The Academy of Contemporary Music at the University of Central Oklahoma is more than its nickname, The School of Rock.

The downtown school offers a real education in entrepreneurship, business management, music theory, performance and personal growth and even offers certified degree programs.The Academy of Contemporary Music at the University of Central Oklahoma is more than its nickname, The School of Rock.

Oh, and a huge party to celebrate all of it. Friday’s fifth annual ACM@UCO Rocks Bricktown Festival kicks off a huge weekend with heavy foot traffic and 70 bands across 14 stages. Headlining the night is international disc jockey, musician and producer Moby.

And the festival isn’t the only event in Bricktown this weekend. The Crescent City will be represented by two of its teams in Oklahoma City. The OKC Thunder will play the New Orleans Pelicans at 7 p.m. Friday at Chesapeake Energy Arena, 100 W. Reno Ave. Also, in the heart of downtown, the OKC RedHawks go to bat against the New Orleans Zephyrs at 7 p.m. at Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark, 2 S. Mickey Mantle Drive. Pre- and post-game partying is a must. It’s a time to mix and mingle, too, as Friday night movie crowds and RedPin bowlers, along with club hoppers, hard-core live music fans and even bigwig industry types converge downtown.

(Did we mention ACM@UCO Rocks Bricktown is a huge party? Because it is.)

Organizers expect tens of thousands of people to mix and mingle as the bands — each with school ties — fill the day and night with music.

“We may see 20,000 people in Bricktown that night,” said ACM@UCO

CEO Scott Booker. “And most of them will watch a band.”

Oh, and the festival is free.

In session
Half a decade doesn’t feel like a long time, unless you’re in college — or managing one. The time has flown by for Booker, who kick-started the festival five years ago as a simple recital of sorts just for students, friends and family.

“There was no promotion,” he said.

“There were no headliners.”

This year, his right-hand man, Derek Brown, ACM’s Business Development Center manager, helped wrangle a school full of students as well as the headliner.

It’s music for the masses, in every imaginable way, Brown said.

Booker said that even UCO art students helped with marketing and promotion. They designed themed art posters for each venue and genre, as well as for the headliner.

From top to bottom, it’s a true learning experience for everybody, even the city.

It started as a celebration of the end of the school year but has turned into a rite of passage for spring, Booker said.

“Soon, everyone was on board,” from venues to city management, and festival popular

ity exploded, he said.

It’s the first time many students participate in an event outside of the school. From sound technicians to singers, the festival helps build their careers and the city’s credibility as a music industry hub, said Liz Johnson, ACM@UCO director of public relations and marketing.

Music for the masses
Musician Kaitlin Butts graduated from ACM last May but was invited to play again this year.

call ACM@UCO The School of Rock, but I found my way making country
music there,” she said. “The diversity made me enjoy music a whole lot
more. My first year there, I had to learn ‘War Pigs’ by Black Sabbath,”
she added.

She has
learned to blend alternative rock, country, folk, Americana,
singer-songwriter and outlaw country genres to make her music truly
distinctive, she said.

festival — and the school — includes nearly every genre imaginable.
Rock, punk, pop, electronic, country and experimental sounds are all
represented, and students learn the music business from all sides, from
production to sound engineering, recording, marketing, promoting,
distribution and live performance.

also shown people a new and different side of country music. I didn’t
have to go to Nashville or Austin or L.A. to do it because Oklahoma City
has everything,” Butts said.

is Butts’ second year in the festival. “Last year was my first time
playing with a full band, and there was a line out the door,” she said.

She hopes for a repeat again this year.

She said she’ll also listen to as many of the bands in as many venues as possible.

“At the end of the night, I’ll have a new favorite band,” Butts said.

According to Butts, that’s how it’s supposed to work for musicians and visitors alike.

DJ and electronic music artist Travis Traps found ACM@UCO in 2010 and
hasn’t looked back. Before the school opened, he hadn’t even considered
going to college.

“I wanted to go straight into music,” he said.

he’s a senior with an associate degree in audio production and is
majoring in contemporary music business. He hopes to graduate by
Christmas with his bachelor’s degree.

music is the only thing he has ever wanted to do, and last year, he
shared the festival main stage with Nile Rodgers of Chic (and Daft
Punk). Friday, he’ll likely share a stage again (or at least festival
hours) with worldwide EDM (electronic dance music) master and famed
producer Moby.

started with a drum kit in the fourth grade, Traps said, and then
turntables in sixth grade. He started mixing old Beastie Boys vinyl and
then sold his drum kit for an electronic drum machine by his sophomore
year in high school. The samples and mixes came fast and furious for
Traps. In less than a year, he owned his own in-home “mini-booth” to
record in.

He has been
to the festival every year, and like Butts, he has always found a new
favorite band by the end of the night. Since starting at ACM@UCO, he has
played multiple festivals, including those with capacity crowds like
South by Southwest in March in Austin, Texas and Norman Music Festival
this month. He’s also set to perform at the Backwoods Bash Music &
Camping Festival on Keystone Lake in May.

“I wouldn’t be doing any of these shows without Derek Brown at ACM@ UCO,” he said.

The headliner
addition to the local talent on display, influential electronic music
heavyweight Moby will perform a free, headlining disc jockey set Friday
at 10 p.m. at Chevy Bricktown Events Center, 429 E. California Ave.

Moby is a musician, DJ, producer and photographer from Harlem.

His latest album, Innocents, was released in October and features collaborations with Queens of the Stone Age, Skylar Grey, Wayne Coyne and more.

Learn more:

Master class:
artist, musician and producer Moby will lead a master class for ACM@UCO
8 p.m. Thursday at ACM@ UCO Performance Lab, 329 E. Sheridan Ave. ACM
CEO Scott Booker will host. Free. Open to the public.

Panel discussion:
Lance McDaniel, executive director of deadCENTER film festival, and
David Hannon, ACM@UCO production faculty member, as they host a panel on
sound mixing for feature films. 1-2 p.m. Friday Songwriting Room
ACM@UCO 25 S. Oklahoma Ave. Free. Open to the public.

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