Riley Walter: Emerging Music Entrepreneur

Riley Walter is an AES student and BDIC (Bachelor’s Degree with Individual Concentration) majoring in Music Production Engineering and Entrepreneurship. AES courses and his internship at Northfire Recording studio have prepared him well for a career in the hip-hop industry. He is both a musician himself and is training in engineering and music/audio production.

Riley has been a fan of hip-hop since he was in middle school. His career goals encompass a range of options in creating music, working on the technical side as an engineer, as well as music business, marketing and financial planning. Ultimately, he would like to start his own recording studio. To meet these goals, he designed his undergraduate experience to combine AES courses with classes in the Music Department, the Isenberg School of Management, and courses at other schools, including Computer Music at Hampshire College and Music Theory at Amherst College.

Riley found Foundations in Arts Entrepreneurship and Arts Marketing to be the most helpful to his professional pursuits. The Foundations class final project involved designing a company and creating a business plan. He used the class assignments to help him conceptualize the recording studio and create marketing materials. The course made clear how essential the marketing component is to running a successful business.

Riley also found the AES approach of using a working nonprofit organization as a case study to be extremely useful. In Arts Fundraising, Riley gained real world experience with the Springfield Cultural Partnership. Executive Director, Karen Finn, made an extraordinary effort to solicit ideas from students and took them seriously. Not only did she implement several of their ideas, she also made sure to communicate to the students that their ideas made a difference. Finn even implemented students’ recommendation to add a donation portal to the organization’s website before the group had turned in their final paper.

AES Director and thesis advisor, Dee Boyle-Clapp thought that Riley’s interests would be a good fit for an internship at Northfire Recording Studio in Amherst, MA. Riley was impressed with the high quality equipment and the highly skilled engineers, one in particular who has earned a number of awards. Riley applied, was accepted, and began his internship in April 2018 and has been working there ever since. He started out helping with errands, picking up food, and learning how to set up equipment and break down after sessions. He began engineering work in January of 2019. As he has increasingly been tasked with more skilled responsibilities, the internship is gradually becoming a potential job opportunity. Riley’s experience has provided him on-the-job training and skill development; he has learned “how to fix equipment and replace parts, the best way to set up mics and which compressors and pre-amps to use, basically how to use the studio.”

Riley has had a great experience with the AES program and stressed “your goal doesn’t have to be in non-profits. [The Arts Management Certificate] can definitely apply to all arts-related enterprises. My focus was not on non-profits, but I found the classes also helpful for arts businesses.”

Find out more about AES courses, online and on campus, here. AES staff members are happy to help you design a course of study tailored to your goals. Contact us at or 413-545-2360.

Keep up to date with AES’s list of Current Arts & Culture Internships & Job Opportunities here. Campus students, save the date for the Fall Arts & Humanities Internship Fair Thursday, September 19th 11:30 am – 2:00 pm at the Fine Arts Center Atrium, details here.