Brianne Guanaga ’22, a Business of Creative Enterprises major with a double minor in Music History and Journalism, has become the first Emerson College LA (ELA) student to intern with alumnus Justin Allen ’13 at Atlantic Records.
“I’m obviously very happy I’m here; it’s great,” said Guanaga. “[It’s] such a blessing.”
Allen, studio manager for Atlantic Records in North Hollywood, has a long history with Emerson. After graduating from the College with a degree in Sound Design, he worked at Emerson LA for about four years—helping to launch its Gersh Audio Post recording studio and producing various events inside the venue (his mother, Dr. Phyllis Allen, P ’13, P ’14, serves on Emerson’s Board of Advisors). The North Hollywood facility that he now manages caters to rappers and R&B singers who are signed to the label, living out on the West Coast, recording, and/or doing business with the studio.
Allen says keeping up the work related to his major was key in helping him make the transition from Emerson to Atlantic.
“I’ve never dropped the work I was doing related to my major; I was really at certain points bringing the camera to both ends. When I was at Emerson LA, I was in the studio and composing…and connecting with artists, and engineering sessions at other studios, across LA,” said Allen.
Hiring an Emerson intern has been on Allen’s mind for a while, but the coronavirus pandemic and staffing at the studio prevented him from following through until the Spring 2022 semester. Now, he’s finally established a partnership between Emerson and Atlantic, one that he hopes will last for years to come.
“For now, there’s enough stability to bring some external help,” said Allen. “I’ve always wanted to tap into that Emerson community that I’m super fond of.”
Guanaga said it was Wes Jackson, senior executive-in-residence and director of the Business of Creative Enterprises program, who encouraged her to learn more about the music industry by enrolling in the ELA program for her last semester.
Throughout Guanaga’s internship search, she considered a variety of opportunities, but it wasn’t until she received an email from ELA’s internship advisors about a chance to apply for an internship position at Atlantic Records that something clicked with her
“Literally, when I got the call, I was like ‘I would drop anything for Atlantic.’ It’s been one of those places that I’ve always wanted to work at, because I’ve always had this goal for myself to work at a big record label and then eventually branch off,” said Guanaga, who wants to manage artists one day.
Guanaga says that she feels like the stars aligned for her with the internship, as her first concert was for the rock band Rush, who is signed to the label. She says Allen has taught her a lot about the industry and shared unique insight into navigating the music business.
“He’s genuinely such a great guy,” said Guanaga. “He’s taken me under his wing and has shown me a lot of grace and patience, because we [Emerson LA students] are all learning as interns.”
Guanaga’s tasks vary from day to day, especially since the internship is a hybrid of both remote and in-person work. Some of her tasks include summarizing news in the trades and administrative duties, such as logging in hours for client sessions or finding partnerships for instruments and audio software.
“Some days, I’ll be doing a project with Justin, or other days, I’ll be completely alone and doing my day-to-day tasks,” said Guanaga, who has also been able to connect with a handful of music industry folks through Allen.
Allen says getting to know Guanaga and having her learn in the studio has been beneficial to him and the team at Atlantic.
“She’s really a hard worker. She’s been doing a good job acclimating,” said Allen.
Working at Atlantic and with Allen has taught Guanaga a lot about herself. She says it’s helped her realize that everyone has their own career pathway, improved her communication skills (she interacts with everyone from artists to engineers), and it’s opened her mind to new opportunities.
The storytelling skills she’s learned at Emerson have helped prepare her to succeed at her internship.
“Even if I’m such a finance girl and I love talking about NFTs [Non-Fungible Tokens], I know how to paint a picture with that, and I think that’s what makes Emerson students stand out,” said Guanaga. “There’s such a great balance between what we learn at Emerson about how to be creative and the very corporate, logistical side of getting everything together and trying to get music out into the world.”
Guanaga especially appreciates the connection she shares with Allen as Emersonians, which has helped her feel supported by the Emerson community.
“It’s just icing on top of the cake, especially because he knows how we [Emersonians] think,” said Guanaga. “[He’s] shaped some of my views on the industry. I’m very, very lucky that he’s an alum.”
Allen says he has high hopes for Guanaga and her journey through the end of the internship.
“I just want her to know that there are a lot of ways to exist in the industry and [to] be a really strong contributor,” said Allen. “I know one of my hopes…is that she just has a myriad of [job] options. I know that will be the case for her [seeing] how she’s been approaching things so far.”
Guanaga says both the internship and ELA program have taught her that there are a variety of ways to achieve her goals.
“I don’t necessarily have to pick one avenue,” said Guanaga. “There is so much more to not just the city, but also every creative industry.”