Curious about what a Slam Academy student looks like?
Here you will find stories with current and former students talking about what they are up to now. If you are curious about what a future with Slam Academy looks like, check some of these folks out.
ALUMNI PROFILE: DAVID WIESJAHN
ALUMNI PROFILE: CHRISTIAN FLANDERS
ALUMNI PROFILES: NICK BJELOPETROVICH
ALUMNI PROFILE: DAVID WIESJAHNDAVID WIESJAHN HAS BEEN A SLAM ACADEMY INSTRUCTOR FOR A FEW YEARS – COMPLETING BOTH OUR ABLETON PROGRAM AND SOUND DESIGN PROGRAMS. WE CHATTED WITH DAVID AT SLAM ONE EVENING ABOUT HOW THINGS ARE GOING.
Slam: Hi David! Can you introduce yourself?
David Wiesjahn: My name is David Wiesjahn. I am an artist and musician in Minneapolis.
SA: How did you get started making music?
DW: I have been an instrumentalist since elementary school and had always pursued that as “my thing” through out high school and did end up going to college for drum set performance. As I was getting into more and more music I came across a couple artists that really sparked my interest in electronic music. Namely Squarepusher. I really dug how he was integrating fusion jazz and live bass into his music. Most of his stuff literally boggled my mind and I think that’s what inspired me to jump into the world of writing computer based music. I wanted to see if I could create sounds like that.
SA: What are you up to now? What are you doing with music?
DW: Writing and Making Sounds. I’m excited for the release of my EP on The Great Magnet and hope to have more releases out in the near future. I’ve also been teaching electronic music production to high school students through a program that a friend of mine started.
I am also continuing to pursue drumming as a craft and hope to integrate live drumming with some sort of DJ/live set.
SA: How did you get involved with Slam Academy?
DW: I think the first time I was exposed to Slam was at a Gamut Gallery open house or something. I started taking private lessons from JP and then eventually started in the Ableton Producer program.
SA: What has your experience been like?
DW: It really has been a milestone for me. When I first started at Slam, I knew I wanted to be an artist rather than just a performer. I knew I had the passion and dedication for it (I had already been making music for a couple years at that point), but didn’t necessarily have the skills or knowledge on how to get where I knew I could be. So really, it has been an accelerator of sorts. The class content is really inspiring and I’ve met some really great people in and around the community.
SA: How did your experience at Slam Academy change the way you work, or write music?
DW: I think one of the main things I’ve really honed in on and taken from JP and Leon J is how to organize the different phases of the production process. Once you separate each part, I believe you are able to consciously practice and develop each one as its own craft.
Besides that, definitely something clicked for me in the sound design program. Finding “my sound” is literally a combination of sounds that I discover and that I’m good at. It is my perception of groove and timbre expressed over time.
SA: What would you tell someone interested in learning to make electronic music? Any advice?
DW: Get what ever software you can get your hands on and start making sound. It is not about having every piece of gear ever. It’s more about a little bit of imagination and a lot of hard work. But find a couple tools that really inspire you and that you have a blast playing with and make sounds. Put it in a song. Repeat.
ALUMNI PROFILE: CHRISTIAN FLANDERSCHRISTIAN FLANDERS WAS TAKING CLASSES AT SLAM ACADEMY IN 2012 AND 2013, BEFORE JOINING OUR TEACHER ASSISTANT CREW, AND THEN LEAVING US ENTIRELY FOR A CAREER AS A FILM COMPOSER IN LOS ANGELES. WE CAUGHT UP WITH CHRISTIAN AT HIS HOME STUDIO IN LA TO SEE HOW THINGS HAVE BEEN GOING.
Slam: Hi Christian! So what have you been up to since Slam Academy?
Christian Flanders: Well, I moved to Los Angeles. I’m a freelance film composer, I write a lot of music for this great music library company, and I also work as an assistant to composer Christopher Young (Spider-Man 3, GhostRider) in his studio Ilsley Music.
