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Music Adjunct Encourages Students to Follow Dreams
11.25.13 |
LVC adjunct instructor of music Sherri Mullen started making music full-time in 2000, but her journey into music started long before that. Mullen started writing when she was just 14 years old when she dabbled in poetry; by 16 she began turning those poems into songs. But these remained private hobbies. “I was very backwards and shy. I never sang in front of people—I was a closet musician,” she said.

Mullen put her musical talents on the back burner to pursue a career as a systems engineer at the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency, “talking to computers and typing code.” It may not have been the most glamorous job, not compared to playing a guitar for a living, at least, but it paid the bills, and as Sherri says, “You have to be persistent, motivated, and dedicated, and you can not be afraid to ‘change it up’ and think outside the box to create your own luck.”

In 2000, Mullen decided to follow her dream. “I walked away from a very high-paying job to virtually no money and a guitar.”

She began playing at open mic nights in bars and other small venues, singing mostly covers of popular songs but occasionally throwing in her own original work. She admits she enjoyed playing those covers—“Who can say they don’t like playing ‘Wish You Were Here’ by Pink Floyd?”—but her lifelong dream was to make an album of her own.

Since then, Mullen has released four solo albums under her own publishing company, a collaborative album with her son Shane, titled “SM2: Strange Symmetry,” cultivated a catalogue of 500 songs, and held nearly every job in the music industry. “I never looked back once I turned that page,” she said.

Mullen has since turned her gaze to toward the future of music. She has been kicking around the idea of a digital release as the music industry tries to keep pace with the technological landscape, but her recent focus has moved more toward the business of music and the protection of musical property rather than the creation of it. She jokes that the “www” of the World Wide Web actually stands for “Wild, Wild West.”

It is this changing climate in the music industry that brings Mullen to a classroom at the Valley again this spring. In an effort to prepare students, particularly those intent on going into the music business after graduation, Mullen will teach MBS-372: Copyright, Contracts & Cash. The course is designed to arm students with the knowledge of what happens with a piece of music once it has been recorded and mastered—a “journey through the life of a song,” as Mullen calls it.

Mullen has designed the course to give students the most interactive, hands-on experience possible, something she feels is extremely important in this field. Students will write licenses, pitch songs, and even negotiate a contract with Mullen herself, all with the aim of giving students a real world look at the music industry from the other side of the microphone.

Mullen says other colleges interested in utilizing her insight and experience approached her, but she felt LVC was the right choice. She cites the passionate and knowledgeable faculty, her love of networking with students, and the small class atmosphere as the driving forces behind her decision to teach at the Valley.

It might not have happened this way. Were it not for LVC music alumnus Brian Levering, Mullen may very well have taken her talents to another school. Mullen recounts that Levering approached her at a LVC music conference and asked to shadow her. Mullen was not teaching at the College then, but was hosting on-campus songwriting workshops. In one session, she spoke extensively about copyrighting and publishing. Levering, though he had already completed his required internship, asked if Mullen would bring him on as her own intern so he could gain more knowledge of the music publishing world. He has been her right hand man ever since.

“The rest is history,” Mullen said. “I call him the intern that never left.”

LVC music professor Jeff Snyder thinks students are lucky to have someone like Sherri teach them. "She's a good teacher and the students respect her knowledge," he said. "She has impacted many students in their career paths, whether as songwriters, publishers, or copyright law."
Mullen’s journey into music has been a long and uncertain one. She put her passion aside to pursue a more lucrative and orthodox profession, but she couldn’t keep her dream on the shelf for long. She urges anyone interested in a career in music to keep their head up and eyes open for any opportunity. “You have to ride the wave until it is over, and then find the next wave if that one ends, and eventually you will land where you are supposed to be. There is no clear path, but that is half the fun of it!”

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