Many musicians come to Boston to pursue their personal and professional dreams. And for a growing number of these, the road runs through Berklee.
While at the world-famous school of music, artists meet other like-minded people with a driving passion to express themselves through song. They also learn how to turn that passion into a career.
Among the leaders of the artist management muster at Berklee is Ralph Jaccodine.
Having started his own career as a performer, Jaccodine knows well the trials and tribulations (as well as the glory and the fun) involved in a musical life. As he understood the difficulties involved in making it as a performing musician, Jaccodine diversified his passions while in high school in Allentown, PA, promoting shows by the likes of Hall and Oates, Kiss, Rush, and Styx as a member of the city’s high school student government. He then went on to promote shows at the University of Notre Dame, including a concert by Bruce Springsteen.
“That experience brought me a complete fascination with the business of music ,” Jaccodine explains. “I was in a small town and suddenly these huge, shiny busses pull in and everybody in town comes out.”
And while the bands would “blow everybody away and then move on to the next town,” something stuck with Jaccodine that shaped his career and his life.
“To be able to meet the artists and see it all, I really caught the bug and found that I really had a lot of passion for the whole circus act,” he smiles.
In 1994, Jaccodine co-created Black Wolf Records with friend and fellow industry expert Mike Dreese, who had created the popular and enduring Newbury Comics record store. Ralph Jaccodine Management (www.ralphjaccodine.com) was born soon after as a company that, Jaccodine says, was “built on integrity and tenacity.” These dual qualities have helped Jaccodine steer his curated family of clients amidst the tidal waves of a tumultuous industry.
“The philosophy is indie and fiercely independent with global reach in mind for our artists,” explains Jaccodine, noting that his company also founded Black Wolf records with award-winning singer/songwriter Ellis Paul. “The goal is…building lasting careers, focusing on working hard and doing things the right way for the right reasons.”
As he was in Boston and working with many nationally-touring artists, Jaccodine was often invited to speak and present at Berklee.
“I was pretty familiar with the folks in the faculty and Berklee’s status in the music world,” Jaccodine explains. “I also really like talking to student(s) because I feel I have a lot to offer them because I have 25 years of hard-earned experience as a manager.”
The more Jaccodine got to know the school and its faculty and students, the more he wanted to be a part of it.
“Years ago, I asked my management client Livingston Taylor why he was so excited to be teaching at Berklee,” Jaccodine recalls. “He said it was because he was among the best, most talented faculty and students in the country. That stuck with me! “
And while he admits that he was initially reticent to share his wisdoms with the students, Jaccodine says the he now relishes the opportunity.
“When I first started to talk to students, I was very nervous because I did not feel I was an authority figure on the business of music,” he recalls. “But now that I have been managing artists for so long, I feel confident that I am the expert on one thing, my career and my years of experience and the lessons I have learned from the trenches of the music industry.”
As he lives what he teaches, Jaccodine has been able to bring a rare, real world perspective to his classes and his students. “Because it is my day job, I have to be up to date and so I can bring that updated information and perspective to the students,” he reasons. “It is a really good feeling to be able to help them!”
At Berklee (where he won the Dean’s Award for Innovation and Service in 2015 ), Jaccodine also wears multiple hats, serving as an Assistant Professor in the department of Music Business/Management, co-managing the Berklee Music Law & Management Club, and also developing a series of professional development seminars with the Boston Managers Group, which he started 20 years ago with ex-Aerosmith manager Tim Collins.
“The club brings speakers in for the students and the community-at-large,” Jaccodine explains, listing such other austere speakers as Don Law of Live Nation, Panos Panay of SonicBids, Derek Sivers of CD Baby, and Berklee President Roger Brown and also mentioning a recent seminar with Rock and Roll Hall of Famer John Oates. “I am trying to bring a lot of energy and great talent to Berklee.”
Jaccodine has also been able to gain a great deal from his time at the school as well. Among his Berklee-bred clients are Shun Ng and Rebecca Loeb (see January, 2015 issue), and long-time friend Taylor. “I also mentor many of my students and others at the school,” Jaccodine says.
In his role at Berklee, Jaccodine is able to support and influence many young artists and future managers. When asked who influenced and inspired him, Jaccodine again mentions Collins and Dreese.
“In 1992, I came to Mike ranting and raving about Ellis Paul, and how great this guy’s music was. He quickly brought me down to earth saying those two words that have haunted me ever since- ‘Nobody Cares!’”
While Dreese’s response drove home the hard reality that, for the most part, music is seen as disposable, it also encouraged Jaccodine to work even harder to make people care about the songs and songwriters who mattered to him.
“Mike’s challenge to me back…was ‘How do I make people care about the music I care about?’” Jaccodine explains. “I have made a career out of spreading…the music of other people I care about.”
In fact, Jaccodine takes Dreese’s words so to hear that he continues to see his role not just as manager, but also as proselytizer.
“Personal management has to be a holy crusade or nothing at all,” Jaccodine observes. “You have to have confidence that people will care. Spreading my artist’s music is how I feed my family, but just as important... it is how I feed my soul.”
In an effort to repay his mentors and to help them support each other and other colleagues, Jaccodine has also organized a manager’s roundtable, of which Collins and Dreese are integral parts. In fact, Jaccodine recalls, Collins was there from the beginning.
“I had a few months of calling myself a manager under my belt when I called Tim,” Jaccodine recalls. “Tim was on top of the food chain for managers and I just wanted to meet him, touch his garment and hope that something would rub off on me.”
After what turned out to be an extensive conversation, in which Jaccodine was able to share his knowledge of the MA music scene with the eminent manager, Collins offered to reciprocate.
“I asked him to help me form a ‘bunch of managers’ so we can help each other out,” Jaccodine explains.
Thus was the Boston Manager’s Group born!
“As a manager,” Jaccodine suggests, “I am supposed to know how to guide a career without question, the artist places their trust in my guidance. I need to be an expert.”
While Jaccodine says that the Group helps him and other managers find the answers and garner the support they need to help their clients and to hopefully help strengthen and grow the music scene and the industry at large, he still feels that his main role is as an educator.
“I feel like I have found my calling in teaching,” Jaccodine says.