Six months without work during the pandemic could have marked a major loss for Stargate; instead, the Norwegian producers spent their downtime developing a full-time music program.
The pandemic-enforced lockdown not only reminded the duo — consisting of Tor Erik Hermansen and Mikkel S. Eriksen — about the importance of meaningful collaboration in music creation, but also allowed them time the to create a nine-month lesson plan. The result, The Los Angeles Academy for Artists & Music Production (LAAMP), will launch its inaugural term in October with 45 in-person students and an additional online cohort.
Dressed comfortably in a white t-shirt and jeans at the Stargate studios hidden in a Los Angeles residential neighborhood, Hermansen says the idea for the academy came from a similar mentorship program he helped create in Norway at Lillehammer Institute of Music Production and Industries. Hermansen hopes LAAMP will follow the blueprint laid out by the The Limpi program, saying “[it was] about finding your voice and improving your material in a real-world experience with a low-pressure environment.”
For nine months (October-June), students will work five days a week in a newly-constructed 6,600 square-foot studio complex in downtown Santa Monica where they will write, sing and/or produce material weekly. Online and in-person students will receive lessons from mentors — including Charli XCX and Ne-Yo, as well as songwriters Emily Warren and Justin Tranter — at the beginning of the week, who will provide an assignment and feedback upon submission.
“We believe in spontaneity, trusting an idea and sharpening it with a mentor,” says Hermansen, who has worked with Beyonce, Rihanna and Coldplay, among others. “One of the things that’s hard for people is if you’re sitting at home without good collaborators, you start doubting yourself. There is no one there to help push you along, to tweak a lyric or fix the beat. You’re just sitting there wondering if it is good or not.”
The program – which will cost about $35,000 for in-person and $5,000 for online – teaches collaboration and focuses on stamina. “You can’t work on the same song for four weeks,” Hermansen says. “Then you’re losing out on a lot of great ideas.” Students will produce a track a week in varying teams and get into the practice and pacing of “delivering” material.
Hermansen says the Norwegian program had a 100% success rate for weekly song delivery and predicts the same for the L.A. group who will be expected to spend 10-12 hours a day in the studio. The program will conclude with a “thesis,” or collection of songs, which can serve as an EP or project to present to publishers, managers or artists students would like to work with.
Stargate is still looking to fill the remaining slots for its inaugural year, to join those who have already enrolled from around the world. Several publishers and managers have also signed up their developing talent, which Hermansen jokes “is a cheap way to get nine months of sessions.”
“As producers and songwriters, it is our job to make other people successful and, in the process, we become successful,” adds Hermansen. “It’s in our DNA to bring out the best in people.”