Photo by Kirsten Duffy
By Kirsten Duffy, JRN 111 Student
What do Snoop Dogg, Metallica, and Celine Dion have in common? Paul Murphy’s students.
Murphy, who teaches music production and technology at Moraine Valley, has trained students to work with big-name artists as well as Disney, HBO, Showtime, Xbox 360, Marvel, Lego Cube and Call of Duty.
Murphy’s job combines a lifelong passion for music with a passion for sharing opportunities with students. He loves teaching the technology aspects of producing but also loves the artistry.
“The song is everything,” he says, “but you’ve got to make it sound good for people who want to hear that ‘everything,’ though. I tell all my students, you’ve got to have the song and you’ve got to be able to execute the song with precision, and at the same time you’ve got to be a human being with soul and feelings.”
Murphy’s love for music production and love for teaching come through in his huge smile as he shows you around his studio in Orland Park. Past a hallway featuring photos of famous artists, there’s a room with soundproof walls and a giant soundboard. Across from this is the recording room with a microphone and headphones for the artist. A third room contains computers and a beat pad for his students to work on projects.
Murphy is passionate about the parallel roles of musician and producer, and sees production as part of the creative process.
“As a musician, when you’re practicing and you hear yourself, you realize what you need to improve on,” he says. “And if you’re engineering your own music, you’re motivated to be a better engineer and a better player. The producer writing the song with the artist is the most important thing. The artist might have the melody or a couple chord progression ideas, but then it all comes together because of the producer.”
Murphy loves creating opportunities for his students to put it all together and produce music for successful artists. He tells a story of the time well-known pop producer Travis Sales came into the studio to help Murphy produce for R&B singer Avant.
“I had one of my students, Gianni, engineering,” he says. “I told him to sit down and I said, ‘I’m going to introduce you slowly so Travis and Avant know that you’re capable.’ So I came up and said, ‘Hey, Gianni, I gotta hit the restroom. Could you track us in? And they looked at me like, ‘What the hell are you doing? This kid 19, and you’re going to let him engineer? And I said, ‘I’ll be right back,’ and I saw the flow was going real good.
“They were really impressed by Gianni. I’m like, ‘Hey Gianni, you’re killing it. I knew you would, like the way you did for Jerry King.’ In our business getting the credit is important so people know you work with so-and-so and now people trust you, but more importantly for me, I want the students to work with people who are exceptional because it rubs off.”
Murphy relates to his young students because he got his start in music when he was a kid, playing the drums. In high school, he was in a band that got onto Chicago radio stations and played gigs around the city.
“I know music more than anything because since I was 10, all I did was play drums,” he said.
The artist might have the melody or a couple chord progression ideas, but then it all comes together because of the producer.”Paul Murphy
After attending DePaul University, Murphy’s career took a detour.
“From DePaul I came out and wanted to be self-employed,” he said. “I did that for a year, and then I grabbed a few other jobs, and I wound up in banking of all things. I had super long hair, what am I going to do in banking?”
As a banker, he made a good salary, and his music career started to fall away as he got used to having the money to buy “houses, cars, vacations, new shoes.”
“And I’m thinking, ‘Alright, I’m going to take my income and reduce it down 75 percent and live in a one-bedroom apartment in Hollywood and go teach at Musicians Institute and be living the dream?”
The answer became clear to him: “That’s an easy one, I’m going.”
For nine years, Murphy taught at Musicians Institute, which put him in touch with guitarists and drummers he respected.
“I met great drummers–Steve Smith from Journey, Dennis Chambers, all these great players–and now I got to record them. I was just in awe because here are the people I really looked up to since I was a kid, and now they’re in the other room.”
Now, Murphy enjoys seeing others living out their dreams and doing what makes them happy.
“One of my students said this to me: ‘You’re a Jedi knight instructor,’ and I said humbly, ‘That’s exactly what I want to be. So when you finish and learn this you can make records for yourself and for others. You’ll feel the pride and fulfillment, and there’s nothing like that when you accomplish a dream.”
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