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For the first time—and as part of their academic curriculum—students at Berklee’s campus in Valencia, Spain, organized and performed at their own music festival. Musaico Festival, a daylong, free event on April 28 at the Explanada de l’Assut in the Ciutat de les Arts i les Ciències, was an opportunity for students in the Master of Arts in Global Entertainment and Music Business program to test all the processes involved in running such an event. For those enrolled in the Master of Music in Contemporary Performance (Production Concentration) program, the festival was the perfect stage to showcase their talent.
“For many years, this was a project that I knew would have a positive impact locally, but we needed to have all the ingredients to be ready to start this adventure,” said Emilien Moyon, program director of the Master of Arts in Global Entertainment and Music Business. Students in this program had run other events, such as TEDxBerkleeValencia, and after four successful editions, Moyon said they were ready to take it “to the next level” through a “more scalable project that would touch more people.”
A Multifaceted Mosaic
The festival was designed to exhibit the diverse musical backgrounds at Berklee Valencia, which hosts students of more than 40 nationalities. This led organizers to name the festival Musaico, which draws inspiration from the mosaic, an admired feature of Valencia architecture. Performers included faculty such as DJ Nacho Marco; graduate ensembles such as Los Gringos, featuring oudist Mohannad Nasser M.M. ’18; flamenco-fusion band Canela en Rama, with faculty Sergio Martínez on percussion; undergraduate ensembles such as the Contemporary Instrumental Gospel Ensemble, led by Joshua Wheatley M.M. ’17, and Batucada; as well as other student bands that performed under the umbrella title i-Discover. With food trucks and workshops for adults and children, the festival offered something for everyone.
Students in Charge
Musaico was put together by four members of Berklee Valencia’s faculty—Alf Olofsson, Casey Driessen, Pablo Munguía, and John Gibbe—along with 10 students from the music business program who studied the live business in a course last fall. As part of their coursework, students worked in the organization of the Musaico Festival, in the student-run label Disrupción Records, or in the European DIY Musician Conference, which took place on campus in April.
“They get the opportunity to study live entertainment, touring, and festivals by studying companies such as Live Nation or AEG, as well as notorious festivals such as Coachella, Glastonbury, The Great Escape, or Lollapalooza,” said Moyon. “Olofsson and Graham Ball have tremendous experience in the music business, so they shared their knowledge with the students to identify the key factors of a successful event. In the spring semester, students put all this into practice in the live practicum, which was dedicated to the organization of the Musaico Festival.”
At Musaico, students were fully involved: defining the concept; designing the logo and branding materials; working in production, logistics, and partnership; and developing and implementing communication and marketing plans. “It is a lot of work, but at the end this is a life-changing experience that the students will never forget,” Moyon added.
Student Benjamin Pirog volunteered to work for Musaico as a member of the three-person partnership team. “My responsibilities included creating the sponsorship deck, sending it out to potential companies and organizations, and continuing relationships with them until the day of the event,” he said.
The 24-year-old from Canton, Massachusetts, explained that he most enjoyed overseeing different aspects of the festival. “I really felt as I had an important job and could give 100 percent to it. I loved the Musaico team and got very close with them and my professors. Biweekly meetings gave me face time with the whole cast and allowed me to understand the full framework of what it’s like to build a festival from scratch,” he said.
Hillary Storm, who was on Pirog’s team, added that many of the processes they used to design the festival were taught in the entrepreneurship course. “It was a do-or-die kind of spirit which encouraged ultimate creativity and boldness, and allowed us to reach for things in the festival planning process we might have previously thought were impossible to do. Additionally, the contracts and finance courses were essential to this festival—especially in the partnerships and sponsorships role,” she said.
Storm said she enjoyed the freedom and creativity that students had. “None of us had done something like this before, so we all had important roles in voicing our ideas and backing them up with feasible strategies to accomplish them. It was fun to be wildly imaginative, to collaborate daily with the small team, and to see your little ideas grow into large, tangible pieces of the Musaico Festival,” she said.
Moyon said that to be successful when applying for jobs, it’s crucial for students to have professional experience. “Therefore, we want them to be familiar with what involves working in a real-life project, and we want them to be involved in every step of the organization of the festival so they can have the bigger picture,” he said.
Although it was intense, the experience paid off. “I’ve never worked so hard in my life,” said Pirog. “If I can do this, I can do anything. It built my confidence as a music industry professional and allowed me to envision myself as something greater. I will take that experience with me wherever I go and continue dreaming big goals.”
Storm explained that although she had previous experience working at festivals in smaller roles, she was in the driver’s seat for Musaico. “It was a small team so we all really had to work together and learn everything quickly. It was the most stressful experience I had all year, but also the most rewarding. I will never forget the team who accomplished this first edition, and I will feel more confident applying to positions which seem large and daunting, as I know all is possible with creativity, communication, and good budget,” she said.
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