Back To Basics: Teaching Students to Re-Think The Music Industry by Jen Appel of The Catalyst Publicity Group
If someone told me 20 years ago that I would become a professor at a university I would have laughed. I was your average student, the student that loved being in school but struggled immensely. Calculus, Biology, Algebra were all foreign languages to me. While I was always intrigued and tried my hardest, school was always something I enjoyed attending but dreaded the hours of homework and felt the immense frustrations when I didn’t understand a subject. What I quickly realized was, I was a little different from my peers. When I began noticing a decline in grades and felt a tense struggle with homework, I decided to see what the problem was. It turned out to be a learning disability, the difficulties, struggles, and late night cry sessions were all because I couldn’t understand what I was reading and was having a problem applying everything. While I excelled in my art classes and thoroughly enjoyed being in band and orchestra there was a part of me that felt a little different from my peers, until I went to college.
I was so fortunate to have the right guidance, given my learning disability and not so great GPA to find the perfect college that fit my needs, Indiana University. I’ll never forget the day I received that acceptance letter, my first. I just knew it was the right place for me. I was thrilled to enter their interior design program, something that I excelled in, in high school and just couldn’t believe there was a profession out there where I could use my creative mindset to make a living, it was eye opening to say the least. Low and behold first semester I was failing, not because of the classes but because I realized design wasn’t for me, I wasn’t excited like I thought I was. But there is a light to this story and that was when I took my gen ed English course, wow, what a difference, writing was something different. My professor suggested I take some courses in communications/journalism and see how I do. I first entered my public relations class as a junior and was so fortunate to have a professor that cared so much about his students success. He helped shaped my steps in to the PR world and guided me in the right direction by taking the necessary classes and allowing me to join the Public Relations Student Society of America group on campus. I was absolutely thrilled, I found my path. Immediately following, I ended up in grad school, knowing that I wanted to beat all odds and achieve a masters degree, I was destined to complete this. This wasn’t for anyone else but myself. I needed it, to show that I could overcome/control this learning disability and fight until the end. While my 2 years in grad school were some of the hardest, chaotic, stressful moments (of my life), I now am a Master of Arts and that is something no one can ever take away from me. Through all of the struggles, school was finally over, or so I thought.
Fast forward years later, I opened The Catalyst Publicity Group and began guest lecturing at several colleges and conferences. Through multiple connections at Florida Atlantic University I was given the opportunity to become an adjunct where I was asked to teach Music PR/Marketing, what an honor. Every day I am thankful to be given the opportunity and love nothing more than giving back. Since school was always a struggle for me I knew that my class would need to be formulated a little different. Instead of your standard lecture where the professor talks and there is no interaction, I make my entire class interactive with brainstorming group challenges, to collective discussions about the state of the music industry. It is my goal outside of my day to day PR firm to ensure that the next generation of individuals entering the music business are well informed and ready to enter the field. As new technology is developed on a daily basis the need for further education is dwindling. It is my mission to ensure every student that enters my classroom develops the necessary skills to excel in the PR/Marketing field and can apply everything they’ve learned to helping artists creatively grow. As a professor, it is my duty to hone in on the fundamentals to ensure each and every student can apply what they’ve learned in the right way. It is an honor to teach and I am so excited to see what the future holds.