Oklahoma is getting its own school of rock. The University of Central Oklahoma will open the first authorized U.S. version of Britain’s prestigious Academy of Contemporary Music on the fourth floor of Bricktown’s Oklahoma Hardware Building in the fall of 2009. Scott Booker, manager of the internationally known Oklahoma City-based alternative rock band the Flaming Lips, will serve as the school’s executive director. "This is perhaps as creative and exciting a venture as I’ve ever been involved with in my experience in higher ed,” said UCO President W. Roger Webb. The partnership with Britain’s award-winning academy will enable UCO to offer a range of hands-on learning experiences in the performance, production and business sides of the music industry. Initially the school will be funded through tuition, which will be higher than normal tuition fees, pending approval by the state board of regents, Webb said. Sponsorships from music industry businesses, such as musical equipment manufacturers, are expected to lend additional support in the future, the UCO president said. Booker, who was instrumental in bringing British ACM officials and UCO administrators together, said the school would be a boon not only to aspiring music professionals, but the growing Oklahoma music scene as well. "I’ve always been incredibly supportive of trying to do what I can for the music industry here,” said Booker, himself a UCO graduate and owner of Hellfire Enterprises, which manages the Lips and several other national and international acts. "I think it’s good for the state to be seen as internationally minded,” he said.
UCO tops the chartBritish ACM National Business Manager Steve Lavington said other universities were considered for a U.S. partnership, but none were "as forward-thinking as UCO. We need forward-thinking people to adopt this model because it is a little bit out of the norm.” "We work very closely with record companies, publishers, artist managers, etc., to place people into industry and have a very high success rate of doing that,” Lavington said. Webb expects the first class to accommodate 150 students who will be required to audition for acceptance. Scholarships will be available to qualifying applicants. Tryouts are expected to begin in January or February. The initial teaching staff will be made up of about 15 people with professional experience in the music business, he said. Upon the regents’ approval, the school would offer a two-year associate of applied science degree, the first such degree offered by UCO. The Bricktown space will be occupied on a lease basis. Contributing: Staff Writers Susan Simpson and Steve Lackmeyer.