Blue Hawk Records making waves in music

Staff Writer

WEST LONG BRANCH — Monmouth University’s Blue Hawk Records started as an idea by some unhappy students and a new professor willing to think outside the box last spring, and has quickly become a growing attraction on campus.

The student-run record label, which released its second CD in December, is a hands-on approach to teaching students multiple areas of the record industry while promoting the talent of student-artists.

“It’s like having our own business,” said Kate Latkovich, a sophomore majoring in music with a concentration in the music industry. “I think it’s valuable to be able to walk away from this experience and to say that I started a record label with a group of my peers.”

Latkovich said participating in a student record label has been more productive than what the course taught previously.

“Music majors have to take Applied Music Industry 1, 2 and 3, but most of the students were unhappy because we had to look up old musicians and watch videos. It wasn’t productive,” she said.

Then, Joseph Rapolla, a first-time professor, came to Monmouth University to chair the Music and Theater Arts Department with plans to update the Music Industry program.

“There was an opportunity to update [the program] to reflect more of what’s going on in the business now, while also creating some links to the industry,” Rapolla said.

The plan, he said, is to develop the program into a more comprehensive Music and Entertainment Media Industry program, geared to staying ahead of the industry’s evolution as music, media and technology converge.

“There are many areas of the industry overall and many opportunities for creative people who have a grasp of the current issues surrounding the business,” he said.

As part of the class, the students are assigned real record label positions, including talent scout, social media, artist promotion and development, artwork, live music, record release, artwork, packaging, and sales and marketing.

According to Latkovich, at the beginning of the semester, artists are asked to submit their music, after which the students listen to the submissions and choose the artists for the album.

From there, the label helps the chosen artists develop their music and schedules time in the studio. The final step involves creating the actual CD, with the help of, Asbury Park.

The CDs are then sold at the Monmouth University bookstore, at local businesses and at the CD release party.

Latkovich said the class held its first CD release in May, featuring four student artists.

The label was able to expand the CD to feature six artists — Guy Battaglia, Bryan Haring, Kristi-Ann Hunt, Natalie Zeller, Sarah Gulbin and James Porricelli — by raising $520 through a fundraising campaign on

With the success of the class last spring, the label has also expanded in the Blue Hawk Music Group, which consists of Blue Hawk Records and The Music Alliance, a club that focuses on artist development, street marketing and live events.

“The two [groups] work in concert to advance the understanding of the music and entertainment business to student artists and industry majors, many of whom are both,” Rapolla said. “Together they do everything as described in the class and go beyond to create partnerships, resources and outreach for the program and university.”

In addition, Blue Hawk Records uses the Monmouth University radio station as another avenue for promotion with the Blue Hawk radio show, which airs Wednesdays from 10 p.m. to midnight.

Latkovich said the success of the label has given some positive attention to the music department.

“We have a great music program, but it doesn’t get a lot of recognition. It’s a small department, but it has been growing every year. This has given it a lot of attention,” Latkovich said. “Now they are making it a major part of student orientation, tours and things for prospective students to get more people interested in the music program.”

Latkovich said the goal is to continue to help artists develop and prepare for careers in the music industry, eventually expanding beyond the Monmouth campus.

“Every semester, we are setting higher goals,” she said. “Hopefully in future semesters, students in the class can have multiple events or can reach out to artists from other universities or other places. I think it will get more intense and more detailed now that we have the basic foundation.”