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Jesse Boykins III plays at the Red Bull

Jesse Boykins III plays at the Red Bull Studio in Los Angeles Credit: Jesse Boykins III plays at the Red Bull Studio in Los Angeles

A little more than a week before the public kickoff of the Red Bull Music Academy, New York-based producer Nick Hook (Academy attendee, 2011) is helping mix the new release from Jesse Boykins III (2011 as well).

Boykins recently contributed vocals on a song on the new album by L.A. beatmaker TOKiMONSTA (2010), who runs in the same circles as producer-of-the-moment Flying Lotus (2006).

Not all of these connections were forged at the Red Bull Music Academy, but it’s no coincidence that so many former participants have found their way into musical collaborations.

From the outside, the Academy is a mixture of DJ nights, lectures and one-of-a-kind live shows, a citywide celebration of the cutting edge of music. But when the late nights turn into early mornings, the most important parts of the program will happen in bedroom studios and lecture rooms in the new Red Bull studio facility in Chelsea, where 62 musicians will learn from musical trailblazers and collaborate with peers from around the world.

“The idea was to create something that would be supporting, inspiring and interesting throughout the musical spectrum,” says Many Ameri, one of the Academy’s founders.

International bonds
The diversity of the Academy has grown greatly since the first class in 1998. The applicant pool included artists from 90 nations for this year, with a wide range of genres and countries represented.

“Meeting somebody from Germany who loves Fleetwood Mac as much as I do,” Boykins says, “or meeting somebody from China who is up on Prince demos. ... Finding these connections, that’s what I really appreciated about the academy.”

Ameri adds, “We try and find people who are already really good at what they’re doing [and] expand their musical vocabulary.”

Once chosen, the artists are split into two groups, each getting their own two-week stints at the academy. They attend lectures given by guests like Bootsy Collins and Erykah Badu, and in the afternoon, they hit the studios, creating new music with fellow Academy members. The evenings are dedicated to shows — both attending and playing.

The Academy ends up creating bonds akin to a summer camp. The goal is to create a safe place for the next generation of musicians. Now, that safe place comes to New York for the first time since 2001, when 9/11 caused the Academy’s second two-week session to be moved to London.

“Our energy is unparalleled,” Hook said of the city. “We go all night. ... I feel like the mayor. I take pride in ... showing people around.”

Red Bull Music Academy New York 2013 runs from Sunday through May 31. For full venue and ticket information, go to

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