My Job Is Preparing Students for Careers in the Music Industry

At Honolulu Community College, Eric Lagrimas draws on his experience in the music business to show how it’s done.
Name: Eric Lagrimas
Job: Music Producer, Assistant Professor of Music Business at Honolulu Community College


Beginnings: “My family is a musical family, so my father and his siblings, where he grew up in the Philippines, were all musicians.

“He passed it on to me and my two younger brothers, and as far back as fourth grade, I was playing music. I did the whole rigamarole of middle school band, jazz band, concert band, marching band.”


Long Journey: Lagrimas discovered the world of music production after receiving a brochure from the Berklee College of Music in Boston. After graduating in 1999 from Berklee with a degree in music business, he moved to New York City.

“My first job offer came from a recording studio and I was basically the lowest guy on the totem pole: rolling microphone cables, setting up things, sweeping up, making coffee.”

From there, he worked a variety of jobs, including operations assistant at a record label and selling advertising in Guitar Magazine.


Missed Opportunity: After a long application process, Lagrimas got a marketing position at Rolling Stone.

“My first day for that job was Sept. 12, 2001, a day after the 9/11 attacks. But the job never materialized due to the attacks.”


Return Home: “I moved back to Hawai‘i to try my luck and do my own thing because I realized there’s a music industry everywhere.”

In fall 2007, he saw an ad for the new MELE program at Honolulu Community College. The acronym stands for Music & Entertainment Learning Experience.

“I thought to myself, ‘Wow, I wish something like this were around when I was in high school. This is going to be a game changer because no one’s doing this.’ ”

Lagrimas was hired as the program’s first instructor.


Misconceptions: “MELE is the only program in Hawai‘i that prepares students for careers in music and entertainment. The misconception is, ‘Oh, you’re going to be a musician.’

“We specifically train students to be a part of the behind-the-scenes of the industry. So whenever you go to a concert, there’s someone doing live sound, someone doing all of the ticketing, someone doing stage management.”

MELE offers courses on music publishing, copyright and licensing, and on the recording and production of music using studio equipment.


Challenges: Being a music educator forces you to wear many hats, Lagrimas says. Students will often ask him for input on their songs or to come to their late-night music gigs.

“The program is almost like a miniature industry within the bigger industry – like a safe space where you’re not going to get chewed out that much. We’re also part coach, part counselor, part motivator.”


On the Job: “Every day is a good day, honestly. I mean, even for students who are having challenges with their work, I know they’re having challenges because they’re creatively talented.

“A big part of this industry is attitude. And if you maintain a bad attitude or you don’t follow deadlines, you’re going to have issues.”


Salary: “One of the benefits I have as a professor is a steady income.”

He says the average salary of an assistant professor can be around $78,000 a year. But the music industry itself is less stable.

“Prior to my job in academia, I made money from royalties on projects that I was a part of, and it’s hit or miss. If you got a song on the radio that’s some significant royalty payout.”


What It Takes: “There’s no substitute for experience. You have to go through it to know what you’re doing.”

To survive in entertainment, “you’re going to have to fall, you’re going to have to pick yourself back up multiple times.”




Categories: Arts & Culture, Careers