Sascha Guttfreund, co-founder of ScoreMore Shows, is widely regarded one of the country's youngest leaders in live music. If you read Rolling Stone, he's known as the guy who booked Kendrick Lamar and Wiz Khalifa at shows before anybody "knew them from a ping-pong ball in a cup of stale beer."
Since creating ScoreMore as a college student, he's helped grow it into a multi-million dollar company, earning him a spot among Forbes' esteemed 30 Under 30 this year. But before he was a hot shot talent buyer and manager for artists like Tory Lanez, Guttfreund was a disengaged student who, like so many, felt the subjects he was studying had little real world application.
"When I was in high school and anyone came to talk to me about safe sex or 'don't do drugs,' it was some dude in his 50s that was crusty and boring," says Guttfreund.
"I wish I would have met young, successful people working in a culturally relevant space like us to kind of show [students] it's not the same old, mundane, crusty message," he says.
That's why the 27-year-old has made youth outreach one of the pillars of his business, and kids in Dallas are benefiting.
Ahead of the recent JMBLYA festival in Fair Park, which featured rappers such as Future and Post Malone, 100 students from James Madison High School and Paul Quinn College quizzed Guttfreund and other members of the ScoreMore team on the ins and outs of the music industry before taking a personal tour of the festival grounds to see first-hand how to produce an event.
This fall, those students will put their experience into action by curating, promoting and throwing an original festival in partnership with ScoreMore Shows.
Christian Yazdanpanah, founder and executive director of U Got This, a nonprofit that seeks to enrich the lives of students and teachers through community engagement, has coordinated with Guttfreund on several education initiatives, including the most recent JMBLYA program. He says students often feel traditional schooling impedes on their academic success because it's not relevant to their interests, and it's surprising how quickly kids will admit this. When asked during the ScoreMore panel how many students felt their studies were not preparing them for the future, the majority raised their hands.
Yazdanpanah believes live music is one of the best ways to engage students. He often begins by offering them an incentive, such as festival tickets or artist meet-and-greets, then combines the experience with a learning opportunity. The goal is to open students' eyes to the array of jobs available in the music industry aside from being a celebrity.
"All the kids want to be the rapper on stage. What they don't realize is all the jobs that happen behind the scenes," Yazdanpanah says.
"What we want to do is show them, if you love music as much as we do, here are the other pathways."
The student-run fall festival is one opportunity for the young adults to dip their toes in the industry. Over the summer, Yazdanpanah will work with a core group of students to begin planning the festival, and when school is in session this fall, he plans to collaborate with DISD teachers to integrate the project into lesson plans and curriculum.
This embedded approach seems to be effective. Erica Reed, a 17-year-old student from James Madison High School, is one of the many that believes her classes are irrelevant to furthering her life goals. But after hearing from Guttfreund, Reed says she'll be implementing the panelist's advice. That includes applying to work with ScoreMore on the fall festival.
"Take every opportunity," Reed recites as one of the lessons she learned. "Always say yes, like they told me today, because you never know what you can learn from a situation, the skills you can gain, the insights you can receive and the relationships you can build."
The festival in the fall will be open to the public, and though ScoreMore is funding the event, Guttfreund says not to expect another JMBLYA. It should feel like a student-curated event, he says, adding the students will be working within a budget and devising profit and loss statements in hopes of breaking even.
"This isn't about doing a ScoreMore event," Guttfreund says. "This is about giving students an opportunity to throw their own event for their own community and feel empowered."