When the Red Bull Music Academy New York closed its doors at the end of May, two Irish musicians were among the 62 participants left on the outside. Orlando Peter Desmond Fitzgerald who goes by the catchier but less grand name Orquesta and Emma Bedford who plays under QuietDust spent May in the purpose-built complex, filled with instruments, studios and an amphitheater for lecturers such as Brian Eno, Girogio Moroder, Van Dyke Parks and more in a space which Emma calls ‘Willy Wonka’s music factory’.
Celebrating its 15th year with its most ambitious set up yet, the RBMA HQ in Manhattan’s Chelsea district played home to two fortnight long terms of private workshops with powerhouses like Eno, Moroder, LCD Soundsystem and DFA Records head honcho James Murphy, Erykah Badu and more dispensing advice in a series of lectures.
In the words of co-founder Many Ameria, the academy aims to put you in a place where “you’re equipped to find out how badly you really want it, because there is really not a lot of incentive to be a musician in this world anymore so it has to come from within you.”
That inspiration to see if you’ve got what it takes could then be directed towards the participant's own project in the RBMA HQ studios which allowed for another of the Academy’s big pushes: collaboration. Sharing the studio building allowed the entrants to work with each other in a practical way or just get a different perspective on the process of making music by interacting with people who otherwise wouldn’t be available.
This part of the journey is something both Emma and Orlando took advantage of and something Many Ameria stresses as a long lasting benefit of participating in RBMA. “Through the process of going through these two weeks, they will see what surrounds them, they will expand their musical vocabulary by being exposed to so many people who have changed the face of music in the last three or four decades and by knowing people around the globe who are now friends of theirs,” he says.
Now back in Ireland both Emma and Orlando see their time with the RBMA as a starting point in their musical lives, not a destination with Orlando putting it perfectly, “it’s definitely disappointing that this is over... but there’s new exciting things about to happen as well. Don’t look back because that’s not where you’re going.”