A new student-run media production company allows students to have a hand in every step of the music production process, from writing sheet music to recording sound to shooting a music video.
CollegeTown Records was founded in Spring 2017 by sophomore Shanel Gray. The self-funded company works with local artists to write and record original music. The company also helps film and edit promotional videos and music videos. All 12 members involved are current or former students at the college.
Gray came up with the idea for CollegeTown Records when she was working at Park Productions in April 2017. She said she was interested in the idea of students producing their own original work but thought the emphasis on short films and television shows limited the experience for herself and other students.
“I wanted them to have a different perspective, especially when it comes to finding jobs and finding internships,” Gray said. “Anyone could do a music video, but to make the best music video . . . you need to learn the video aspect of it. The cinematic aspect of it.”
Gray said she originally planned to make performance-based music videos for local artists, rather than expand into other areas of music production like recording. She pitched the idea to Carol Jennings, director of the Park Media Lab, who gave her the inspiration to expand the company’s mission to include producing original music and music videos.
In May 2017, Gray posted applications on Facebook looking for students to get involved. After applying to join the company, freshmen James Giordano and Vincent Streech were hired as co-producers. Streech said he manages the business aspects of the film department, while Giordano handles the business aspects of the recording process.
Gray also sent an application to students in the sound recording technology major at the college. Sophomore Alex Dempsey was the first to respond. Dempsey said he wanted to work with other students who had experience with songwriting and who were on the artistic side of the music production process, because people interested in recording may not have the skills to write and perform their own music.
“We’re always encouraged to do outside projects and practice and experiment with things on your own, but not everyone is a fantastic songwriter,” Dempsey said.
Dempsey said the company rents out studio space and equipment like microphones and music editing software from the Whalen Center for Music to record and mix audio.
The company has recorded five songs with five artists, all students at the college. Gray said the first artist she began working with was sophomore Rilya Greeslamirya. In April 2017, Gray saw Greeslamirya perform at the International Fashion Show hosted by IC International Club. She played acoustic guitar and sang a traditional Indonesian song.
Gray said she was impressed by Greeslamirya’s vocal ability, especially because her song had Indonesian lyrics.
“I went to music school for elementary and middle school,” Gray said. “I played the violin and piano, and I stopped in high school and here I completely forgot. When she sang, it made me miss music.”
Gray then began working with sophomores Suzannah van Gelder, Angelee Chen and Colleen D’alelio. The artists have recorded one song each and are in the post-production process.
Gray said Chen’s song is inspired by EDM music and is influenced by the song “Stay” by Zedd. Van Gelder’s song leans toward rock with blues elements, while D’alelio is a traditional singer-songwriter.
Van Gelder said working with the company has helped her facilitate the creative process.
“Many tortured artists like to think that you have to wait until the exact moment to create the right song, that inspiration just comes to you,” she said. “But now it feels as though I can sit down at any time and create something.”
Sophomore Andrew Hallenberg is head editor of the video department and one of the music video directors. “If I” by Greeslamirya is in the early stages of the pre-production process, and Hallenberg said the shooting dates and concept have not yet been determined. Hallenberg said they are also starting the process for sophomore Kyra Skye’s song, “Dancing in the Rain.”
“I know for ‘Dancing in the Rain’ we’re going to try to aim to shoot around March and April, in the springtime when it’s actually a little rainy outside,” Hallenberg said. “The artist wants some rain in the actual video, so we’re going to work with her to make sure we can do that.”
Gray said the company also offers promotional photoshoots. Junior head of photography Ahshar Williams photographed Greeslamirya for the cover of her demos.
Streech said the company will encourage students from the college to express themselves at every step in the process. He said the label wants to broadcast student content to the rest of the school, similar to how the WICB and VIC radio stations let students go on air and address their peers.
“In a perfect world, CollegeTown Records is something like the radio station here,” Streech said. “It’s just something that allows people to go in there and show their passions and who they are as artists, and have all the help they need to either get their name out or just enjoy and produce content.”