Published: Mar 29, 2011
An American music-industry professional turned touring jazz musician, published songwriter and educator came to LIPA to shine a spotlight on the commercial facets of her art.
Suzahn Fiering talked with students about skills that will help them in the real world after they graduate. Although she was often serious, Suzahn presented her thoughts in a humorous and accessible way. She touched on topics such as marketing and interpersonal skills, drawing from the vast storehouse of knowledge she has built up over the years.
The artist, whose CV also covers areas such as sound technology, production and lecturing, wove into her masterclass a couple of numbers on her guitar, one jazz and one country, to emphasise the importance of diversity in the marketplace.
She began, however, by taking the audience back to her formative years in New York, when she discovered her love of music and, later, trained as an audio engineer.
After freelancing in recording studios and running nightclubs in between, she got a job in the Big Apple with RCA and BMG, where she learned how the cogs of the industry turn.
“When you’re working for a label it’s all about one thing: sales, marketing and PR,” she told her audience of students and staff in the Paul McCartney Auditorium. “They have a bottom line and their goal is to meet it. It is not art, it is business.”
After switching to MCA Music, she was transferred to the label's office in Nashville, where she now lives. In Nashville, known as Music City, she later hung up her business suit and focused her energies on her original love – the music itself. As well as performing live and writing for Warner/Chappell Music, Suzahn began collaborating as an engineer and producer with Richard Adler, who has produced Grammy-winning records and worked with Neil Young and Alison Krauss, among others.
It was Richard who convinced Suzahn to become a touring artist and together they recorded her CD, Paris Without His Kiss, and launched her career as a performer.
She reflected: “I thought I was happy as a corporate person. I was playing jazz at weekends, but in reality a full-time jazz performer and educator is what I always wanted to be. Nashville was a turning point for me.”
Guitarist and vocalist Suzahn, who has been touring internationally since 2005, also took questions from the floor and shared anecdotes about her career in music.
In addition to writing and performing songs in many genres, Suzahn has penned music for television and film, with credits including Oprah, Desperate Housewives, Coyote Ugly, Disney, National Geographic and many US national jingles. Suzahn has four songs in the Smithsonian Museum in Washington DC as part of a permanent collection of contemporary songwriting as well as two songs in the Baseball Hall of Fame. Suzahn has spoken at universities worldwide and has received grants from the American embassies in Denmark and France.
Suzahn is one of many industry guests who each year visit LIPA to impart their knowledge to BA (Honours) and Foundation Certificate students to complement their studies.