Think of your favorite musicians. Chances are John Snyder has recorded them. That’s what Lukas Cox said the chair of film and music industry studies told him when he was a student at Loyola.
Since 2004, decades of music industry experience has been funneled into students through Snyder. He has five GRAMMY awards for producing and has label clients like Atlantic, Columbia, RCA and Sony, just to name a few. He’s collaborated with jazz musicians like Dave Brubeck, Jim Hall and Paul Desmond. In addition to producing music, Snyder also worked as an intellectual property lawyer.
On Thursday, Jan. 24, at OffBeat Magazine’s Best of the Beat Awards ceremony, Snyder received the award for Lifetime Achievement in Music Education. He joined Ellis Marsalis, Alvin Batiste and more than a dozen other notable music teachers who have been recognized for their contributions to music education since the award began in 2000.
But Snyder is not a traditional music teacher. Rather than teaching students how to play or sing the notes, he teaches them the business side of music. Snyder said he accepted the award on behalf of the music educators he is surrounded by both at Loyola and the greater New Orleans community.
“I went to college as a trumpet player and they told me to have (teaching) to fall back on, which I found doubly offensive,” Snyder said. “It meant I was going to fail as a trumpet player … and it meant teaching was a fallback.”
Snyder doesn’t believe it’s a fallback though.
“(It’s) a high art when done well, I mean the highest,” he explained, “You’re affecting people’s minds and the way they think. You’re rewiring their brains and that’s a pretty serious business.”
Snyder is known for being honest with his students.
“He wasn’t afraid to disagree with me when I was managing production here and I learned from that,” said Cox, a class of 2014 graduate who now works for Buku Fest.
While not a typical music teacher, Snyder said his role is to teach students how to benefit from making music.
“The flip side to making music is sharing it and once you do that commerce attaches,” he said.
While past recipients of the award have typically been music teachers, Jan Ramsey, editor-in-chief of OffBeat, said it is about time they recognized someone who was instrumental in the business side of music.
“Loyola is the premier place for that to happen and it’s been needed for a long time,” she said.
Snyder is not only different from typical music teachers, but he is also different from typical teachers, according to Kern Maass, dean of the College of Music and Fine Arts. Teaching students about the business and intellectual property sides of music are important.
Maass said, “In the realm of music, it’s your ideas have currency, your ideas can be monetized, your ideas have value.”
Developing the music industry in New Orleans and preventing “brain drain,” or having talent leave the city, is one of Snyder’s goals. While Los Angeles, New York and Nashville may have more music industry jobs, New Orleans has a unique, diverse music culture.
“I would say musical talent is our number one resource. Not oil,” he said.
Seeing as many of his former students were recipients at OffBeat’s awards ceremony, it appears Snyder is achieving that goal.
“A lot of our students are doing very well in the music business as well as other entertainment businesses and on the stage.”
Snyder came to Loyola as a Conrad Hilton Eminent Scholar in music industry studies.
“What I saw was a potential to change the way the music business dealt with artists,” he said. “I thought if we put the artists first instead of the money first, then maybe the situation would improve.”
Snyder said now he’s seen the industry culture has improved. With this award for lifetime achievement in music education, OffBeat magazine recognized Snyder’s impact.