Academy of Contemporary Music celebrates first crop of students

Higher education’s long and storied history of the contentious relationship between college students and cantankerous administrators has been documented in such timeless gems as “National Lampoon’s Animal House” and “PCU.” That eternal rift is about to be tested as Scott Booker takes the helm of the Academy of Contemporary Music at the University of Central Oklahoma, already commonly known as the state’s “School of Rock.”

As CEO of the new school, Booker brings along 19 years of experience managing The Flaming Lips, which should provide ample assistance dealing with antiestablishment rogues and any improbably complex schemes involving confetti cannons, naked women and a disdain for all things mainstream.

Norman roots rockers Mama Sweet, psychedelic six-piece The Uglysuit and fuzz-toned Rainbows Are Free will open ACM@UCO’s new school year with a free 4 p.m. concert today in Lower Bricktown at the United Way Plaza, just north of the fountain in front of Harkins Bricktown Cinemas 16, mere blocks away from the school’s classrooms inside the Oklahoma Hardware Building at 25 E. California.

The three-hour kickoff event will celebrate the long-awaited music school, which was modeled after its acclaimed English counterpart and starts classes on Aug. 17. Mama Sweet guitarist Alan Orebaugh has also been tapped to teach guitar at the new school.

Peter Pollack will assist Booker as head of faculty. He has a doctorate of musical arts from the University of Illinois and previously served as a drummer for Blue Man Group, as well as a solid indie rep, including recording sessions with famed producer Steve Albini.

Even with its real rock roots, organizers say the school won’t be all enormous transparent hamster balls, ripped jeans and buckets of blue paint. Booker’s vision for ACM@UCO is to give budding musicians, producers, managers and would-be industry leaders a practical guide to the music business. Roughly 160 students have enrolled for the first year at the school, split between two career tracks.

“This first year is going to be primarily performance and production,” Booker said. “Music business will be woven between those classes, but we will have a separate music business program in about a year. There will be roughly 75 production students. The majority of the performance students are guitar players, then vocalists, then drummers, and the bass players are pulling in last.”

Initially, ACM@UCO will only offer associate degrees to graduating students, but Booker is hopeful that bachelor’s degree will be available within a few years. He admitted that music school might be a tough sell for skeptical parents, but said the academy’s staff and curriculum is set up specifically to teach the best fighting chance of succeeding in the music industry.

“There were a few parents who came in, and especially a dad who asked, ‘How is my kid going to make a living doing this?'” Booker said. “We’ll talk about how the business development center, which will help students find work and internships, and then talk about how these approaches to the music business worked for me, Derek (Brown) and others. That is when you can see the light shining. I had a number of parents come to me as they were walking out the door and say ‘Gosh, if I was only 18 again.'”

ACM@UCO Grand Opening takes place at 4 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 12 at United Way Plaza, near Mickey Mantle Drive and Reno Avenue. “Charles Martin

Charles Martin

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