Monday, June 17, 2013

Brian Choper: Much More Than a Musician

 Courtesy of Brian Choper

Being an accomplished drummer and percussionist who can jump across genres from rock and roll to jazz to Klezmer to swing, might be enough for a lot of people — but not Brian Choper. In addition to being a successful performer in his own right, he’s dedicated his life to helping up-and-coming artists realize their potential and fulfill their dreams.

Perhaps that’s not surprising considering that Brian has been playing music since he was just three years old. That’s when, as a kid growing up Washington, D.C., he picked up a violin. Although he didn’t know then that he’d make it his life’s work, everything changed when he went to his brother’s junior high school dance.

As he recounted in a recent exclusive interview, “I saw the band playing on the stage. I saw the drummer and I said, ‘That’s what I want to do.’ I was captivated by it.” Since his parents were classical and opera buffs, nine-year-old Brian had to find a way to break the news about his career choice. Even though they tried to dissuade him, he “won the battle.”

After graduating at the top of his music class from Eleanor Roosevelt High School in Greenbelt, Maryland, he continued his studies and earned a degree in music and business. He furthered his education by working under the tutelage of some of the greats including George Huttlin and Buddy Rich.

And, of course, he played. Brian’s gigs ranged from Prince George’s Philharmonic to the Capital Klezmers to the Nexus Rock Band. More recently he became Executive Producer of the T&L Rock Band and collaborated with Lemoyne Alexander from Maroon 5. He talked about the experience, “His earlier stuff with other bands was more classic rock and now he’s getting more into pop. And when I worked with him, I told him that I wanted to have a mixture.”

All roads lead back to Brian’s music agency and artist consultancy company Washington’s Entertainment Connection. There they focus on building up acts like St8OfGrace. They also foster local artists like singer-songwriter Damon Hamilton. As Brian explained, “He comes up with these incredible lyrics and melodies.”

Regardless of the genre or level an artist is at, Brian noted, “My agency is one that really works very hard to keep the music real, meaning we’re not using sequencing. We rarely use it. And we’re rehearsing so that the musicians are not just playing basic charts, which takes it already a step above most bands out there.”

So it makes sense that Brian would found his own label, Thunder Records. He remarked, “I did that so that we could be managing the same bands and coaching the same bands that we are selling… We have an agency and a record label all under one roof so that as we manage these bands and show them how to be in the league that we want them to be in, we also have the agency to promote them, so that we’re not having to build the band up and then find representation for them.”

While not everyone will get signed by Brian’s agency or label, he still offers an easily accessible way to share his knowledge. Anyone can pick up a copy of his  Entertainment Connection Career Guidebook, which he described as “a book that spells out those things that I think are obvious but clearly people don’t think they’re obvious. How do you manage a band? How do you work a band so that they stay together? How do you keep them motivated? How do you book them in clubs?”

These are all concepts that Brian has pondered in great detail over the years. But it’s become very clear to him, what the greatest obstacle that most acts have to overcome is. "The hardest thing that we work towards in this agency is not finding the work and is not making contact with people who want to hire the bands. It’s actually getting these artists to understand what their potential is and what they should be doing in the business. We have a lot of artists who are content playing the clubs three days a week or four days a week and making 75 bucks or $125, which pays the bills but they’re never going to go anywhere with it. And musicians have to be able to see the vision of what they can do with what they know.”

Luckily Brian’s there to show them. To find out more about Washington’s Entertainment Connection and Thunder Records, visit Brian’s official website.

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