The DIY aesthetic is key to the survival of independent music artists. Recording and distributing demos, booking gigs and shrewd self-promotion is do or die At Jacksonville University, a unique program pairs music students and musicians together both center stage and behind the scenes.
Dolphinium Records is a full service, independent record label and an extension of the university’s Music Business Program. Students and faculty advisors work on all aspects of label releases from scouting potential artists to production, A&R and marketing/publicity. “Dolphnium is a student-run organization. We have an advisor but the students do the work. It’s completely hands-on,” says senior student Music Business major and label president, Layssa Souza. “We are part of the recording process.”
Blue Muse, a local jazz outfit comprised of JU alumni and faculty, is the latest artist to make their label debut with a CD release at 8 pm Saturday at Grape and Grain in San Marco. “It’s a cool, jazzy vibe,” Souza says. “We’re really excited about that.”
With four original songs and three original arrangements, “Blue Muse Live” combines elements of Swing, Latin, Funk, Straight, and Modern Jazz. Blue Muse is steeped in classic jazz standards but they leave their mark on more modern classics as well. The band performs as a jazz trio, quartet or full band ensemble depending on the event. While all members are faculty or alumni of Jacksonville University, at the core they are professional musicians who all share a common passion for the jazz genre.
“We know them. We’ve heard them play. Last year, the girl that we backed was singer/songwriter Summer Goodman and we talked about what kind of vibe we wanted to go for his year,” Souza says. “Blue Muse is super professional and they have a different, unique kind of sound. It was kind of a no-brainer for us.”
Sarah Lee is the founder of Blue Muse and teaches in a music program for at-risk elementary age children. She performs citywide with various groups in the Jacksonville area including the Chris Thomas Band, First Coast Wind Ensemble, several jazz quartets, pop bands, worship and praise bands as well as musical productions. Lee began her saxophone studies in the heavily jazz influenced area of southern New Jersey and Philadelphia received her B.A. in Music with a jazz emphasis from Jacksonville University.
Jonah Pierre is a jazz pianist and world percussionist. As a student of music for the past 15 years, he has performed and studied with greats such as Gary Bartz, Marcus Belgrave, Wendell Logan, Jamie Haddad, Rick Kirkland, Chris Potter, Robert Conti, Tony Steve and Dan Wall. A graduate of Douglas Anderson School of the Arts and Oberlin College, Pierre works as a local musician and teacher.
Jarrett Carter also attended the Oberlin Conservatory of Music where he earned a BM in Jazz studies. He is a graduate of Douglas Anderson School of the Arts and was a member of the D.A. Big Band that won Essentially Ellington in 2006. Carter studied with guitarists Barry Green, James Hogan, and Don Casper. He has also performed for classical guitarists Susan Bogdanovic and Andrew York. He resides in Jacksonville and continues to gig, teach private lessons, and lead community education guitar classes at Lavilla School of the Arts.
Tony Steve teaches percussion and contemporary music at Jacksonville University and has played with the national tours of many Broadway shows. He has performed with the Jacksonville Symphony as member for 13 years as well as numerous other international symphonies as a percussionist. He has toured with A Chorus Line in Europe, appeared in Korea as marimba soloist with Brooklyn Percussion Ensemble, and performed in A Christmas Carol at Madison Square Garden. He has toured with Mannheim Steamroller and worked with Henry Mancini, Lou Rawls, Sheri Lewis and The Xaiver Cugat Orchestra.
As a graduate of Jacksonville University with a B.A. in Music, Cody Wheaton studied jazz and performed classical tuba and bass. Wheaton has performed with world class musicians and composers such as Chris Potter, Delfeayo Marsalis, Rich Redenour, composers Robert W. Smith, Richard Saucedo, and James Curnow. He often performs with the First Coast Wind Ensemble, The Chris Thomas Band and Jazz and Tonic. Wheaton teaches privately and performs at multiple churches and musicals productions around Jacksonville.
Bassist Ernie Ealum has performed throughout the southeast for 30 years. He is a Jacksonville University alumni and the adjunct bass professor at Florida State college at Jacksonville. Ealum has instructed in upright and electric bass for 20 years and maintains a studio space at nice Music in Orange Park. He also teaches at the Ronan School of Music in Jacksonville and was the staff bassist at the Cloister at Sea island for 10 years. Ealum has worked with such artists as The Platters, Michael W. Smith, Percy Sledge and the Cox Family.
Evan Peterson is a drummer and percussionist from Jacksonville with a Bachelors degree in music from Jacksonville University. He has performed extensively in Macau China, Abu-Dhabi United Emirates and in the eastern United States.
A consummate drum set artist and the current adjunct at Jacksonville University for drums. Ricky Kirkland has performed around the world. Kirkland’s began his professional career playing with the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra, leading to a three-year stint as the featured drummer with The Ray Charles Orchestra. Kirkland has taught at jazz camps nationwide and as a founding faculty member at the UNF Center for American Music.
Blue Muse has generated a local buzz playing such venues as Mellow Mushroom, The Parlour at Grape & Grain Exchange, Lillie’s Cafe, Bistro Aix, Art Walk, Riverside Arts Market and private events such as weddings, retirement parties, cocktail parties and anniversary parties. An established fanbase is among the requirements to be considered as a Dolphinium Records artist. “We kind of like to think of who has a sound that will appeal to the Jacksonville demographic,” says Souza.
Artists are selected at the end of the Fall semester. Students scout for talented recording artists who are actively performing original material, and then present them to the ‘A&R staff’ of students, who decide by vote if the group fits the Dolphinium criteria. Four groups have made recordings for release via compact disc, download cards, and/or digital release via iTunes and Amazon.com and other digital platforms.
Last year, Dolphinium Records represented pianist Doc Watkins and released a collections of holiday songs called “Sounds of the Season” with contributions from entire JU music department.
In 2008, the label released their first recording “Dolphinium Records Compilation 2008”, featuring student projects from the songwriting and production courses. In 2010, Dolphinium released recordings by the pop/punk group Dancel, Inside the Target, also a pop/punk-based group based featuring two JU music majors and the heavy metal outfit The Spring Equinox.
In 2011, Dolphinium released “Love Songs from the Gamut” by JU alum and American Idol contestant in season 7, A.J. Neaher. The CD embraced the varying aspects of Neaher’s style, ranging from acoustic singer/songwriter, rock, electronic pop and dance music.
For label consideration, groups must regularly perform original music and be available for regional touring. Artists must submit a demo CD and an 8×10, black and white promotional photograph and a short, typed, bio including performance history. It is strongly encouraged that artists are to copyright their material before sending it to anyone, including our staff, for your own protection. All genres are considered. Send materials to Dolphinium Records, JU Division of Music, 2800 University Blvd. North, Jacksonville, FL 32211.