At the time, teaching “seemed like the craziest thing I could do,” punk musician Martin Atkins says, describing his first class after years of playing with Public Image Limited, Nine Inch Nails, Ministry, and countless other influential acts. A touring artist and parent, Atkins readied himself to teach by applying to education the same DIY principles that served him throughout his musical career. Immersing students in the strategies, thrills, and entrepreneurial challenges of the music business, he wrote his bestselling industry guide Tour:Smart for his first class.
Ten years later, Martin Atkins brings his expertise and enthusiasm to Self-Released: Songwriting & Production for the Digital Marketplace, a Center for Talent Development (CTD) Summer course for high school students. In Self-Released, student musicians and songwriters gather at Chicago’s 2112 incubator space, among screen-printed concert posters and studio equipment, to learn from Atkins’s experience while exploring their interests and taking creative risks. “Be prepared to be challenged,” Atkins advises prospective students. Testing preconceptions and investigating the “interconnectedness of music,” such as the relationship between copyright and music history, will echo throughout the class. Helmed by an instructor who eagerly discusses artists from Woody Guthrie to The Smiths, and makes his own mashups of James Brown and Led Zeppelin, students will be encouraged to do the unexpected and ask smart questions of the changing music business.
Martin Atkins thinks of “education as the next punk rock,” and punk rock is hard work. No stranger to young musicianship or self-directed projects, Atkins began playing in bands at age 11, has toured extensively since he was a teenager, and did up to 30 promotional events per week to support Tour:Smart, building a public speaking career along the way. Intellectual curiosity and focused achievement are hallmarks of advanced students, and in Self-Released, students may learn to embrace the unknown and “surf on chaos” with a punk professional, as well.