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Keeping the Beat While Keeping Busy

Professor Profile: John Simson

By Carson Creehan

John stands in front of a stage.

For the Love of Music

John Simson, director of Kogod’s Business and Entertainment (BAE) program, has always been tuned in to the music industry. Music is in his blood, and his passion for the craft has kept him connected to the industry. So when he was approached to judge the “Law Rocks – Battle of the Bands” competition, he couldn’t pass it up.

A member of Law Rocks asked Simson to judge after hearing about him from a mutual connection. Simson has been involved in the music industry since he was young. “I was playing in high school bands, and I was fortunate to perform with some really talented musicians,” Simson says. While pursuing his undergraduate degree, Simson was signed to a label and went to London to record an album.

Simon, who has also acted as a producer and manager, was treated like a rock star at the event. He had the honor of listening to some talented bands of lawyers who were raising money for charity. Each firm picked a charity to represent, and all of the organizations received some of the $120,000 raised that evening. Simson listened to and judged over 14 bands that performed some new and old favorites like “Sweet Caroline,” “Shake it Off,” and “Livin’ on a Prayer.”

Overall, Simson had a fun time at the event. “Everyone did a solid job,” he says excitedly. “The instrumentalists and singers were great. I’m happy to have taken part.” Additionally, thousands of dollars were raised for charities like the International Bar Association's Human Rights Institute, The Montgomery County Coalition for the Homeless, and Together We Bake.

School of Rock

Back in the classroom, Simson is sure he’ll mention the experience to his students, but he also has some other exciting projects in the works.

For his “Representing Talent” class, Simson brought in Joe Maye, a performer from season 10 of The Voice, to discuss his experience on the hit TV show and what it’s like to work in the music industry. “The class was very animated,” Simson says. “They had a lot of questions, which was great. The students learned that what they saw on the NBC show wasn’t exactly spontaneous.” There’s a lot of planning and work involved.

Students will also have the opportunity to represent Maye as part of their semester-long project. Simson splits his class in to 8 groups and assigns them a musician client. Students work on social media strategy, marketing, and promotion plans for their artist. Maye’s student representatives had a chance to spend “quality time” with him to hear more about his plans and how they can act as his “assistant managers.”

The class represents other artists, including two from Strathmore Music Hall’s Artist-in-Residence program, which is now in its third year of collaboration with Simson’s class. Students are also working with a Brooklyn-based indie rock group, a Pennsylvania R&B singer, and an avant garde D.C. vocalist and guitarist. Near or far, Simson hopes that his students are able to better connect with and understand the music industry. “Hopefully we’re helping the local, regional, and national music community as well,” Simson adds.

Don’t Stop Believing

Simson feels fortunate he was able to pursue his passion and find a career that excited him. He hopes to inspire students to do the same.

While Simson originally started law school to find what he assumed would be a more stable business, he still couldn’t forget his passion for music. Simson remembers, “I was still singing three or four nights a week when I was in school.”

Even after moving to D.C. and working professionally as a lawyer, Simson continued to perform. Things changed, however, when he had three kids of his own to manage. He started representing some successful artists, which helped him keep his connection to the music industry.

Overall, Simson has hit the right note balancing his interests. “I still have a passion to help creative people because I know how difficult that career path can be,” he says. Music will always be an important part of his life, and now he gets to share his passion with Kogod.