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DIME student Devyn Rae performing at the new DIME Denver building.

Backstage classes

Chart-topper Tom Odell — and rising stars such as Denver's Devyn Rae — show the value of the music education pioneered by DIME Group.

April 25, 2019

By Cory Phare

Tom Odell lands in Denver for his May 3 show at the Bluebird Theater an internationally renowned musician with honors including a prestigious Ivor Novello Award for songwriting – a distinction bestowed on the likes of John Lennon and Paul McCartney.

He has racked up nearly 2 million unit sales and is closing in on one billion Spotify plays. But before Odell was a chart-topper, he studied at the British and Irish Modern Music Institute, the group of colleges established by DIME Group’s founders, Sarah Clayman and Kevin Nixon.

The blond British crooner will drop in at MSU Denver at DIME Denver to teach a masterclass for music students looking to follow in his footsteps before he takes the Bluebird stage to play songs from his new album Jubilee Road.

“I didn’t really believe (music) was something you could do as a job until I arrived in Brighton to attend BIMM,” Odell said. “Being there meant I was surrounded by like-minded people, which is fundamental in getting any better at what you do.”

The founders of BIMM launched DIME Group in 2014, which includes outposts in Detroit and Denver that, through a partnership with Metropolitan State University of Denver, offer Bachelor of Arts degrees in commercial music performance, commercial songwriting and music industry studies.

Last month, Billboard named DIME Group a top music business school for 2019, and this month MSU Denver at DIME Denver is debuting a state-of-the-art music education facility at 800 Kalamath St. Prospective students, music fans and art aficionados can check it out May 3 from 6:30-8:30 p.m. during the Art District on Santa Fe’s First Friday celebration.

"It's important to empower musicians"

Beyond helping him realize his potential as a singer-songwriter, DIME’s approach to music education instilled in him an entrepreneurial mindset on and off the stage that helped advance his career, Odell said.

“Like anything worth having, a music career requires persistence and patience, but also a degree of canniness,” he said.

Odell’s ascension underscores the type of quick-thinking tactical approaches required to navigate the modern music landscape and avoid common pitfalls, DIME cofounder and managing director Clayman said.

“When I previously worked at Sony Music, I’d see a lot of young bands thrown into fame without understanding of what goes on behind the music,” Clayman said. “It’s important to empower musicians to understand the business – because that’s what it is at the end of the day.”


RELATED: DIME Group rocks Billboard's 2019 list of tip music business schools


While MSU Denver at DIME Denver’s new digs are industry leading, the school’s strength remains its ability to harness the power of applied study and relationships developed with instructors, she said.

“It’s important we connect with those people working in real-life industry roles,” Clayman said. “When we bring those people into the classroom, students see themselves in those roles and say, ‘I can be that.’”

In addition to performance classes, MSU Denver at DIME Denver students take general studies courses with a contemporary emphasis in the adjacent classrooms. Check out the new facility during the Open House Friday, May 3 from 6:30 - 8:30 p.m.
In addition to performance classes, MSU Denver at DIME Denver students take general studies courses with a contemporary emphasis in the adjacent classrooms. Check out the new facility during the Open House Friday, May 3 from 6:30 - 8:30 p.m.

Enter Barton Dahl, a music industry instructor with MSU Denver at DIME Denver whose career spans from musician to music management, including roles in management, talent buying and publicity at Madison House. His introductory music business class helps dispel the confusion that often arises in the interplay of managers, agents, labels and the like.

MSU Denver at Dime offers a real opportunity to explore the entire business from stage to behind-the-scenes and figure out where you fit best, Dahl said.

“You might come in as a performer, but discover you’re fascinated with another aspect,” he said. “It can open your eyes to opportunities you didn’t even realize existed before.”

Behind – and about – the music

Of course, success in the music industry isn’t all about the industry. Music – and everything it takes to produce and perform it – is at the heart of a DIME education.

“If you only study one component (of the music industry), it’s a struggle,” DIME co-founder and president Nixon said. “It’s natural to learn the different elements and how they mesh together.”

DIME’s live performance workshop is a core aspect of the curriculum because it shows students everything that goes on behind the music, he said. From sound engineers to stage managers, there are many different skills and minds that must come together to ensure the show goes on – and that the audience has a seamless experience.

The live performance workshop is a centerpiece of the DIME Denver curriculum, said Kevin Nixon, president and co-founder of the DIME group. In addition to the musicians onstage, there
The live performance workshop is a centerpiece of the DIME Denver curriculum, said Kevin Nixon, president and co-founder of the DIME group. In addition to the musicians onstage, there's a cadre of folks working behind-the-scenes who ensure the production goes off without a hitch.

The workshops were valuable for Devyn Rae, a current MSU Denver at DIME Denver commercial songwriting student who was one of the first members of the cohort-based program when it launched in 2017.

No stranger to live performance before enrolling at MSU Denver at DIME Denver, she said her studies, including the live performance workshop, provided clarity for how she can achieve her music goals – and opened her eyes to possibilities in the industry she hadn’t considered before.

“I’ve come to understand how to both do my craft creatively and make money at it,” Rae said. “The ultimate goal is to do what I do best; that’s expanded to the production side, doing my own thing as a songwriter but also spreading my wings behind-the-scenes by getting into production.

“I’m so glad I ended up here.”

Check out MSU Denver at DIME Denver’s new facilities at the First Friday Open House, May 3 6:30 - 8:30 p.m. at 800 Kalamath Street.


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