SA: Can you tell us more about what working for a library looks like? A lot of students are interested in that.
CF: The music varies. They’re pretty much happy with me writing whatever I’m in the mood for, but if they get a show asking for music, they will usually ask me for something more specific. Often it’s what I’m calling “reality show music”. Lots of pizzicato strings, triangle, shaker, etc.
SA: Are you on tight deadlines to produce a ton of music on a daily basis?
CF: They’re really open about how much I write. If I want to write them 15 tracks in one day, great! If I can only finish one track a month, that’s fine too. If they ask me to submit cues for a show, I will usually pump out 20-25 minutes of music in a week. I try to make sure I submit at least 2 cues a week to them, because the more tracks I have in their library the better chances I have of getting placed in a TV show.
SA: I have to ask: Is that the QuNeo you won from a Slam Academy raffle on your desk that I see?
CF: Yep! It’s super handy for automation and control.
SA: What classes did you take at Slam Academy?
CF: I spent a lot of time in the Ableton classes because I think Ableton is a great (film composing) platform, the film scoring classes, obviously, and I also took a lot of the Sound Design courses.
SA: How did you get involved with Slam Academy?
CF: I got turned on to Slam Academy from J. Anthony Allen. I was taking private composition lessons with him and at some point he told me about Slam Academy. I came over to check it out and I learned a lot right away, and had a great time. I ended up spending a lot of time over there in the last couple years before I moved out to LA.
SA: Tell us one of your favorite moments from Slam.
CF: One of the first classes I took there was a circuit bending class with Beatrix*JAR. I didn’t know anything about circuit bending, or how to get into it, but they made it really easy and explained everything really well. They showed us all this cool stuff and opened up these possibilities that can be done when you mess with hardware in ways it wasn’t designed.
SA: Have you applied any of your circuit bending skills yet?
CF: Yeah! I have a Casio Sk-1 sampling keyboard that I got some cool bends on, and a few other little keyboards. I have one sitting out right now that I’m hoping to get a chance to work on. I’m hoping to have the chance to do more, but unfortunately the circuit bent sound doesn’t come up too often in the music work I’m doing at the moment.
SA: What would you tell someone considering a Slam Academy class?
CF: It's really a great place to go if you want to learn more about electronic music or music production. The teachers are all fantastic, and some of my favorite people I’ve ever met. Every experience I’ve had there was great. Every class, every event they put on. But I think the best thing about Slam Academy was really the lab times. You get a couple hours every week to sit down with the teachers, teacher assistants, and other students, and talk about music. Show them what you’re working on, ask any questions – even if they aren’t related to the class your taking – someone will be there to help you. Thats really one of the best experiences you can get at Slam Academy. Its very personable, everyone is very knowledgable and really friendly. It doesn’t feel like some giant corporation is looming over your head trying to take your money and get you out of the door as quick as possible.
SA: We’ve actually changed it so that there is a lab time every Sunday, but also lab time after every single class. We were realizing that our lectures were really solid but a lot of the learning was happening during those lab times, so we added them into all classes.
CF: I think that’s a great idea! I know I learned a lot during the lab nights. The students who I think got the most out of the classes at Slam were the ones who came to lab nights, and not even necessarily the students who asked the most questions. I mean, it’s basically a free opportunity to make new friends who have the same interests you do, and to learn from like minded people. Offering more opportunities like that is great, and I think offering them directly after class is great, because the material will be fresh in your mind if you have any questions.
SA: Thanks for chatting! Always good to catch up you.
ALUMNI PROFILES: NICK BJELOPETROVICHNICK BJELOPETROVICH WAS A STAR SLAM ACADEMY STUDENT, WHO ASCENDED TO THE RANKS OF BEING THE LAB TIME COORDINATOR AND EVEN AN INSTRUCTOR FOR OUR ABLETON INTRO CLASS. SINCE THEN, NICK HAS MOVED TO CHICAGO AND CONTINUES TO MAKE GREAT MUSIC THERE AND EXPAND HIS CAREER. WE CAUGHT UP WITH NICK VIA SKYPE TO CHAT ABOUT WHAT HE HAS GOING ON.
