Brandeis International Business School

025: How Groove U Improves Career Education for a Creative Industry

When all else fails, create your own thing

After about a decade in the music industry working for major and independent record labels, recording studios, music publishers, and music industry trade publications, Dwight Heckelman left the corporate world for academia. In 2005, he chaired and designed the music industry program at Hocking College, later serving as the career development and job recruitment coordinator at the Berklee College of Music.

Then, in 2010, Dwight founded Groove U, a revolutionary two-year Music Industry Entrepreneurship career program located in Dublin, Ohio. Most traditional music education programs, like many formal education programs, don’t actually consider the application of knowledge in the working world – but at Groove U, careers in the industry are front and center. Appropriately, they boast an impressive 96% job placement rate for graduates.

From the Dorm Room

Dwight’s journey through education was fairly circuitous. He knew he wanted to do something with music while he was in high school, but he didn't really know what that meant. When Dwight asked his band teacher, who said he could go to school to learn how to compose, to learn how to play an instrument better, or to teach music. But... Dwight didn’t want to do any of those things. “So, like any sensible young man, I joined the Navy.”

After four years in the Navy, Dwight started college at Bowling Green State University studying Music Composition. It took about a year and a half for that to suck all the love of music out of him. He transferred into their School of Business for a time and then transferred into Belmont University, where he was able to have a music tech minor in the school business. He then graduated from Belmont University as a music industry student. 

To the Boardroom

Dwight learned that having a career in the music industry is really being an entrepreneur or an intrapreneur – “because about 80% of this business either works for themselves, or you're working for someone who works for themselves. So, you have to think like an entrepreneur.” 

He cobbled together a number of entrepreneurial ventures before he was invited to break into the karaoke world, around the time American Idol got big. So he entered the corporate world, where he was the guy in the boardroom that made the decisions about securing accounts with Walmart and Best Buy and sort of scaling the brand nationally.

Although it paid well, this role got him too far away from what he was passionate about – empowering artists and being part of the creative process – so he left that job and started a music industry program at Hocking College in Nelsonville. But, still, he realized that there was a big disconnect between what higher ed was supposed to be doing for music industry students and what was actually happening. So, he resigned and started his own school.

During his time as a college educator, Dwight repeatedly saw the same misconception: your career starts when you graduate college. 

Dwight thinks your career starts the day you enter as a freshman and say, “I am going to pursue this career path.” And when you take that perspective, it really changes your paradigm because you stop treating studying as the outcome of education and you start looking at other things as equally productive outcomes, like making great relationships with your peers while you're in college.

“If you start thinking about it on day one, things change pretty quickly for your perspective.”

The Entrepreneurial Edge

Every week, we highlight one piece of advice for aspiring, struggling, and successful-but-want-to-be-even-more-successful entrepreneurs:

As Dwight’s role has transitioned from educator, to young entrepreneur, to director of a bigger organization, he’s learned the importance of documenting processes. 

Formalize a procedure for this and keep detailed lists because it’s going to save you a lot of time down the road as you need to do things again and/or need to hire someone else to do some of your tasks. It’ll save time, money, and a lot of headaches if you start documenting things early.


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