The one thing that became evident to Christine is that there are plenty of traditional music, theatre, and dance schools, but there is really no place to go if a young or adult student wants to learn the fundamentals of today’s popular music. Christine was gifted with a powerful, soulful voice along with a resolute, entrepreneurial spirit that earned her a vocal scholarship at the prestigious Berklee College of Music in Boston. Four years of studying Music Business and Vocal Performance at Berklee had revealed the musical complexities of performing genres like pop, rock, R&B, country, a capella, musical theatre, and gospel. She had been taught classical and pop vocal technique, stage presence and movement, song choice and preparation, background vocal harmonies, improvisation, microphone technique, and live performance preparation by some of the most renowned professional vocalists and professors at Berklee and throughout the New York metro area. Christine endeavors to create what never existed when she was a young, aspiring singer in this area, nor is available anywhere in the region. She knows the time has come for a trendy, mainstream performing arts school that encourages the personal and professional development for pop music singers, musicians, dancers, and hip-hop artists. “I envision The Pop Music Academy to be a place where students can have fun and be inspired to be fierce and fearless in their performances and their everyday lives,” says Christine.
The decision to proceed with opening the studio was not an easy one when fate surprised Christine with some unexpected, great news. “The day I signed the lease for the space, Columbia Records/Sony Music Entertainment contacted me to meet with the VP and Senior VP of marketing of Jive Records for a position,” says Christine. Had they called just two weeks before, The Pop Music Academy may never have been born. If nothing else, the calls reassured her that she had the potential and credentials to pursue her own venture. Christine would receive a total of seven interviews with some very intriguing job offers at Sony Music Entertainment since working in the Digital Marketing department for the elite Columbia Records Big Red Program in Manhattan last summer. “After completing my term with them, I anxiously awaited a job offer, but they were restructuring departments and put a hold on hiring. A month later when I took a job as an executive assistant and pop music vocal coach at a local conservatory, they called for three interviews and offered me a job,” she explains. Christine also received offers from two other music schools serving Fairfield and Westchester counties. Showing good faith and a strong work ethic, she declined the positions and kept her commitment to work the full semester at the conservatory. She would soon discover that the conservatory could not provide the financial security she had hoped for and was forced to resign after completing one semester.
Christine again contacted Columbia Records, but with the holidays approaching, they were slow to respond. Feeling anxious to start earning income, she contemplated the possibility and challenges of investing in her own business. She turned to her parents, Ron and Barbara Occhino, who have been business owners in Stamford for over 30 years, for advice and direction. It was a mass meeting of the minds to analyze the feasibility, risks, and earning potential of starting a small business in this down economy. The Occhinos have run Vertex Marketing Communications and the High Ridge Driving School and helped many start-ups, so they were versed in the pitfalls and logistics of launching a new business.
While at Columbia Records/Sony Music Entertainment, Christine had the privilege of personally meeting with the key staff and heads of A&R, marketing, digital media, human resources and observing the inner workings of these major record labels. She had weekly teleconference think tank meetings with the LA offices, worked on marketing new artists and more well known artists like Beyonce, Adele, and J.Cole, and concluded her experience by presenting her digital marketing application concept to the entire Columbia/Sony organization, with the CEOs in the front row. Christine is a professional member of ASCAP Songwriting & Publishing and The Recording Academy (NY Chapter). While in Boston, she worked as an Artist Associate for "Ask Darcie" Music Business Consulting where she worked on high-profile client projects. She also held a position as Co-Editor and Director of Business Affairs & Promotions at the Berklee Groove, the on-campus student news service, where she organized several public events and music festivals with local businesses. Christine worked with other companies in marketing and promotions jobs and headlined as a singer in local venues around the city. A singer, actor, model and dancer, Christine has appeared on TV, videos, print ads, performed at fundraisers, nightclubs, concerts, and acted in theatre and film. In addition to running The Pop Music Academy, Christine is currently recording and co-writing pop, hip-hop and R&B originals with producers and songwriters as well as working as a session vocalist and performing with live bands.
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The Pop Music Academy in Stamford, CT, offers private lessons, both in studio or off-site, as well as group vocal performance, instrument lessons, dance classes, workshops, artist development, and music business consulting.