New program at Frost School of Music paves way for upcoming musicians

Senior Taber Onthank is on a roll. The music business and entertainment industries major has written and recorded several songs, won UM’s songwriting competition, and opened a show for Grammy-award winner Bruce Hornsby.

Onthank attributes much of his success to a groundbreaking new program at the Frost School of Music, the Bruce Hornsby Creative American Music program.

“My four years here at UM in this program have taught me that it takes much more than musicianship to succeed in the industry,” Onthank said. “And I know UM has taught me the perfect tools to do so.”

The Hornsby program is designed to give students the creative skills they need by immersing them in the diverse traditions that form the foundation of American songwriting.

What makes the program unique is its interdisciplinary approach. Students in the program also take courses in the Schools of Business and Communication.

Onthank entered the program as a novice and will be leaving as an accomplished musician and songwriter.

In last year’s major songwriting competition, the Creative American Music Ensemble, Onthank took the grand prize with his soulful tune “The Other Side of Love.” That also gave him the opportunity to open for Hornsby at Frost’s annual Festival Miami.

“Winning has definitely been one of the highlights of my career thus far,” Onthank said. “I have learned so much from my four years in the program. It has been a great place for me to grow, but more importantly, an amazing networking tool.”

The program also led to his friendship and partnership with Frost classmate Alejandro Elizondo. The two music business majors have collaborated on a number of songs, and together, they look forward to what they will come up with in the future.

“Without UM’s music business and Hornsby program, I never would have crossed paths with such talented musicians and potential business partners like Taber,” Elizondo said. “I look forward to the prospect of collaborations with the network and friends that I will be leaving Frost with.”

Onthank and Elizondo have also inspired younger students who hope to make it in the music industry, including sophomore Dan Pellarin.

“I see Taber as one of the top songwriters in the program, and having the chance to write a couple of tunes with him inspires me to better myself as both a performer and songwriter,” Pellarin said. “Him winning the songwriters’ showcase last year is just another testament to his supreme talent.”

Onthank plays the ukulele, mandolin and the guitar, and he has a melodic voice. Originally from Connecticut, he started playing guitar at age 12, when he received one as a present from his parents. He decided to enroll in UM in hopes of becoming a successful recording artist and touring musician.

The music business program has taught Onthank about production, marketing and the retail aspects of the business.

Reynaldo Sanchez, one of Onthank’s professors, said the program has given his student the solid foundation he needs to succeed.

“Taber recognizes that musicianship alone is not enough,” Sanchez said. “At the Frost School’s Music Business and Entertainment Industries Program, he has acquired the practical knowledge and skills he will need for a successful career in the music business.”

Onthank said that professors like Sanchez have helped him develop to his current level.

“I love that my professors in the program are all professionals that have held important positions in the music and entertainment industry and know how it actually works,” Onthank said. “I really have learned how to be a do-it-yourself artist, and none of that would have been possible without the Frost School of Music.”

April 19, 2012


Laurasia Mattingly

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