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Loyola at a Glance

New film, pop music degrees with a New Orleans twist target today's students

October 15, 2014

At a film class at Loyola University New Orleans, Houston native and senior Donna Ferrell had one of those “wake-up call moments” as she calls them. She realized she had a serious interest in filmmaking, particularly documentaries. And in a city like New Orleans, where film production is booming, she knew that “Hollywood South” was just the place to jumpstart her career. That’s why Loyola is launching a newly approved Bachelor of Fine Arts in Digital Filmmaking degree—the only such program of its kind in the region—to cater to increased student demand and to prepare young filmmakers like Ferrell for careers in the business of film.

Drawing even more on the strengths of New Orleans, Loyola is also simultaneously launching a newly approved Bachelor of Science in Popular and Commercial Music degree—a program that takes advantage of the city’s musical roots, which run deep.

“Music has always been part of the heritage of the Crescent City, and now film is also seeing incredible momentum in New Orleans and Louisiana thanks to state tax credits for film producers,” said Loyola’s provost Marc K. Manganaro, Ph.D. “These two new programs are directly in line with how Loyola is focusing on emphasizing the educational benefits of the cultures and traditions of New Orleans in its new strategic plan.”

“These new degree programs take advantage of New Orleans’ strengths. It’s a city of arts and culture; it’s an environment of creativity and one of the top filmmaking places in the country,” said John Snyder, J.D., chair of the Music Industry Studies Department. “We champion the creative professions at Loyola and we promote creative expression in our students. Creative industries account for a third of our Gross Domestic Product, and it is a growing sector of the economy.”

The two new programs, which won official approval from Loyola’s Board of Trustees last week, will officially launch in August 2015 for the next fall semester. The Digital Filmmaking program will combine instruction in the core phases of digital filmmaking, screenwriting, acting and directing for the screen, along with a concentrated emphasis in practical business studies.

For students like Ferrell, these types of classes—which she is now taking on a contract basis before the new 123-credit hour Digital Filmmaking degree is officially offered next year—teach the essential hands-on skills she needs to succeed in the film field post-graduation. Those skills, coupled with the multiple film opportunities in New Orleans, offer unbeatable chances for those trying to get their foot in the door, according to Ferrell.

“The opportunities here in New Orleans are endless because it is such a fresh, new film industry here. You’re not just a number here. In Los Angeles, I might have been another number on a movie set,” Ferrell said. “Sure people can make it in Los Angeles, but there’s a community here in New Orleans, the same as Loyola in the sense that people really want to get to know who you are and invite you to be a part of the team.”

Because of her experience at Loyola, particularly in professor Jim Gabour’s classes, Ferrell secured internships in New Orleans as well as film production firms in Los Angeles.

Freshman Y’Marii Gatson is also looking forward to Loyola’s new 124-credit hour Popular and Commercial Music degree. A pop/R&B singer and pianist since the age of 4, the Columbus, Ohio native wants to be a performer. “The live music scene drew me to New Orleans and to Loyola,” she said.

But Gatson knows that the music business can be a tricky one, and it’s not simply about recording a song. She said Loyola “opens your eyes to what to expect when you are trying to make it in the industry at a professional level.” The new Popular and Commercial Music degree program will integrate advanced performance skills with current best practices in music business and technology, drawing heavily on entrepreneurial skills every artist needs.

“Every artist is a small business in the making—they create jobs,” Snyder said. “Our strong music business component will make this a unique opportunity for music students to develop their musical performance skills alongside their music business skills in the city that gave birth to American popular music.”

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Loyola at a Glance is written and distributed for the faculty, staff, students and friends of Loyola University New Orleans. It is published by the Office of Public Affairs, Greenville Hall, Box 909, 7214 St. Charles Avenue, New Orleans, LA 70118. (504) 861-5888.

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