Popular Music Studies
BA Major in Popular Music Studies
Music – Digital Sound Production – Innovation
The BA Major in Popular Music Studies prepares students to excel in an increasingly volatile creative music industry. From culture studies to songwriting to game scoring and audio engineering to project management, plus all the myriad musical opportunities in between, today’s successful musician requires the sort of technical and aesthetic flexibility that results from the broadest possible training.
Through a focus on the project paradigm of music production, popular-music students hone their musical and technical skills in courses devoted not only to hands-on instruction in songwriting, audio engineering, mixing, and production techniques, but also to training as a complete musician (music theory and history, critical listening skills, analysis, orchestration). By integrating practical and theoretical studies in collaborative, project-based courses, the Popular Music Studies major provides ideal preparation for careers in the creative music industry.
Highlights of the Major
Across four years of study, students explore innovative approaches to songwriting and production to take songs from conception to fully mixed and mastered recordings. Courses in the history and culture of popular music, songwriting, analysis of songs/recordings, audio engineering, vocal pre-production/tracking, mixing, and mastering lead to a capstone project in fourth year that allows students to capitalize on professional avenues for producing, distributing, and marketing their music. These courses are augmented by opportunities to study electroacoustic music composition, score preparation and instrumental arranging, harmony, counterpoint, and orchestration, as well as world music, jazz, musical theatre, and classical music history and analysis.
The new music building at the heart of the Don Wright Faculty of Music (opened in 2018) provides some of the best facilities in Canada for the study of music. Popular Music Studies makes use of a tracking space in Talbot College – a small hemi-anechoic chamber, 8-channel Toft ATB board, Apollo 16, and Adam monitors, plus SSL, API, Shadow Hills, and Elysia outboard gear, as well as industry standard microphones. Many of the major’s courses are taught in a lab equipped with iMacs, Apollo Twin interfaces, and Focal monitors, along with Logic, Mixbus, Pro Tools, WaveLab, and Final Cut Pro at every workstation.
Graduates of the Popular Music Studies Major
Originally from Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, Patrick has been playing music for over 20 years. As a multi-instrumentalist, he found his passion for music grow into a career path when he picked up the bass guitar at age 14. Since then, he has played hundreds of shows around Ontario, performing in many acts across a wide variety of genres, and has appeared on numerous records. He has shared the stage with a number of Canadian music industry giants, such as Hollerado, Born Ruffians, The Arkells, and Mother Mother.
He attended Western to major in Popular Music Studies, where he blended the worlds of music and film production through a minor in Cinema Studies. While at Western, Patrick’s skills as a bass player were often sought after for live performances and recordings in the London community, and he also piloted the Popular Music Studies major’s Advanced Project Paradigm course by writing, producing, engineering, and marketing his own EP. In addition, he released two documentary films, one of which won an award for “Best Documentary Film” at Western’s We Eat Films Festival in 2015. Since graduation, Patrick has become an experienced boom operator in the film industry, working on feature films with actors such as Bill Paxton and Kyle MacLachlan. These award-winning films have premiered around the world in international festivals, such as Cannes.
He currently plays bass guitar in the Toronto/London band Poesy, and the London-based Five Oceans. Poesy (Sarah Botelho) recently won the fourth episode of CTV’s The Launch, and she released a #1 iTunes single written by Stephan Moccio and Lindy Robbins titled “Soldier of Love.” Following the success of this single, Poesy’s The Spotless Mind EP, originally released in 2016, climbed the iTunes pop charts, peaking at 12. Patrick co-produced, mixed, and arranged the record with Poesy, and to bring the tracks to life, he recruited the session talents of Faculty of Music alumni Josh Try (guitars), Mark Swan (percussion), Matt Haché (acoustic guitar on “Sugar”), and Pat Theriault (cello on “Sugar”). Since then, Patrick has played in Poesy at numerous events, including Canadian Music Week and the Juno Awards Live Broadcast at London Music Hall.
Joe is one half of Loud Luxury, a gold certified Canadian deep house duo currently based in Los Angeles. He met Andrew Fedyk, the other half of Loud Luxury, at Western, while Joe was enrolled in the BA in Popular Music Studies program. Within a few years of graduating, they gained support from tastemaking DJs, such as Tiësto and Oliver Heldens, shared the stage with the artists Arty and Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike, played numerous international festivals and events, and released tracks issued by Tiësto’s AFTR:HRS imprint. They have also garnered attention with remixes for the likes of Martin Garrix, and their single, “Body” (featuring Brando), was issued by Armada Music in 2017 and charted in both the United States and Canada. Most recently, Loud Luxury enjoyed a gold certification from iTunes Canada for “Body,” which also made heavy rotation on Virgin radio, and the track sits at more than 333 million spins on Spotify.