Slam Academy: What is your name? Your pseudonym? Where are you from? How old are you? etc.
Nick Bjelopetrovich: I go by Bjëlo and also InSOUL. I’m from Chicago, IL and currently 23 years old.
SA: What are you up to now? Where are you living, tell us some of your best accomplishments.
NB: Right now I’m living in Chicago, doing a lot of stuff with music: working on tunes for two of my artist aliases (Bjëlo and InSOUL), and I’m also helping manage the record label called KMS Records out of Detroit. That's Kevin Saunderson’s record label. It’s been around since the mid 80s, so its quite humbling to be with them and learning how this whole digital landscape works and how to run a record label. Learning from mistakes, learning from accomplishments, its a lot to take in.
SA: What kind of work are you doing with KMS records?
NB: I help manage the ins and outs of the label on a digital landscape. Some responsibilities include: A&R, Project management of releases, data entry, negotiation of terms, compiling premasters, event management.
SA: What did you get out of Slam? (Or with Slam faculty)
NB: I learned to push myself to a level where I’m focusing on really quality tracks, starting to work with some people that I’m really vibing with, so I’m glad I took my time with learning those things. Getting some releases out there, getting some attention, and meeting the people that I’m starting to work with now, either online or physically. Another great thing I got out of Slam was teaching experience – I was able to do some teaching [after finishing classes] and helping out the crew. I can’t wait to be back there!
SA: How did you get involved in Slam Academy?
NB: It was back in 2011, when I moved up to Minneapolis for school. I was learning from [James Patrick, one of Slam Academy’s teachers] for about two years. That was really the first Ableton things, but you never really stop learning with James Patrick. Every day he puts you in these situations where you have to learn something new: with workflow, hardware, a plugin. Every day is something new.
SA: Tell us about one of your favorite moments at Slam.
NB: The CNTRL Tour – when Richie Hawtin came to town. He also brought along Kevin Saunderson, Woody McBride was there, Slam Academy hosted it, and James Patrick was the intro speaker. It was a really cool thing to see it all come together, and see some of the older Detroit guys come in and talk about how things used to be, and what music means to them.
Secondly, getting an opportunity to teach, and be part of the Slam Academy family, and the community. It was great to be in the educational aspect of teaching people how to make music, and make it a really fulfilling activity for themselves in their lives.
SA: How did the CNTRL Tour inspire your future work? What did you take away from it?
NB: It was a big moment within my life where I realized that this music isn’t about yourself. It’s really about the community who comprises it. I was always told it’s not about the ego, it’s about the people. Without the people, none of this would be possible. The CNTRL tour really made me believe this whole heartedly. When you have a strong and healthy community, anything is possible and it’s much more fulfilling to contribute to something that is actually worth while and it’s not about money or social status.
SA: What would you tell someone interested in attending Slam?
NB: Definitely dip your feet in the water and test out if its hot enough. And I guarantee it's going to be warm enough for you to jump in. Once the flood gates open to one thing, it's going to spread into different questions and you will want to learn how to do all these different things. It's going to be really exciting for anyone who decides to make that jump, both for their music but also for their life in general.
SA: How is that different from learn from something like a YouTube video?
NB: It’s not so black and white. There’s a lot of grey area and it’s based off a lot of circumstances and factors. Sure you can learn some tips and tricks through a video but from my experience it’s a one trick pony. It’s hard to gauge and have that one on one communication, when the question why this certain technique is resulting in a tone, sound, timbre, etc. When you start asking why questions while watching a youtube tutorial you’re putting yourself in some what of a hole because realistically anyone can upload anything to the web. Which will then leave you either confused or upset about why this is not making sense.