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On the 1st of September, Los Angeles-based producer, Mr. Carmack, kicked off an idea months in the making with the inaugural Forward Thinkers Workshop at the Point Blank music school in Mack Sennett Studios, about 15 minutes northwest of Downtown LA. The concept was simple: explore modern music production in a hands-on environment and engage in progressive discussion on how to stand out as an independent artist and producer.

After Carmack dug through the hundreds of applications submitted through the group’s website by eager music makers from around the globe, fourteen were chosen to comprise the first-ever Forward Thinkers class. One of the best things we observed at the workshop was that the application process was clearly geared toward determining the overall attitude, personality, and drive of the applicants rather than just selecting those with the highest skill levels or most impressive track records. The very Carmack-esque questionnaire pressed the potential prospects to share personal things like “A Picture You Think Represents Your Music”, “A Picture That Represents Your Culture”, and even “A Sample That Best Represents You”. Many of the producers at the workshop laughed giddily when telling me about how they answered the question, “What Song Would You Play For Your Significant Others’ Parents?”

Some folks had only started producing within the year, one had studied at Berklee, some had been DJs for years and had only recently devoted themselves to the craft of production. One guy from El Paso found out he had been selected the day before the workshop and drove non-stop that morning to make the class. Another scraped up the cash to book a flight from Canada. While there was clear contrast between the styles, backgrounds, and skills of these fourteen hopefuls, a shared sense of enthusiasm and dedication emanated from the group in synchronicity, which was mirrored by the group’s leader, Mr. Carmack.

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The class began with an open creative session, as all of the producers took a seat at five rows of tables set neatly underneath suspended string lights and got to work in the Point Blank classroom equipped with Mac desktops, Ableton, and a grip of hardware from Native Instruments. After some free time at the beginning, Carmack took to the front of the class to give insight into his own production techniques, even diving deep into the inner workings of his 2013 future classic, “Pay For What“. He answered specific questions, gave personal advice (“The less rules you make for yourself, the better”), and then began making the rounds, letting out the occasional “WOO!” as he bobbed in the students’ studio headphones, bouncing from project to project. He then made an announcement, instructing everyone to get up, switch desks, and alter another producer’s project in whatever way they wanted. “For the next ten minutes,” he said as the class was somewhat reluctantly unplugging their headphones and relocating, “fuck it up.” After the class had some time to rework their peers’ projects, Carmack played nearly half of the class’ trap and soul-tinged beats, which, in all honesty, were pretty impressive for the brief amount of time allotted.

After a break for tacos, the remainder of the class was dedicated to a panel of industry speakers — Djemba Djemba (producer), SoSuperSam (DJ, producer), Monty Anglade (Director of Operations, Soulection), John Jung (agent, AM Only), and Carmack — who provided indispensable knowledge on how they each established themselves in the industry, overcoming adversities and challenges, and, most importantly, translating passion into profession. The Forward Thinkers class was engaged and inquisitive, and, sitting there as a spectator, I could see that the words from Carmack and his talented friends were truly reaching the hungry group of creatives.

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Moving forward, Carmack and his team are dedicated to establishing Forward Thinkers as a tight-knit group, an always-growing family committed to independent creativity. The members of the first class will be able to connect with the next class and so on, cooperating, collaborating, and working together to better themselves as producers and people. While there’s no announcement of when the next Forward Thinkers Workshop will be as of now, prospective producers can check in with the Forward Thinkers Group website and follow Carmack on Twitter and Facebook to make sure you don’t miss the next opportunity.

Find the gallery of photos from the workshop from Dom Stills below.

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