Singer/songwriter James Fauntleroy and musician/producer Larrance “Rance” Dopson have put their award-winning skillsets and music business insights into the classroom via 1500 Sound Academy, an educational experience they hope will change the landscape of a business long known for its behind-the-scenes challenges and inequities. Founded by the Grammy winners with entrepreneur, executive and philanthropist Twila True, CEO of True Family Enterprises, the Inglewood, CA-based state-of-the art music academy is a subsidiary of Volume Ventures, and offers a collaborative learning environment focused on creativity and professional development for aspiring music professionals and those looking to sharpen their skills.

1500 Sound Academy also aims to tackle the secrecy within the business and what Fauntleroy calls the tradition of not sharing, by sharing the ins and outs and encouraging new professionals to behave in kind.

“We really hope that even just to our students that we're sending out into the workplace and into the creative community, if we can just affect them to, you know, lead by example, then we hope that it will change things radically,” said Fauntleroy, who has written for artists including Bruno Mars, Beyoncé, Rihanna, and Justin Timberlake. Among his many Grammys are two for Best R&B Song (2014 and 2018). Fauntleroy admits the journey was far from seamless.

Now with a campus and an online component, as well as a new on-demand online component with six online course modules and live “office hours” with instructors and experts through the Academy’s partnership with the New York-based education company Yellowbrick, 1500 Sound Academy is reaching students beyond Los Angeles.

With a strong focus on understanding creativity and walking students through every piece of the process, courses address music production, songwriting, mixing, engineering, music business management, artist branding, TV/Film, and coding. Guest lecturers have included Kendrick Lamar, Bruno Mars, and Sean “Diddy” Combs.

The star power in the room is hard to overlook. 1500 Sound Academy with it’s six-month on-campus program isn’t your liberal arts experience, nor is it meant to be.

“I think one of the things that…differentiates our academy from anything else is 90% of the teachers are industry professionals, and famous, and superstars…really being vulnerable and teaching the game that you can't get in textbooks, that you just wouldn't get unless you experience it,” said Dopson. The multi-Grammy Award-winning producer also took home a statue for Best R&B Song in 2019. A former musical director for plenty of high profile artists including Usher, Jay Z, and Diddy, Dopson, like Fauntleroy has a big collegial pool from which to try to pull when it comes to guest lectures.

“The main driver was the shared experience,” says Fauntleroy about the decision to build 1500 Sound Academy nearly four years ago, noting the wisdom and the scars that come from a career in the business. The artist got a dose of his love of educating aspiring artists in seminars where he shared his own creative insights along with those he learned via the teachings of John Cleese, Quincy Jones, and David Byrne followed by live band experiential learning where he and Dopson would break down their process in a play-by-play format.

Detail-driven honesty from those who’ve been in the trenches has been integral in shaping the curriculum for 1500 Sound Academy students, which means less sugarcoating, if any.

“It really started with the seminar and James writing that curriculum and from there the curriculum just kept building and we just met every day and that was always our goal—we’ll come in from sessions and talk about terrible things that happen to us, and we're like, ‘Yeah we got to put that in curriculum of what not to do,’ so it's just building up a curriculum of our own experiences that we've dealt with in the music business that got us, you know to the next level,” said Dobson about their collaboration with True and the Academy’s continued growth.

Fauntleroy said the building is designed to foster collaboration among students, both within and across specific classes, putting the focus on the impact of early networking.

“Our belief is if you put energy into your craft and focus—if you really make something amazing or do amazing work, the one person that sees it will tell two and they'll tell three, four, and five and that’s—our experience, you know, on the road to whatever success we've had, it's just really being dedicated to improving and learning and just, you know, continually growing,” explained Fauntleroy.