A Road Map for Young Musicians: How San Antonio Sound Garden Is Building Music’s Educational Pipeline

Editor’s note: We are proud to feature this guest post by Adam Tutor, Executive Director of San Antonio Sound Garden, about the nonprofit organization’s educational programs.

Limited resources exist for creative class professionals in our city, and there are even fewer for our young people who wish to pursue life in the music industry. The resources that do exist tend to focus on music performance, and do not meet students where they are—at the cross-section of technology, accessibility, and production in the 21st century.  

San Antonio Sound Garden is a 501(c)(3) that is building music’s educational pipeline, and I have the honor of serving as the Executive Director of this organization. Over the past two years we have contributed over $250,000 in impact to the San Antonio music industry and authored a city-commissioned economic impact study.  The first ever of its kind for our community, the study gathered community consensus around two key areas—musicians need to be educated, and musicians want to make money (but don’t know how).  You can find the study here.

We discovered that in San Antonio, 80 percent of performing musicians are earning 80 percent of their income through non-music-based income streams—i.e., we live in a diminished economy for working artists. That said, there are not a shortage of revenue streams: there are over 100 according to music business authors Randy Chertkow and Jason Feehan’s new book Making Money with Music.  The most critical example is shown through a study produced by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) which shows that 75 percent of revenue through recorded music sales is generated via streaming platforms, making education about streaming (where, how, and why) and copyrighting music more important than ever.  

What this means is that our youngest artists must capitalize upon industry trends to make a successful career out of their passion, and our goal is to meet those needs. Instruments in hand, we are bringing the music straight to them—into the classroom.

San Antonio Sound Garden
Laying down the vocals with high school students at Henry Ford Academy—the students are working with our founder and sound engineer Edwin Stephens to craft their dream track

The mission of SASG’s Classroom Sessions is to provide clear and practical tools on how to bring music to life—working with professional musicians and sound engineers who help students build a roadmap for establishing a career in the creative class. Classroom Sessions is a two-month program where students will receive a full STEAM education.

Over the course of eight to twelve weeks, students gain access to project-based and hands-on learning with Music Production, Sound Engineering, Trends in Technology, Music Marketing, and Music Business. By the end of the program our future artists will have the tools to copyright and market their first Spotify single—a great step in the journey to turn their part-time passions into full-time careers.

SASG Classroom Sessions serves students ages 13–18 in middle schools and high schools across San Antonio. Partnerships with charter schools, traditional public school districts (including Harlandale ISD and Northside ISD), and after school programs such as Girls Inc. of San Antonio and Boys & Girls Clubs of San Antonio ensure that we reach a broad range of students from diverse geographic regions in our city.  

We have chosen to focus on this age group because starting in seventh grade students must begin preparing for major high school choices, as listed under the state of Texas’s House Bill 5—which requires students to choose an endorsement upon entering ninth grade. One of these endorsements is Arts & Humanities, and we want students to see the value in pursuing the arts as a focused career path—reaching them early can help improve the number of students invested in the creative class.

SASG is not just bringing studios to students, but also bringing students into studios. Our Studio Sessions program unites up and coming youth artists with vetted music producers, sound engineers, and studio owners to help them write, produce, and record their music.  This is not an instructional class, but an interactive class where participants get hands on with the professionals every step of the way to make sure they know how to make the most of their musical talent.  Interested parties can sign up for our upcoming sessions on our registration page.

It literally was what we were looking for . . . . Thank you for this program, it literally changed our life in that it took our knowledge to the next level and allowed us to make connections and make new musician friends.

—Selma Giselle, 13-year old graduate of Studio Sessions.
San Antonio Sound Garden
Live at Cedar Bridge Studios helping teenage girls write and record their first song

Selma collaborated with 17 year-old Brady Cool on a track called “Stuck In the Past,” which they wrote, produced, recorded, mixed, and mastered all by themselves with the support of Scott Soriano, owner of Cedar Bridge Studios. We worked with Selma and Brady on their marketing campaign, copyrighting, and publishing, and are proud to say they have officially released their single on all streaming platforms—you can check it out here.

Our dream is to see San Antonio Sound Garden acting as what Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff called “the Geekdom for the music industry.”  We are actively building the foundations for creative class members who have chosen music as their life’s work to come together and shape our city. We wish to shift the paradigm of the starving artist into that of the thriving artist, and it begins with our young people.

Our focus is music, specifically a facet of music that no one is giving their full attention to—music production and music business education. We are doing this with the mentality of an entrepreneur, asking students “How can you create your own reality?” and “How can you make a living in the industry of your choice, and do so with excellence?” We realize that more than ever students are operating out of bedroom studios, and are isolated with only YouTube videos to guide them. This is valuable, but no replacement for industry professionals who are living the dream these students are aspiring to.

If you are interested in learning more about Classroom Sessions, bringing this program to your school, or having your child be a part of our Studio Sessions program, please contact Adam Tutor at adam@sasoundgarden.org.  You can also visit sasoundgarden.org to learn more about the organization and its latest videos and offerings.

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