Groove U prepares students for the music industry

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

Dwight Heckelman clearly recalls the epiphany that started brewing Groove U, the one-of-a-kind music industry college he plans to open in an abandoned Victorian Village elementary school this fall.

In 1999, Heckelman, fresh out of Belmont University, heard about Napster in a speech by Recording Industry Association of America head Hilary Rosen.

"I thought to myself, 'I am prepared for an industry that is not going to exist in five years,'" Heckelman said.

Heckelman went on to work for record companies and recording studios, founded Hocking College's music program in 2005 and went on staff as a career specialist at Berklee College of Music in 2008. The following year, at a student music industry conference, he was disappointed to see academia still boo-hooing about MP3s instead of adapting.

So the Sandusky native left his post at Berklee and moved to Columbus, a city he felt was hip and inexpensive enough to make Groove U work.

The gist is this: Per Heckelman's research, less than 40 percent of workers in the media arts industry have four-year degrees, yet premier music biz schools such as Full Sail, Berklee and Belmont are four-year programs. With Groove U, Heckelman hopes to squeeze those curricula - music production, music business, live sound, music video and interactive media - into two years without subjecting students to the liberal arts courses that crowd the schedule at technical colleges.

To enforce an entrepreneurial spirit and ensure coursework will keep evolving, Heckelman wants to hire faculty with experience running their own business. At the moment, though, he's a one-man show besides an advisory panel of Columbus professionals who helped him cater the curriculum to real-life industry demands. The classrooms of Fifth Avenue Alternative Elementary School still must be transformed into studios and production suites, a process slated to begin in June.

A lot is still up in the air, but Heckelman is opening registration in the next few weeks and hopes to attract a class of 70 for this fall.

"We're going for quality over quantity," Heckelman said.

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