Sharrief Thomas on Making the Most of Real Live Opportunities in Music

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Sharrief_ThomasMost of the time, building a career requires moving, evolving, and learning over time. One’s “career” is the byproduct of work that’s done in the present, the things you do while you’re in the pocket, pefecting your craft.

Sharrief Thomas knows about this intimately. This artist/writer/producer/engineer and artist in his own right was exposed to the Recording Connection program when he was recording at Quad Studios in New York City. Seeing our program at work led Sharrief to become a mentor himself.

Today, at Water Music Publishing, Sharrief and business partner Big Bug (Snoop Dogg, Mary J. Blige, Sean Combs), help our students hone their chops, gain skills, and plan for their futures while gleaning a first-hand understanding of how the music industry works from a creative and a business perspective.

While recording a project at Quad, Sharrief and another Recording Connection mentor, Sax DMA, decided to give a number of RC apprentices the opportunity to earn engineering credits on his forthcoming album. “We had to turn down kids that wanted to join,” Sharrief says. And a number of notable artists came in to help on vocals including Sky Heavens, backup singer for Eminem, and Big Bub himself. “It was just the students getting to be in a live situation with real, live artists.”

When asked to share his advice on how Recording Connection students can move up in the music industry, Sharrief stresses adhering to studio protocol (knowing one’s place) and having solid interpersonal skills. “Have a great attitude. No matter what goes on, just have a great attitude…Do not open your mouth unless they ask you a question or what do you think. You’re there to just watch and pay attention, because it’s a live session going on and you don’t have a right to say something to the engineer…He needs to stay focused. If you’re a student, you just need to pay attention…You should be honored that an artist even allows students in their sessions…Take notes. And then when that session is over, then you can go to the engineer. You’re there to learn and watch. Not to comment. Not to start rapping. And not to try to tell the artist what they should do.”

Getting to the top of any industry requires hard work, determination, and patience even when you’re rearing to go full-throttle. Prior to being able to be the lead engineer, you have to be willing to observe, to work that assisting gig, and to play a supportive role that might seem unnoticed at times (chances are, it isn’t!). All of it matters–alot. People can work for years just to get themselves into the sphere where they’re making real, solid connections with the very same music producers and  engineers Recording Connection matches its students with, right from the start. So stay sharp, humble, alert and open for opportunity and remember, every smart step is a step in the right direction.

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