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Up a Notch

Next Level expands musical boundaries

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TOP LEVEL Isabelle Garson's optimism and expertise highlight music-industry conference. - CLAY BROOKFIELD
  • Clay Brookfield
  • TOP LEVEL Isabelle Garson's optimism and expertise highlight music-industry conference.

In its ongoing mission to foster and support Sonoma County's artistic communities, Creative Sonoma, formed by the county's economic development board, once again hosts its flagship music conference, Next Level, on Feb. 10 at Luther Burbank Center for the Arts in Santa Rosa.

After taking a year off in 2017 to focus on fire recovery for artists, Next Level's return marks a new chance for local musicians to gain industry insights from experts and connect with like-minded peers of the scene.

"Now that this is our third year, it's remarkable to see how rich and diverse our music community is here," says Creative Sonoma director Kristen Madsen. "We are reminded each year as we do this, that this is a supportive community of itself."

With that in mind, Next Level's theme this year, "Expanding Boundaries," aims to show Sonoma County musicians ways to take their creative careers beyond the local community, beginning with a live-remote recording session to open the day's event. Led by innovative music producer Cliff Goldmacher, the recording session will feature Sonoma County songwriter Bobby Jo Valentine onstage performing an original song backed by musicians playing in Goldmacher's Nashville studio via the internet.

"We have people working and creating here in their backyard, but technology allows them to do so much more to expand the community of collaborators," says Madsen.

Other tech-savvy sessions scheduled for Next Level include a talk by Grammy-winning producer Hank Neuberger on recording live sets for maximum results, and a discussion with Bay Area music manager Joe Barham on new revenue streams available to musicians through online communities like Patreon, in which fans donate monthly for exclusive content.

Sonoma County native Isabelle Garson, currently the chief creative officer with North Bay–based Second Octave Media, offers her expertise on managing social media and digital content for musicians to embolden their online presence and match their creative output with promotional material and advertising that delivers real-world results.

"We have an amazing wealth of creative talent, and a supportive and collaborative scene," says Garson. "People just need a little bit of an extra push to get it out there on their terms, and Next Level offers that opportunity."

Next Level Music Industry Conference happens Sunday, Feb. 10, at Luther Burbank Center for the Arts, 50 Mark West Springs Road, Santa Rosa. 9am to 5pm. $25–$40. Early bird registration ends Jan. 31. creativesonoma.org.

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