February 8, 2018
It didn’t take long for the new Commercial Music Program at the South Carolina School of the Arts at Anderson University to have its first success story.
In fact, its very first graduate is well on his way to a career in country music.
Ryan Lau, who finished his degree at AU’s Johnny Mann Center for Commercial Music in 2016, recently landed a gig as backup vocalist and guitar player for Tegan Marie, an emerging country artist with whom he performed last month on the Today Show.
Lau credits AU for helping him jumpstart his music career. He said it wasn’t just instrumental in honing his craft, but it also provided practical experience on how to break into an industry where it’s hard to get a foot in the door.
“Graduating with a commercial music degree from AU was very helpful in the sense that there were classes that helped me learn how to market myself in such a way to be hired and rehired,” Lau said. “I’ve noticed that there are a lot of great players (in Nashville), but many lack communication skills and don’t have the ability to represent themselves in a positive manner.
“By the time I graduated from AU, I had a website, business cards and a game plan,” he said.
That’s exactly the way the program is designed, said Doug Norwine, Director of the Johnny Man Center for Commercial Music at Anderson University’s South Carolina School of the Arts.
Norwine, who spent nearly 30 years as a successful musician in Hollywood, knows what it’s like to have a successful career in show business. He’s performed with the likes of Tony Bennett, Ray Charles, Harry Connick Jr. and Frank Sinatra, among others. He’s eager to pass on his experience to students like Lau.
“There were a lot of players in L.A. who were better prepared than I was, but producers look for musicians who are dependable, on time, prepared and have a great attitude,” Norwine said. Those are precisely the qualities Lau exhibits, Norwine said.
For his part, Lau is soaking it all in. He’s not taking anything for granted.
“It feels very surreal,” he said. “It was nerve-wracking to be up there (on the Today Show). I’ve just been enjoying the community in Nashville, and meeting people who are like-minded. It’s cool to be in a place where everyone has moved specifically to produce great music.
“I’ve found a lot of support here, and I am thankful to AU for preparing me to be successful.”