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LAUNCH Music Festival provides a unique opportunity for York College students

April 05, 2019
Music Industry student works board at the LAUNCH Music Festival.

For one weekend every year, LAUNCH Music Conference and Festival transforms Lancaster, Pennsylvania, into the music industry hub of the country.

That weekend is Nick Comito’s Super Bowl.

For months, even years, he and his classmates at York College of Pennsylvania prepare for that weekend. They hype it on social media, wear branded T-shirts, and strategize about the big picture and the minutiae.

The pressure is daunting. The excitement is palpable.

“LAUNCH is the pinnacle of the music industry experience at York College,” Nick says.

Nick and his classmates run two festival stages, attend panels and network with top industry professionals from across the country — what’s not to love for a Music Industry student at York College?

Working under pressure

Nick has been part of running the York College stage at LAUNCH for two years now. He and his fellow Music Industry students are in charge of every aspect of that stage. They even build it. They run the cable and the lights, get bands on and off stage, coordinate with LAUNCH operators and the police, and then there’s the sound mixing and all the other things that come along with running a show.

It’s a lot.

Now a senior, Nick mostly helps the underclassmen navigate the weekend. So, he’s quite familiar with the unmistakable look of panic that spreads across their faces when something’s amiss.

“Anything and everything can go right or wrong at live sound events, and LAUNCH is no exception,” Nick says.

The wind could pick up and start blowing banners around. The skies could open up into a downpour. The band could get stuck in traffic and show up late. Oh, and while you’re dealing with those problems, a huge crowd of people will be there staring at you.

That’s when their training from York College kicks in. The students work together, they problem-solve, and they adapt.

“It’s really a cool experience to help the younger students understand how to manage a stage and how to work under that pressure and keep their cool,” Nick says.

It’s that real-world application of skills they’ve learned in the classroom that makes LAUNCH such a great experience, says Dr. Shawn Young, director for Music Industry Studies at York College.

“Students see firsthand that, to put on a show, it’s not as easy as going in and setting up,” he says. “It’s a great opportunity for hands-on learning.”

A networking mecca

LAUNCH Music Conference and Festival isn’t just about running a big stage, though. When they’re not working, students attend panels and workshops and hear from industry professionals about technology, publishing, recording, touring, songwriting, and copyrights.

“They’re hearing from professionals in the industry about what those industries look like,” Dr. Young says.

It helps students zero in on what they might want to pursue further for a career. And it gets them out of their comfort zone and away from the college bubble.

Being surrounded by people who share his passion for music makes LAUNCH an exhilarating weekend for Nick. And it’s also given him contacts for possible future jobs.

It’s a resume builder.

“People who would hire them want to see that they were already working in the industry while they were at college,” Dr. Young says.

Running the stage at this festival provides that experience.

A whirlwind weekend

By the end of the weekend, Nick and his classmates are exhausted.

“You can’t move a muscle by the end of the day,” he says.

The experience helps him and his classmates to become more confident in their skills.

“It’s exciting, it’s challenging, it’s overwhelming, yes,” Dr. Young says, “but it’s extremely valuable.”

And even with that stress, just like the Super Bowl, it’s a lot of fun.

“The pressure, the anxiety, the fast-paced speed of LAUNCH absolutely has prepared me,” Nick says. “It’s really the highlight of the year every single year.”

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