Rhythm, tone, and instrumentation were examples given by national recording artist and songwriter Javier Colon as he worked with Trinity music students to teach them how they can adapt songs to their own voices. Colon, the winner of the first season of NBC’s The Voice, started his recent Common Hour talk giving the students an example with his own take on Canadian singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.”
The Common Hour lecture was the latest in the Music Business Colloquium series, funded as part of a President's Grant Initiative of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to support interdisciplinary collaboration.
Colon’s talk was particularly hands on; he collaborated with two music students on a range of songs to demonstrate how each can make a song his or her own. Paloma Irizarry ’14, a theater major and music minor, joined Colon to play Alicia Keys’ song “No One.” Then, music major Brandon Serafino ’14, and Colon performed Justin Timberlake’s “Mirrors” as well as the Sam Cooke classic “Bring It on Home to Me.” For a few songs, he was accompanied on percussion by Eric Galm, associate professor of music.
In addition to “Hallelujah,” Colon entertained the crowd with his 2003 single “Crazy” and “Say Something,” a recent release from New York duo A Great Big World. The latter, played on his acoustic guitar, was an example of how changing instrumentation can help an artist put his own fingerprints on a song.
In addition to artistic guidance, Colon offered the students some practical advice about working in the music industry. He advised singers to keep an alternate set list ready for the occasions when illness or fatigue make the high notes a little less certain.
“When you miss a show, you miss a paycheck,” Colon said.
He also talked about the experience of working with a record label and what that means for an artist’s rights and ownership of his or her work.
Asked about his influences, Colon had an eclectic array of answers. Among them, he counts artists ranging from Boyz II Men and Toto to James Taylor and Otis Redding.
After being coached so publicly by Maroon 5’s Adam Levine on The Voice in 2011, Colon enjoyed doing the same for students just beginning their careers in the music business.
“It’s awesome getting a chance to share my experiences and perspective,” he said. “It’s an honor to come to an amazing school like Trinity and work with these students.”
The Music Business Colloquium continues on Tuesday, March 11, with a Common Hour presentation from entertainment lawyer Henry W. Root, a partner at the firm Lapidus, Root & Sacharow, LLP. It will be held at 12:15 p.m. in room 101 of the Austin Arts Center.
Photos from the Common Hour are available here. Photos by John Atashian.