When Los Angeles music school ICON Collective reached out about their new Black Voices Scholarship, I was instantly determined to learn more. It’s no secret that the music industry is predominantly comprised of white males, so it’s refreshing when a company of ICON Collective’s stature takes the steps necessary to contribute a positive change.
Co-founder and CEO of ICON, Christopher Wight, sat down with us to talk about the new scholarship and what interested applicants can do to make themselves stand out. He also gives us a look into the overall changes they are making to continue diversifying the school as well as some insight into their newest programs.
Check it out below and read more about the scholarship here.
I really love what you are doing with the ICON Collective Black Voices Scholarship. What prompted you to launch this initiative and what is the goal?
We just wanted to do our part with everything going on with the movement and the protests. We had to take an internal look and make sure we were participating in a way that we were proud of and this was the solution we came up with.
The goal is to diversify the Collective. As we said in our launch statement we believe that the Collective is as strong as its diversity. The more diverse the members are, the stronger the Collective is. When we took an assessment of where people are coming from and their backgrounds we saw that there were some efforts we could make to help diversify more. So, we’re very excited about that.
We’ve actually already done this before with the Women’s Scholarship. We realized there were some discrepancies in the balance of the masculine and feminine within the halls, and by us putting attention towards that and putting consciousness towards that we were able to do a better job of balancing within the building.
Your website says that you are awarding three $19,500 scholarships for aspiring Black music producers, vocalists and music entrepreneurs in an effort to lift and empower Black voices. How will you be choosing the recipients of the three scholarships?
We have a committee of people that range from the education department to teachers to the admissions department to people who are assisting us with outreach. We have a very diverse committee of people that are looking for different parts of the winning submissions. Whether that be how professional they were in their application to, most importantly, how talented they are.
So it’s not just going to be one individual picking these winners. Apps are going to have to go through a few different sets of hands. We’ve had many scholarships over the history of ICON Collective and we feel like we have our systems down on how to get the cream of the crop to rise to the top.
What can hopeful applicants do to make their entries stand out?
We’re always looking for people who are unique. People who have a unique voice. Even in our normal admissions process that’s one of the things that we’re always looking for. If you want to help yourself, really shine a light on what makes you unique as an artist.
Whether it’s what you want to talk about, your voice, your style of music. Anything that only you can bring to the table and can’t be found in another person’s music; that’s what we want to see and that’s definitely going to help your cause.
I think many artists associate ICON strictly with your music production classes. What can you offer aspiring professionals with the Vocal Artists and Music Business programs?
We are known for our Music Production Programs because that’s what we started with; that’s our flagship program, but we feel very confident that we are able to add the same quality to these two new programs which we launched this year.
I personally am a vocalist and singer/songwriter and so I’ve always wanted to launch a program that is about vocals and songwriting and performing because this is what I would have wanted when I was younger and coming up. So, I’ve been curating this program for over 15 years, waiting for the right time to have the bandwidth to be able to launch this thing. So we’re very excited about that.
In fact, what everyone is always looking for in the building are vocalists. All the producers are looking for vocalists and they have to go outside the Collective to find them. That made it clear to us that we need to bring the vocalists in the building and make it part of the collaboration.
When it comes to Music Business, that’s the second thing people are looking for is management and people to represent them and help them with the branding and help curate the music.
So, it just seemed like a natural fit to have the trinity within the building. You have the songwriters, you have the producers, and then you have the management or agents or whatever role they want to be that will take these people and launch them.
At the end of all the programs we have a course called the Collaboration Project. This is where we actually pair together vocalists, producers, and music business professionals and they create an EP and a project. Then at the end of this project they have to present the brand, the artwork, the EP, and they have certain guidelines along the way they have to fulfill.
So every student that graduates is leaving with a completed EP that involves collaboration.
What do you think the rest of the music industry can do to further lift and empower Black voices? What steps will you be taking in the future to continue supporting the Black community through your program?
What we’re focused on is what we can do, not so much what the overall industry can do. The whole movement is asking people to listen and for people to look in their own backyard and figure out what they can do to make it better. I don’t have an answer for the entire industry, but I know what we were able to do and what we were able to contribute.
As far as how we are going to continue to do this we are making an effort, not just with the students, but with the Collective fully which includes employees and students. We have initiatives within the Collective to make sure we’re posting on job boards that are for diversity to make sure we’re going outside our normal pool.
Again, what we have learned with the Women’s Scholarship is once you make intentions to diversify the Collective, as long as you keep breathing life into those intentions, naturally they will grow into a better balanced environment.
We’re going to pay attention to this. We’re going to keep breathing life into this. We’re going to keep having these scholarships available and we’re going to make initiatives on the employee side. Then over the course of time we’ll definitely see a better balance.
The deadline for submissions for ICON Collective’s Black Voices Scholarship is Monday, August 17. Apply here.