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Alumni working with Bob Dylan, Tommy Hilfiger and Kid Rock offer advice to students

At Sundays with Alumni Feb. 21, alumni offered <br>advice on the music industry to about 50 students. Pictured from left are panelists Claire Cook '09 and Andy Karp '89 with moderator Ben Parent. <i>Photo by <br>A. Vincent Scarano.</i>
At Sundays with Alumni Feb. 21, alumni offered
advice on the music industry to about 50 students. Pictured from left are panelists Claire Cook '09 and Andy Karp '89 with moderator Ben Parent. Photo by
A. Vincent Scarano.

The music industry is a hard one to break into. Claire Cook ’09, marketing coordinator at Columbia Records, told students recently that persistence is key.

“I had fifteen interviews before I was hired, and I keep each one of those business cards on my desk to remind me how hard I worked for it,” said Cook.

On Feb. 21, Cook and Andy Karp ’89, who worked for Atlantic Records for 20 years, most recently running the Artists & Repertoire division, offered about 50 students advice on the music industry during “Getting in Tune: Careers in the Business of Music,” part of the Sundays with Alumni series.

Ben Parent, songwriter and art director of CC: Magazine, moderated the discussion, designed to connect alumni with current students seeking career advice.

Cook majored in film studies and theater at the College and first worked with Columbia Records through an Office of Career Enhancing Life Skills internship. Now she works on marketing projects for artists as varied as Susan Boyle, Bob Dylan and Brandi Carlisle.

“I feel better prepared than my colleagues at Columbia,” she said. “Many went to pre-professional schools for music, but Conn exposed me to so much more.”

Meanwhile, Karp, who majored in government at the College, has been in the record business for the last twenty years signing artists like Kid Rock and Simple Plan.

Like Cook, he emphasized that the music industry can be a tough field to work in, saying, “The business beats you down more than it props you up.” Karp advised students to look for temporary positions and internships at a label they want to work at, noting that this path often leads to a great job.

Many students in attendance said that they hoped to pursue a career in music. About two-thirds of the room identified themselves as musicians, while the rest were more interested in the business aspect of the discussion.

From music to fashion

A few weeks later a trio of alumni working in the fashion industry spoke with about 35 students during the Sundays with Alumni panel, “In Style: Careers in Fashion.”

On March 7, Erin Tubridy Gates ’01, principal of Element Interiors and author of one of the Washington Post’s “Top Ten Design Blogs of 2008;” James Hardy ’83, senior vice president/head of stores of Rugby Ralph Lauren; and Michael Mombello ’83, executive vice president of men’s design and merchandising at Tommy Hilfiger, offered their insights on the industry.

Hardy, who majored in English and began his career at Brooks Brothers, emphasized the importance of working in a retail store before climbing the ladder of the fashion world. “Even if it’s just while you’re in college, you have to know who the customer is and be able to say you’ve been there before,” he said.

Gates, an art history major, talked about the importance of hands on experience, too. Instead of studying abroad her junior year, she interned with an interior designer in Manhattan, an experience that sparked her interest in the field. She then began writing a blog focused on style and design.

“My blog made it all happen,” she said. “I started by thinking my mom will read it and that’s it, but it kept growing and growing and growing.”

The next Sundays with Alumni panel, titled “Green, Greener, Greenest: Careers that Reflect Your Ideals,” will take place April 18 at 4 p.m. in Cro’s Nest in the College Center at Crozier-Williams. All are welcome to attend.

-Matt Zientek ’1

March 11, 2010