Jerald Washington was a seasoned industry veteran by the time he earned a Master of Music Business and Entertainment Industries online from the Frost School of Music at the University of Miami in May 2016.
In fact, Washington had already reached his career goal of becoming a freelance mix and master engineer by founding Atlanta-based Ideal Reach Audio House. But it was the degree program’s curriculum that provided Washington the insight he needed to successfully manage his fledgling solo venture.
“I wouldn’t say it was complicated, but it was definitely intricate because the music business and the entertainment industry are such broad subject matters,” he said. “It encompassed a lot of details — music law, music licensing, music publishing — and even kind of dived into things such as sponsorship and nonprofit organizations. It really seemed like it gave you the full run of being an executive, more so than just being an artist or a musician. That really impressed me more than anything. Unfolding the business while going to graduate school was just the icing on the cake.”
Washington knew that the decision to continue his higher education would help him become an even better entrepreneur.
“Frost is coming up in a way it deserves — people are believing in Frost,” he said. “I think it’s the best kept secret in the U.S., as far as music schools go. Not a lot of people know what Frost is doing. I feel like it’s going to change lives.”
Washington even drummed up a little business as he received his degree.
“When I went down there for graduation, I instantaneously connected with another student [Alex Aguilar] who was graduating,” he said. “He is managing a label [Rebel Eleven] and has his own management company, Aguilar Music Entertainment. He has an up-and-coming Latin artist [Naiya]. I’m essentially mixing and mastering things for them as they get projects done. It has been one the most fluid processes I could ask for.”
He explains all of this so that aspiring music industry workers understand the importance of building resources with other companies, even if you’re in the process of building your own business.
Washington made an early connection to music that quickly developed into a passion.
“For me, it was understanding what was under the surface of the glitz and glamour,” he said. “The technical part is what really brought me to want to pursue a career in music. From sixth to eighth grade, I played tenor saxophone in concert band. The technical part was so rigorous that I found myself wanting to create more in the recording process.”
So much so that Washington was already planting the seeds of his career by the time he reached high school.
“I went from the technical and rigorous part of reading music to the actual creation of digital music using Pro Tools and a digital audio workstation,” he said. “It took me deep into high school to really feel like I was doing anything at a competent level, but I felt like it paid off to the point where I could work in recording studios before my senior year. It wasn’t easy work — especially being the youngest person in the room. It was really discouraging at times but it was also, ‘Okay, this is the industry.'”
Washington knew he would have to sow those seeds by adding a formal music education to go along with his hands-on experience.
“You’re getting a dose of reality almost instantaneously while trying to keep your vision in a solid place,” he said. “I was trying to talk myself out of majoring in music. There were moments where I thought, ‘Maybe I’ll go to business school,’ but the passion never left. The biggest thing was making sure I went about it in a more technical, sound way, which was education. That’s pretty much what sold it for me — getting your education alongside doing the grunt work.”
University of Miami, Of Course
Washington, who has family in the Miami area, considered attending the Frost School of Music directly after high school.
“I have this blank University of Miami application in my email from my senior year of high school, which was 2009,” he said. “I essentially was doing my research, and I loved everything about Frost. I just couldn’t see myself leaving [Atlanta] at the time. I never filled out the application.”
He earned a Bachelor of Music Production online from Full Sail University in 2013. Once Washington decided to pursue a master’s degree after working as an engineer and producer at Esquire One Entertainment for three years, he set his sights on Frost.
“At that time, I just felt like I was missing something,” Washington said. “I’m an avid believer in education and the momentum that can be built with education is important — even if you don’t necessarily know what it is exactly you want to do.”
His plan worked to perfection. The knowledge to go along with the freedom of owning his own business has been everything he’d hoped for.
“I can help bring in the clients I had from my time at the studio I was working at during my undergraduate years or the different studios I might have been recording at as a freelancer, so I can be a walking business of my own,” he said. “So, that degree has allowed me to make everything come full circle. It’s been amazing.”
Among his favorite courses in the Master of Music Business and Entertainment Industries online degree program were Music Copyright Law [MMI774], International Music Publishing [MMI 673] and Sponsorship, Development and Financial Management in the Live Entertainment Industry [MMI 736].
“I wish Music Copyright Law was longer because it was such a great course — especially with the consent decrees and the way the music industry is about to change, you have to be on top of these things,” Washington said. “I had this teacher named Serona Elton. She was the hardest instructor at Frost, but she is the best instructor at Frost. She made me better.”
Plus, Washington now has a very special bond with the University of Miami. Going to graduation brought it all together even more.
“Being on campus, even though I’ve seen it from a distance for a number of years, my people — Professors Reynaldo Sanchez and Rachel Hanusa — they made us feel at home. When I stepped foot on campus, I felt like it was home. I wish that I had done my undergraduate years there — that’s how amazing it was.”
Music to His Ears
Washington’s love of music has always spread across numerous genres.
“My parents had me listening to a little bit of everything,” he said. “For me, growing up, it was Billy Joel, Steely Dan, the Eagles, the Jackson 5, Take 6, Boyz II Men — just different artists that were so technical at what they did, I couldn’t help learn to harmonize, how to lay down accompaniment. And things that were just so technical that, even to this point, might have damaged how I go about creating when I’m working with clients. When you’ve listened to Steely Dan and Billy Joel growing up, you have to do things a certain way.
“The way things are done now, it’s really digital-oriented. DJs now don’t really use turntables — they use controllers. I’m an analog person. You have to be careful not to over-complicate things with analog now, but you also have to make sure you don’t oversimplify it with the technology because you can lose the essence of why you felt like you got into music. But those artists really shaped it for me.”
Not surprisingly, his clientele also includes a wide array of artists from different genres that extend far beyond Atlanta’s thriving hip hop scene.
“I really want to get to a point where the projects I work on are a lot more of what I’m doing now, working on what I believe in instead of so much the quantity of work,” Washington said. “You have to bring in the number that’s going to make everything work. You are going to have to do a number of things you might not necessarily agree with, but you hope to work more with what you believe in and help the industry move forward.”
Washington believes that earning a master’s degree online from the Frost School of Music would be immensely beneficial to anybody with a music industry career in mind, just like it has been for him.
“The biggest thing I would say is don’t be afraid to think about it,” he said. “See yourself taking courses that you believe in but at the same time are going to challenge you. These courses will challenge you. As you talk to people, do not be afraid to ask questions and be challenged. But also don’t be afraid to follow a vision or a dream that you have that might encompass music. Frost can get you where you want to be.”
Learn more about the Frost School of Music’s online MBEI program.
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