The Academy at the Lodge Grows Indy’s Music Talent
The Academy at Lodge Studios Offers an Alternative Path to Music Careers
The Lodge Studios is a little-known gem located in the Martindale-Brightwood neighborhood on the Near Northeast side of Indianapolis. This former Masonic Lodge has been transformed into three music studios – one small, one mid-size, and one large. Famous names such as Arianna Grande, John Legend, and Mac Miller as well as local institutions such as the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra have used this space for recording in the past few years. A new initiative hosts small classes for prospective musicians, producers, and industry related individuals at the newly established Lodge Academy.
The building is beautiful, incorporating the history of the Masonic Lodge architecture with the modern equipment of state of the art music production. Our host and tour guide, Dan Giffin, said that he is all about building community among local artists and musicians, and the Academy at the Lodge has been a perfect platform for that to happen.
The Lodge/Academy hosts monthly “music-producer collectives,” which Dan refers to as “musical chairs,” which open up studios C and B for those who have working knowledge of Ableton Live, a fast growing music production software. Local producers are invited to collaborate on a single piece. This is a great way for local musicians to meet each other and build community while also collaboratively producing a unique piece of music.
The Academy at the Lodge began in late summer of 2016 as a way to introduce musicians to each other and get them trained with versatile Ableton Live software that instructor Dan Giffin champions. Dan sees the Academy as complimentary to more traditional university programs – they aren’t in direct competition, because they teach different skill sets. A traditional program often covers music theory and classical composition, while the Academy focuses on modern music production and live performance using Ableton Live.
Dan sees the Academy as unique in that it offers in-person training, whereas most users of production software attempt to learn it through online courses or YouTube tutorials. The Academy at the Lodge has eight stations equipped with Mac computers and Ableton Live software for students to come in, work together, and get hands-on experience with a teacher in the classroom. They also have the added benefit of recording in professional studios at the Lodge. In addition, graduating students are invited to perform live at the Irving Theater for a special graduation celebration. Double Negative, a local visual/technological arts company specializing in 3D projection, art installations, and stage lighting, partners with the Academy’s graduating students and the Irving Theater to help the students put on a professional quality show and a recording they can add to their portfolios.
Dan recognizes that not all people can afford his class, or have the time to dedicate to it when new classes start up. Therefore, Dan plans to start a website in which producers, instructors, and prospective students can get and stay connected, learn from each other, and be a part of an online community that mitigates financial, place, and time constraints.
Originally from a small town in Ohio, Dan comes to Indianapolis via New York City. In New York, he learned about Ableton Live and studied under an experienced producer to master the software. He wanted to share that experience with other aspiring musicians, but realized that he could reach more people in a much larger space for much less money in a different city away from New York. Many of his friends happened to be in Indianapolis, so he left the Big Apple for the Circle City.
He came to Indy at a fortuitous time – the Lodge was looking to start teaching people in the community, and Dan was looking to be that teacher. They began their relationship in early summer of 2016 and started the Academy at the Lodge in late summer of 2016. Each session of classes can seat eight students at a time, and last year 22 were able to make it through the program. Dan said the easiest thing about starting the Academy was making friends. “I’ve made a lot of friends in this class and we’ve had a lot of fun. The only people who are taking the class are really passionate about music. It’s not like you have to go into your Algebra II class that you’re forced to go to in high school even though you hate math, it’s not like that here. People are here who want to be here and they’re really passionate about it and that makes it fun.”
He’s been surprised by how much talent has gone through the class. “One student came through here never producing music in his life, never made a beat in his life, and now he’s making super dope music, he’s making really cool stuff. I’m just surprised the kind of music people end up making. [One student from India] is 17 and he’s making the most unique hip hop with a little bit of indie pop with traditional Indian music mixed in with it, it’s really unique stuff. And he sings and he’s a vocalist and I’m stoked to see where he goes.”
The Academy at the Lodge accepts students from all different skill levels. This is great for beginners who can’t afford to take prerequisite classes or lessons, but want the same experience as seasoned musicians. However, it does present a challenge to Dan, the instructor – “Being able to teach everybody at different experience levels in the same class has been one of the hardest things. And I’ve adjusted the curriculum and the way I teach in every single class. My dad was a teacher and his dad was a teacher, so it’s in my gene pool, like I was destined to be whether I wanted to or not… Everybody has different interests and needs with producing music.”
Running the Academy took a fair amount of personal work on Dan’s part. He highlights the importance of understanding your own brand, no matter what you’re doing in life. “That’s something I learned from marketing that I’ve really transitioned over with. Whether you consider yourself an artist or not, you’re constantly having to market yourself to people. We’re constantly branding ourselves in every way with the people we meet. Being really intentional about how you want to come across to people and how you build your own name is something I’ve learned in the transition from going from a degree in marketing to being a musician full time.”
The Academy at the Lodge is a unique program in Indianapolis located in the Martindale-Brightwood neighborhood on the Near Eastside. The program offers an alternative pathway to a career in the music production field. Along with equipping students with real skills that they can use to produce their own work, the program also introduces the participants to other musicians in the field and builds the Indianapolis music community. Events like Musical Chairs and the Academy graduation shows at the Irving Theater help create a community of musicians in Indianapolis in which beginners and experienced musicians can support each other and make friendships.
If you’re interested in learning more about this program, or the Lodge Studios in general, visit their website