Liza Grossman goes Kaboom (collectively)
When Liza Grossman directed the Contemporary Youth Orchestra (CYO), she showed her young musicians many other ways in which they could use their talents in the musical world, beyond playing in orchestras and pit bands, and teaching. Those included playing for recording sessions; playing in studio orchestras for movie, TV, cartoon and game soundtracks; and playing behind rock (and other) musicians in concerts.
Grossman, who has lived in Cleveland Heights since 1992, stepped down as head of CYO in 2020 and, soon after, launched Kaboom Collective. Kaboom maintains a studio orchestra of about 40 members—the size of a standard Hollywood recording orchestra—which meets in person. And, small groups of students from all over the world, aged 15 to 25, can participate in online classes in a wide variety of music-related subjects, taught by industry experts.
“The hub of what we’re doing,” Grossman said, “is whatever the production is. And the spokes are all of the arms of the industry that would make that production happen. So, for example, with the animation we’re producing right now, we have a script-writing team that worked with an award-winning script writer and voiceover actor out of L.A., Paul Rugg, who taught them how to write a cartoon from scratch. And not just the script, but also things like camera angles; and depth; and, when someone is talking, what else is happening in the scene.
“Once the script is completed, there’s the voiceover class. Then they’ll record the voices. Then it moves to the animation team, who will work with another award-winning animator [not announced yet]. Then it’ll go to the composition team who will work with Julie and Steve Bernstein [Emmy Award-winning composers, known for such shows as "The Animaniacs"]. Then it comes to me, and the studio orchestra records it. Then it will be released.”
So, she said, all the young people who worked on it will then have professional credits, and not only will they have started to build their professional portfolios, but they will have made professional connections, who might hire them for future projects or whom they can contact later. And they’ll also have professional peers for when they start their own companies.
The idea for Kaboom Collective originated from production work Grossman was doing with former colleague Joe Weagraff, a marketing strategist and Kaboom's co-founder. The pair realized that even though Grossman's students were regularly participating in productions by performing music, there was the potential to go beyond that. So, they set out to design an educational experience that allowed young artists to dive further into all elements of the production.
Kaboom Collective established a relationship with Baldwin Wallace University, where the organization is now in residence.
Thirty orchestra members are going on tour to several cities this summer with the nationally known indie rock trio the Accidentals, with whom the musicians are also recording an album. Grossman said of the tour, “We’re taking applications for students who want to learn how to be a tour manager, or a sound engineer, or a manager. And we're going to film it, so we're taking people who want to learn how to make a documentary.”
Information about studio orchestra auditions, and applications for classes can be found at https://kaboomcollective.org.
Unlike CYO, Grossman said, Kaboom Collective is production-based, not performance-based. “This is a place,” Grossman said, “where all of these teachers, artists, performers, writers, managers, lighting designers, photographers—everyone—where all those atoms and molecules between us are churning with all of our thoughts and all of our ideas, and through conversation it’s just such an incredible atmosphere of collaboration, and all of a sudden, with all of those atoms and molecules churning—kaboom!—there’s a production.”
David Budin is a freelance writer for national and local publications, the former editor of Cleveland Magazine and Northern Ohio Live, an author, and a professional musician and comedian. His writing focuses on the arts and, especially, pop-music history. He discusses his personal connections with Liza Grossman in his regular column, Songs and Stories, elsewhere in this issue.