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Next Level Conference Connects Local Talent & Industry Insiders

Posted by on May 8, 2017 | Comments (0)

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This past weekend, Creative Sonoma hosted its second annual Next Level Music Conference at the Luther Burbank Center for the Arts in Santa Rosa, engaging local musicians with keynote speeches, panel discussions and workshops. As with last year, the conference flew in music industry professionals and highlighted local luminaries on Sunday, May 7. This year’s offering also included a pre-conference day on Saturday, May 6, of additional workshops with Los Angeles-based songwriter and producer Sam Hollander and recording engineer and producer Glenn Lorbecki, who each worked one-on-one with a select number of musicians at Prairie Sun Studios in Cotati.

The Bohemian was on hand for Sunday’s event as a resource roundtable participant. The day started with a welcome from Sonoma County supervisor Shirlee Zane, who shared her roots in the creative community as an oil painter, and praised Creative Sonoma’s innovative approach to promoting the arts on a county-wide scale.

Then, unfortunately, Lagunitas Brewing Company founder Tony Magee experienced car trouble and couldn’t make his scheduled opening keynote. In his place, Lagunitas’ director of national sponsorships and events Jim Jacobs stepped in to speak on behalf of the company’s community service and generous donations to nonprofits.

In addition to the conference, Next Level offers a grant program that last year gave $2,500 to five Sonoma County artists. Those artists shared the stage on Sunday to talk about their year in music and the varied creative and business projects that the grant funded.

Creative Sonoma's director Kristen Madsen helps Shaun Hunter Wagnershow off the records his grant funded.

Creative Sonoma’s director Kristen Madsen helps Shaun Hunter Wagner show off the records his grant funded.

Americana duo The Easy Leaves used their money for the specific purpose of marketing themselves at last year’s Americana Music Conference in Nashville, and have seen spots at midwestern festivals and increased radio play coming from the effort. Petaluma songwriter Avery Hellman, under the name Ismay, is utilizing her money for an adventure along the Klamath River, where she will record a documentary about writing music in and inspired by nature. Shaun Hunter Wagner divided his grant money into releasing several cassettes and vinyl records on his Goth Horse record label and funding a tour to Europe with his own band the Acharis. Black Sheep Brass Band shot a “Tiny Desk” video for the annual NPR contest, and Bootleg Honey crafted a new promo package. Members from both of those bands noted that the grant money, and the consultations that came with it, motivated them to focus on new goals and new objectives.

After lunch, Hollander and Lorbecki took the stage to share their experiences from the previous day’s workshops. Hollander shared two songs in particular with dynamic before-and-after presentations. Lorbecki showed off his work with local songwriter Jimmy Cramer, where he recorded Cramer’s pop demo and helped transform it into a fully-realized work that got the crowd cheering. The conference rounded down the day with breakout sessions that focused on specifics related to booking venues and social media tactics and concluded with casual roundtables. At its core, Next Level Conference excelled as a networking opportunity for musicians and music lovers, and a motivating day of shared passions and enthusiasm.

Sheila Groves-Tracey shares tips from  lifetime of booking music and managing performers in the North Bay.

Sheila Groves-Tracey shares tips from a lifetime of booking music and managing performers in the North Bay.

Next Level is offering another grant program this year, and any music artists interested in applying should attend the information session on June 6 at Creative Sonoma’s office in Santa Rosa. Get more information by clicking here.


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