By Ryan Gallagher | Photos by Rachel Disipio
WEST LONG BRANCH – Blue Hawk Records is a record label created by Monmouth University faculty and students for the musically inclined at MU. Last week the label released its 10th studio EP since Blue Hawks’ conception in 2013. Appropriately named, “Hang Ten” was released for sale on April 19.
Recording an album each semester is no small feat. However, this was Joe Rapolla’s vision for the students when he came back to Monmouth University in 2013.
Rapolla, a long-time musician in his own right, is an Oceanport native and Monmouth alumnus who rejoined the university as a professor, adviser to the label, and chair of the university’s music department.
“I came to class one day and said ‘I’ve got an idea. Let’s start a record label.’ [Students’] eyes widened and jaws dropped and we kinda just jumped right into it,” said Rapolla.
Rapolla works with the university to help fund these projects as well.
“MU sets aside some funds for lab work and they also set funds aside for facilities and for student projects, so we tap into that. We do this kind of on a shoestring budget and that’s part of the beauty of it actually. It forces the students to innovate, to be creative and to be economical and efficient while still getting the project done,” said Rapolla.
Now that the label is up and running, Rapolla has passed the leadership baton to his students. To kick off the 10th EP correctly, Monmouth music students organized a release concer t on the university’s Residential Quad.
“The class sets up studio time at Lakehouse (Studio in Asbur y Park) and ever ything is mastered and mixed there,” said Olivia Rohlfs, a junior music industry major and general manager for “Hang Ten.” “We are in charge of the release show and all the marketing. We gathered gift card donations, we have students running the sound, and we had to get the stage delivered,” she explained. “Ever ything you see here is student-run.”
Rohlfs also plays ukulele for the band The Nooks, whose song “Arno” is featured on “Hang Ten.” The Nooks were one of five artists who performed on April 19.
When the event kicked off at 2:45 p.m., students, professors and faculty members flooded the quad. The viewers were treated to cake – both cupcake and standard forms – stick-on tattoos, gift card raffle opportunities and, of course, some great homegrown sounds.
CD copies of “Hang Ten” were also available for purchase for $5 at the concession stand.
“It’s gonna be on every digital platform,” said 20-year-old, sophomore and Blue Hawk Records’ vice president Kelli Misenheimer. “The CDs are on Amazon and can be ordered online or bought at Woods’ Theatre. Anywhere you can buy music, usually you can get the EP.”
Blue Hawk Records initially printed 100 CDs, however the label plans to complete another run after selling out.
“Each semester we produce an EP and that’s on a physical CD and online,” said Rapolla. “We release the EP internationally as well, and have sales in 13 countries.”
Viewers at the release concert could feel the passion emanating from the student performers and faculty members. All smiles, concertgoers swayed with the beat and only stopped to buy the CDs by the handful.
“Every year, we combine the two semesters into a vinyl record,” said Rapolla. “At the end of 2017 in December, there will be a vinyl to commemorate the two releases for the year.”
The concert ran for about two hours and featured the five student acts from “Hang Ten:” Nicolette Pezza, The Nooks, Antonio Gonzales, Society Hill and Incolor.
Although the EP has been recorded and released, Blue Hawk Records’ projects are never-ending. The label has a partnership with Lakehouse Recording Studio in Asbury Park and will soon be expanding this relationship.
“[Lakehouse] bought the building next door to them and MU is taking the second floor,” said Rapolla, “It’s actually the first ever undergraduate off-campus facility that MU has ever had.”
“There are practice rooms, writing rooms to collaborate with songwriters. It’s gonna be so great,” said Rohlfs. “I kinda feel bad for the people who are graduating.”
This article was first published in the April 27-May 4, 2017 print edition of The Two River Times.
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