Stanford and Warner make music – leaders

A new collaboration between Stanford and the music industry will cultivate the next generation of leaders in the music world.

Jay LeBoeuf music and technology class

Cameron Strang, CEO and chairman of Warner Bros. Records and Warner/Chappell Music, participates in a Q&A with students in the new course "Real Industry: Music & Audio Technology" taught by Jay LeBoeuf at CCRMA.

Innovation and entrepreneurial thinking are key factors that make the music business a shapeshifting industry. They are also part of the learning ethos at Stanford – and will drive the Stanford/Warner Music Group Leadership Initiative.

The goal of this initiative is to identify and develop a new generation of undergraduate Stanford students from across various educational disciplines – music, computer science, product design, economics and electrical engineering – for leadership roles in the ever-changing music business.

Each year, a select group of students in their junior year of study will participate in the program by taking a course co-developed with Warner Music Group. WMG is committed to an initial program period of five years.

"I am excited that this new collaboration will offer our students hands-on experience working in this fast-changing creative industry," said Matthew Tiews, Stanford's executive director of arts programs. "We hope the program will also bring out the skills, talents and entrepreneurial spirit of Stanford students from all disciplines in order to develop new approaches and leadership in this field."

How it works

Year one of the program begins now with the admission process. Juniors are invited to apply before Jan. 30, 2015, for participation in this academic year.

The application consists of a resume, a transcript and a brief written expression of interest in participating, detailing experience and preparation and the type of professional experience the student is most interested in pursuing. A portfolio of relevant work (i.e., musical work, technical inventions, marketing campaigns, etc.) is optional.

The selection committee is chaired by Tiews and includes an interdisciplinary group of Stanford faculty and key staff from across the university. The committee will make preliminary decisions in February 2015, at which point Stanford will work with WMG to finalize the selection. This process will likely include an interview or other interface between students and WMG staff to determine fit, with final selection to be announced by March 2015.

The program will have three required components, to take place in the following sequence:

  • Students must complete, by the end of their junior year, the new course co-developed with WMG and to be offered starting in spring 2015 called Changing World of Popular Music. The course will feature a rotating group of guest artists and executives.
  • Beginning summer 2015, participants will be given a 10-week paid "in-house" assignment with WMG or one of its program partners. By design, these summer assignments will be highly challenging and rewarding opportunities across the music industry, where technology is reshaping the future and innovation provides tremendous opportunities (and for which students will be eligible to receive $8,000). 
  • Upon returning to campus from summer assignments, students must begin work on intensive capstone projects designed to address opportunities for innovation and to be presented at the end of the senior year ($2,000 per student per project).

Upon completion, WMG may seek to offer support in further developing the projects and careers of leaders emerging from the program. 

"This innovative new collaboration brings together the extraordinary creativity and entrepreneurial vision of leaders in music, tech, business and education to inspire and educate the music industry's next generation of leaders," said Cameron Strang, CEO and chairman of Warner Bros. Records and Warner/Chappell Music.

He added, "WMG is proud to be part of such an important, forward-looking program with Stanford, whose students change the world, and we are committed to using our resources and expertise to create the highest levels of engagement and opportunities for the students. Today's digital natives are defining the new era of music, and these students will lead it."

Music momentum on campus

The level of interest and participation in music is high on the Stanford campus. There are 35 student music groups, and the Department of Music reviews more than 1,000 arts supplements in music during the college application process every year. Student interest in live music brought back spring concerts at fabled Frost Amphitheater. More than 200 pianos are scattered around campus for easy access.

There is even a new music major.

Following action by the Faculty Senate last spring, Stanford is now offering on a pilot basis new undergraduate majors integrating humanities subjects and computer science. A new joint major in computer science and music, or CS + M, is among the first of them.

The new degrees are distinct from dual degrees or double majors. Rather than completing all of the requirements for two separate majors, students who choose a joint major will pursue a curriculum integrating coursework from both disciplines. In the case of CS + M, the coursework is very much in line with the Stanford/Warner program goals.

Following on the heels of the joint major announcement, Stanford collaborated with Strang and WMG to launch "Creativity: Music to My Ears," a free, massive open online course (MOOC) teaching creative problem-solving skills through the lens of music.

Taught by Stanford engineering Professor Tina Seelig, the course features contributions of WMG artists, songwriters and executives. Participating artists include Mike Shinoda from Linkin Park, Nate Ruess from Fun., Tegan and Sara, Jason Mraz, Josh Groban and more.

"I'm passionate about education, and Stanford is leading the world in fostering creativity and innovation," said Groban. "It's great to see Warner develop this rich partnership, and I'm excited to have the opportunity to lend my efforts to the collaboration."

Bringing a taste of Stanford education to participants from around the world, Creativity: Music to My Ears combines individual and team-based challenges and interviews with artists, executives and Stanford faculty experts for a one-of-a-kind online learning experience. All of the projects in the experiential course deal with some aspect of music, including listening, creating and sharing.

During Strang's visit to campus in October, he participated in a Q&A with students in the new course Real Industry: Music & Audio Technology taught by Jay LeBoeuf, an adjunct lecturer with Stanford's Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics.

Noting what he calls a huge chasm between students and the industry, LeBoeuf said the Stanford/Warner collaboration bridges the arts and music business in an innovative, applied, creative way. 

"We need symbiotic relationships to yield the next generation of leaders in music business and technology," he said.