University of Denver music students strive to make it in their industry

By Rhianna Dow and Gigi Sukin

The University of Denver’s Lamont School of Music provides a dynamic music experience for students to learn both the fundamentals and details necessary to pursue careers in the music industry. It allows for students to learn the fundamentals of music and promotes its students so that they can practically apply what they learn in school to the real world.

Students have the opportunity to study while composing, producing, recording and touring with their own work and compositions.

DU’s intimate music program maintains nearly 300 undergraduate and graduate students, offering individualized attentions from faculty and staff members necessary in order for them to achieve artistically beyond the classroom.

Often students opt to play in orchestras, operas, string quartets, steel drum ensembles or jazz groups as outside projects to practically apply the skills and style learned at Lamont.

Two such students are juniors Brandon Meagher and Charlie Fitz, both majoring in jazz and commercial music performance.

Their band, Race Street Riot, started three years ago after the musicians met in an obligatory piano class their freshman year combines jazz and rock, with a groove backbone.

We take standard cords and add interesting, luscious harmonies,” said Meagher. “That’s all jazz.”

The Lamont School of Music is a structured conservatory setting which allows students to focus on their talents competitively.


Each time the duo performs, they add additional band members; however, their future hope is to add more permanent instrumentals.

It’s only two of us right now, everytime we play a live show we bring more people on stage,” said Meagher. “We need to get a full band full time and hopefully record a full length album next year.”

Meagher said he always knew he wanted to pursue a career in music.

I originally thought about going to music business school on the east coast near home. But I can’t imagine not playing music,” said Meagher.

Meagher and Fitz, along with their peers at Lamont learn to utilize the state-of-the-art recording equipment their freshman year with supervision only to be let loose in the studio thereafter to experiment and play as often as possible.

We’re in [the studio] every day. We’re playing everyday, in and out of class,” said Fitz. “I can’t even count the number of hours. But it’s what we love to do.”

Fitz, who said he “fell into music,” explained that after a week at Lamont, he knew he’d made the right decision.

The interior of the Lamont School of Music provides all music majors an elaborate space to work together


Other DU music students, such as Cecilie Nygaad, a junior pursuing a bachelors degree in music theatre, agrees that the program prepares you for a career in music.

I chose Lamont because it has a good reputation… and gives you a well-rounded music degree,” Nygaard said. “I think music majors are different from other majors in the sense that we have way less time to be social outside of school.”

Though Nygaard is not in an ongoing ensemble like Fitz and Meagher, she has had starring roles in the two major musical productions, Urinetown andSideshow, performed in the school’s annual cabaret and similarly says nightly rehearsal is necessary.

After all of our homework is done we have to practice our instrument, in my case, use my voice everyday,” said Nygaard. ”Everyone knows that a career in music is hard but I think that if you don’t follow your dream and wht you love then you may never be happy.”

Sean Culliton, a junior at the Lamont School majoring in commercial music and jazz, studying the saxophone. He is a member of the DU based band Tickle Mafia, a jazz funk infused band.

He believes that the music school has given him the opportunity to be in a band. But being in the band has helped to prepare him for the music industry after graduation.

One of the most important things in becoming a better musician is playing with other musicians,” said Culliton. “I think being able to constantly interact with others about music is one of the biggest advantages of being in a band right now. Also, it is a platform I can use to market myself as a saxophone player and a songwriter. It’s also good to learn professionalism like dealing with venue owners and clients and the such”.

The members of Race Street Riot hope to keep performing throughout their college career and beyond, continually trying to build their fan base.

Meagher said he is confident his music education has given him the business, technology and music skills to be successful after graduation.

In the coming years, we hope to gig more and when we’re done with school hopefully we’ll have some jobs with studios or around downtown Denver and we’re going to go on the road with it,” said Meagher.

Music school is a far different experience than the traditional experience because it truly prepares students for the real world and the music industry..

We usually start building our career while still in school. We start gigging while in school and these gigs can become a foundation for how we support ourselves once we graduate”, said Fulliton.

**For our FCP group project, we decided to focus on the Lamont School of Music here at DU. We mostly focused on the band Race Street Riot, which has gained immense popularity here at DU the past 3 years. We tried to get a variety of shots and a variety of interviews. It was difficult to coordinate with so many different people and components to the video. However, we got an interview with the band, a tour of the music studio where recording takes place, as well as interviews with fans of the band and other music school students. We also were able to get footage of them actually performing, which added a nice layer to interweave with the interviews.

3 Responses to University of Denver music students strive to make it in their industry

  • Cory Lamz
    Cory Lamz says:

    I loved the Behind The Music-type approach that you took to this. I especially enjoyed the beginning of this video and the laid-back, natural, conversational-style interview process. I think all of these decisions contributed to your overall goal, showing us an inside look of Race Street Riot as a band and students. Great job!

  • Connor O'Halleran
    Connor O'Halleran says:

    I thought this was a very creative and well done video. The intro was great and I agree with Cory, the behind the music-type of approach was a really nice touch. I certainly didn’t know all of the different opportunities that students have in the music school at DU and it was interesting to hear about that.

  • Brian Lupo
    Brian Lupo says:

    I really enjoyed this video. I though the way you chose to film some of the shots, like the concert was very artistic, and entertaining. I also thought the story overall was really well done. I had no idea how much work being in the music school was…writing a song and a solo each week, when I played drums i had trouble just practicing my sheet music. I also agree with Connor I think the behind the music approach was a really cool approach, nice job!

Leave a Reply