Create the next Spotify: Israeli music school teaches programming

As the concept of innovation becomes increasingly prominent in Israel’s growing high-tech sector, it is also finding its way into other – less expected – areas, creating previously unexplored opportunities. One of those areas is the music industry.

The innovation lab at Ramat Hasharon’s prestigious Rimon School of Music may seem counterintuitive at first: what do music – an art form – and a lab, usually related to scientific research, have in common? The answer: The constant need for innovation in a rapidly changing world.

Nava Swersky Sofer, Rimon Innovation Program Manager, understands the importance of adaptation. As a former entrepreneur, she has witnessed first-hand the power of innovation and gender mainstreaming. Sofer joined the Herzliya Interdisciplinary Center five years ago and created a program called IDC Beyond, aimed at connecting people from different professional backgrounds and coming up with ideas that would meet the challenges of the 21st century.

Then, a year ago, she received an offer from Rimon and agreed to lead the school’s innovation program, which had been in place the year before.

“The program has two main pillars,” she says. “The first is innovation and entrepreneurship … starting with an introduction to entrepreneurship in the first year. In the second year, students begin to attend what Sofer calls a “start-up lab”, learning what is involved in creating a start-up. The third year of the program, which has not yet started, will allow students to focus more on developing their personal projects while bringing them to life using the second pillar of the program.

That mainstay is technology and programming, says Sofer, noting that one of the teachers is a programmer and musician who works at Waves Audio, “the world’s largest selection of professional-grade audio plugins,” according to the website. of the society.

Students can choose to combine the Innovation Program with just about any other field of study offered at Rimon, meaning it allows ambitious people to further develop their interests, while finding new and unexplored ways. to implement them.

Starting from a basic introductory course in the first year, students eventually learn advanced programming and are then encouraged to apply what they have learned to their own projects. And although this is done in a relatively short time, it provides them with a varied and practical toolkit.

“Look, we’re not going to turn our students into programmers, but we’re going to give them an understanding of another language,” says Sofer. “And I’m not just talking about different programming languages, but the language of the future. “

She is not wrong. Technology, whether we like it or not, is becoming an integral part of how we experience reality. In fact, it won’t be an exaggeration to say that many people today have become completely dependent on their technological utilities and would likely close their doors without them.

“A lot of music today is tech related… you have to at least be able to understand what’s going on… to produce your own music,” says Sofer.

And his enthusiastic students seem to agree, pointing out the difficulty of self-promotion in today’s competitive world. “The connection between music and technology takes on real meaning in a world where every musician is independent,” says Roy Belkin, a student in Rimon’s innovation program.

Belkin says he had no programming knowledge before starting the program, but felt the need to promote his ideas in a practical way, “instead of just sitting in my room and playing guitar.” . Today, after two years of study, he is the proud co-founder of an app called Artery, which aims to become the “Airbnb of music concerts” and make the process of connecting musicians and places more easy and cheaper for all involved.

Artery is a good example of how innovation is never just technological in nature. This should include networking and creating opportunities rather than waiting for them to magically appear. To this end, Sofer ensures that students meet industry leaders and visit companies or hear from successful musicians, all with the goal of providing the class with a thorough understanding of what it means to start a start-up. up.

And although this understanding has been implemented in major music schools around the world in recent years, it still seems that innovation in music is quite late compared to other fields. This is especially true in Israel, where although leading the revolution in our small country, Rimon lags behind other leading musical institutions in this field such as the Berklee College of Music in Boston and the Florida Music Program. State University.

“The artists, the musicians, are very focused on their own art form,” says Sofer when asked why it has taken so long for innovation and music to reach formal education programs. “It takes new kinds of meeting new kinds of people to really open their minds to what’s available out there.”

But that is changing, and quickly. Spotify is a prime example. It allows users an accessible database of tens of millions of songs, which until a few years ago seemed imaginary. More than that, the app includes artificial intelligence models that can identify musical preferences and suggest new songs to users accordingly – a technological miracle in itself that did not exist a few years ago on such a large scale. .

Israeli musicians are now rushing to fill the void and hopefully be the next big entrepreneurs in their fields. And Sofer is certain that “the best is yet to come”.

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