By David Perry
Since UMass Lowell visiting lecturer Christopher Lee
began teaching Songwriting Ensemble in 2017, he noticed that a chorus of sounds continued to swell from places he’d never expected.
“I started realizing that of course, there are a lot of really talented student songwriters in the music department
,” says Lee. “But we started hearing about others who weren’t in the music department who were writing songs. Marketing majors, art students. We’re working with a physical therapy major.”
Why, he thought, shouldn’t everyone, regardless of their major, be able to find a way to share their musical talent?
A little more than a year ago, Seven Six Records, a student-run, faculty-advised club that offers budding songwriters and performers a chance to take their music all the way to its crescendo, came to life. So far, eight songs have come to fruition, from the germ of music and lyrics to the finished product, launched online.
This semester, Seven Six’s nine artists run the gamut, from rap to hard rock to soul to jam band to folk.
“It’s a good cross-section of who we are as a department,” says Lee. “It’s not one thing; it’s everything.”
“It’s supporting the students’ ability to self-produce their music,” says Music Department Chair Gena Greher
. “The whole model of getting one’s music out into the world has changed dramatically from the days of the big record companies. Everyone can self-produce now. So we are giving them the tools to be able to do that.”
Named for the year in which Durgin Hall
was constructed, 1976, Seven Six “helps students record their music on their own, release it on Spotify, iTunes, whatever,” says senior liberal arts major Christina Laderoute, the club’s president. “They put it out there. Then we market it for them and book shows for them.”
Laderoute (whose mother, Diane, in a longtime UML employee) plays guitar, piano, sings and photographs live music shows, but she joined Seven Six to organize, help with ideas and oversee projects.
“The students have a voice, and they have a right to share it with the world,” she says. “I want them to be able to get their work out there with no obstacles, especially money or equipment. I want them to be heard. It’s so important that people get that chance.”
Seven Six, like the DifferenceMaker program
, is designed as a cross-disciplinary experience, in which students from all majors and expertise meld for a common cause. Once the music gets made, it takes business sense and marketing chops to get it out of the studio and heard.
“For several years, there had been talk of starting a student record label in the music department,” says Lee, who serves as the club’s faculty advisor. “I just thought it would be a great idea to highlight the students’ creative contributions to the culture of our university. We’ve got a lot of talent here, and it would be great to let the world know.”
The club also stages live showcases for Seven Six artists, such as the one set for Feb. 1 at The Worthen Attic
, including student artists Akshay Alamuri, Dominik Hyppolite, Laura Mayken, Shaina Perates and Alec Anand.
“We’re looking at other venues off campus as well,” says Lee. “The idea is to give some student artists a chance to perform off campus.”
Hyppolite, a sophomore music performance major
, calls his music “a mix of modern and early 2000’s R&B. The whole idea of a record label is such a great way to help musical students grow. And there are a lot of people willing to help us.”
“We make it a goal to record at least one song with each artist. Then the artists distribute and sell their music on their own platforms,” says Lee. Business
students in the club help with promotional efforts. Art
majors help with web presence and product graphics.
If an artist doesn’t have a platform like iTunes or Spotify, they can get help setting it up. Students keep the revenue from their sales.
Lee, whose real-life experience includes work as a composer and percussionist, played in rock and jazz bands before being drawn to music production.
Seven Six members have limited use of SRT facilities (which are in high demand) but enjoy the institutional relationships the university has with other studios in and around Boston.
“This spring,” notes Lee, “we’re doing sessions at a studio in Boston. It’s a way to get some practical experience off campus. A new setting helps build the skill set.”
The club, which meets each Wednesday evening, is also exploring educational and community outreach, says Lee.
“We’re working on building community relationships in the public schools and with some afterschool programs,” he says.