at the time was called LAMA (Los Angeles Music Academy), and they were very excited about bringing in a curriculum, and having me do it. She’s an amazing musician and educator. I met everyone at the school and I was just so taken by how focused and happy everyone was, and how hard everyone worked. I couldn’t believe how excited they were to have what I do become part of what they do.

Now they are an actual college. They offer a wide array of 4-year BA degrees. It’s exciting to be a part of.

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Will you be teaching the class? Or just overseeing the program?

Both. I plan to write the curriculum for several of the classes. They already have some classes there and we’re designing some [additional courses].

As the curriculum goes on, hopefully I’ll be teaching more classes when I have time away from touring and making albums. It’s good. I like working; I like being busy.

Is this songwriting program the sort of thing you wished you had when you were growing up?

Absolutely! There were no lessons for songwriting. There might be something like it now…somewhere, but I think to this day this might be the first degree you can get in songwriting.

Did you take music classes when you first started out?

I took a few guitar lessons as a kid, but I couldn’t really afford it. I took like eight lessons. I had a guitar that my mom bought at a pawnshop and a 25-dollar amplifier; that’s what I had. I’d probably be a much better musician if I had something like this, but back then that’s how you learned, you ruined your albums. Mine was Led Zeppelin. I basically destroyed that [first] album going back and forth and learning how to play it.

I think there’s something good about that, having some skills and then learning to think outside the box and learning to use those skills. ‘OK, you take these skills and you figure out how to make them your skills.’ I don’t want this to sound like a Hallmark card, but honestly it’s about learning how to develop those skills to be your own sounds. You begin to develop your own tone, your own sound, how to put your hands, how to work your voice, how you work your words and melodies and where they come from. With training and information and guidance you can learn to develop your own ideas and workshop them to develop your own sound. I did it, but to answer your question, yes I do wish I had something like this. This really didn’t exist when I was a kid.

What would be your ultimate goal for the future of the program?

I don’t have an ultimate goal, really. I want to be a part of it as long as I can be and develop a curriculum that works. I’m sure over time certain things will, and certain things won’t. I want to learn from that and develop more. I want to create something that lasts and continues to grow and evolve. I really haven’t thought about the future, I’m just trying to think about the now. The future tends to take care of itself.

Author’s note: In addition to the school, Art’s long-running band, Everclear, is currently tracking their ninth studio album, which should be completed by mid-spring. Shortly after, Everclear will be embarking on a 35-date summer tour with Soul Asylum, Eve 6, and Spacehog. Lastly, Art’s also staying busy working on a memoir and a radio show.

For those interested, LACM’s new format now offers four-year degrees including a Bachelor of Music Performance and Music Production, a new Songwriting Major, and a new Brass and Woodwind Major. The college also offers online courses as well as off-campus learning programs for drums and guitar (with bass, music business, and music production currently in development).

For more information on LACM and the programs offered, visit www.lacm.edu.

Follow Art on Twitter @artalexakis

For more interviews and features from Performer Mag, click here.

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