J. Anthony Allen, a founder, owner and CEO of Slam Academy, a Minneapolis-based electronic music academy, is marking five years in business with new classes, scholarships and faculty.

Slam Academy offers campus-based and online programs in subjects including music production, DJing and sound design as well as private lessons and summer programs. Allen and co-owner and fellow instructor James Patrick launched Slam Academy as an alternative to what Allen said were increasingly expensive college courses in electronic music and “slugging it out in the anarchy of YouTube tutorial videos for free.”

“We thought we could be a spot where it’s affordable,” Allen said.” You’re not going to get a degree but you’re going to learn how to do awesome stuff and you’re going to have a great time doing it.”

Slam Academy, which last year moved from downtown to northeast Minneapolis, last month celebrated its fifth anniversary with performances by students, graduates and staff and announcements about additional classes and new faculty members and scholarships.

Allen has worked as a composer, producer, songwriter and engineer, among other roles in the music industry. He was a semifinalist for the Grammy Foundation’s Music Educator of the Year award in 2015. He has a doctoral degree in music composition from the University of Minnesota.

Q: How did your music background prepare you for business?

A: I didn’t have any real business background before we started. But I did in a way that most musicians today have to have some kind of entrepreneurial spirit. To be any kind of musician now in the last 10 years you have to know how to run yourself as a business. I had figured out on a small scale how to get my music out there and do things like that.


Q: What’s next for Slam Academy?

A: We have online programs but we have the capacity to do more. We want to push those out and get our footprint outside of the Twin Cities. I’d like to see online programs happening all the time. With the main ones you get a bunch of video content but you also have face-to-face time in a live video lecture with the teacher.


Q: What is electronic music?

A: It’s not a genre of music; it’s the tools we use to make modern music. The elements of electronic music are in everything: rock bands use background tracks, country musicians come through classes to make their live shows better by using electronic elements, and even classical music has a certain degree of technology under the hood. It’s more about music technology and learning those tools and learning to use computers to make music or make art in general.

Todd Nelson