Genevieve Fisher (BA’14 - Popular Music Studies and First Nations Studies)
Award Winning Country Music Performer
Within two years of graduating, Frazer not only had won two prestigious international songwriting competitions, the John Lennon Songwriting Contest (for “Green Light,” grand prize winner of the “Pop” division in 2011) and The UK Songwriting Contest (for “Walk of Shame,” winner of the “Dance/Electronic Music” category in 2012), but he also had picked up a Toronto Independent Music Award (2012) in “Best Electronic” for “Blackout.” More recently, “Airplane Mode” was a finalist in the “Unpublished” category of the 2016 International Songwriting Competition.
Since founding The Market Kids, a songwriting and production collective based in Toronto, Frazer has worked in songwriting camps for labels, publishers, and artists across Canada, the United States, the UK, Switzerland, Spain, and the Netherlands. In a recent trip to LA, he collaborated with members of NSYNC and 98 Degrees.
Prominent DJs have worked on his songs, including Afrojack, David Guetta, Hardwell, J Balvin, Marshmello, Nacho, and Alan Walker, and a number of artists have recorded Frazer’s music for major labels – Andee (Universal), Valentine (Armada), Michelle Treacy (Sony ATV), Kiki Rowe (Sony ATV), Cassie Dasilva (Universal), Tough Love (Warner), and Delaney Jane.
Matt Shelvock (BA Popular Music Studies ’10, MA Popular Music and Culture ’12, PhD Musicology ’17)
Author, Mastering Engineer, Business Affairs Manager
Matt met Skip Prokop (Lighthouse, Janis Joplin) while still in high school and soon became the guitarist in Skip’s band, playing electric/acoustic guitar and contributing arrangements to a new smooth jazz recording of Lighthouse’s many hits, several tracks of which charted in the Billboard Top 20. After graduating from the Popular Music Studies major, he spent a year in Nashville working as a session guitarist for Josh Leo (LeAnn Rimes, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Kenny Chesney) and as a music director (most notably demo sessions with X Factor and American Idol contestant Morgan Tobias/Ovens).
Matt completed the MA in Popular Music and Culture in 2012, focusing on audio mastering, and began his career as a mastering engineer as an assistant to Jay Hodgson at Jedi Mastering. He then entered the PhD program at Western and wrote a ground-breaking dissertation, which will be published by Focal Press (a division of Routledge) under the title Hearing and Understanding Audio Mastering: A 21st-Century Musical Competency.
He currently continues his career as an author (he’s under contract to Focal for a second book, Understanding Cloud-Based Music Production: Samples, Synthesis, and Hip Hop), and in January 2018, he became the Business Affairs Manager at Heroic / Bitbird, the prestigious Dutch music management agency / Indie electronic dance label. With dual responsibilities in the legal side of the operation (licensing music to Netflix, HBO, Marvel, ABC, Apple, etc.) and business development, Matt helps manage the careers of artists such as San Holo and Droeloe.
Michael established his professional credentials in the music industry before he graduated, engineering Jully Black’s “Set It Off” (Universal) and co-writing and co-producing Liz Coyles “Butterflies” (Slaight), which reached number 16 on the Canadian charts. After graduation, he deepened his skills through three major internships – eight months at Toronto’s Revolution Recording, five months with producer and songwriter Tawgs Salter (Lights, Josh Groban, Scott Helman), and three months in LA with producer Keith Harris (Black Eyed Peas, Estelle). Upon returning from California at the end of 2013, Michael took a job at Warner Music Canada and continued to develop his production skills before going freelance in 2014.
The next chapter of his career began with two years at Toronto’s Dream House Studios, the renowned collective that has been home to many producers and artists as they developed their careers into international success stories (Cirkut, Illangelo, and The Weeknd). During this stretch, he linked up with Toronto producer Koz (Nicki Minaj, Kendrick Lamar, Madonna), which led him to work on three songs from Dua Lipa’s 2017 debut album for Warner Music UK – “Hotter than Hell,” “Last Dance,” and “Thinking about You.” During 2017, Michael also earned production and engineering credits on Juno nominated artist Scott Helman’s sophomore release, Hôtel de Ville (Warner). Currently, Mike is signed under producer Doc McKinney (The Weeknd, Esthero, Drake), with whom he recently worked on The Weeknd’s “Pray for Me” (featured on the Black Panther soundtrack).
Michael’s discography extends back to 2010, and he has more than 60 titles to his credit, including three Juno nominations – Jully Black’s “Set It Off” in 2012, Autumn Hill’s Favourite Mistake in 2014, and Scott Helman’s Hôtel de Ville in 2017.
Apply to the Program
Visit the Undergraduate Admissions webpage to learn more about the application process.