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Scoping the Beat

My name is Aja Armstrong and I am a junior music industry major. I have always loved music, so naturally I gravitated towards Monmouth’s esteemed music industry program. Throughout my time at Monmouth, I have been involved with the student-run record label Blue Hawk Records (BHR), and was recently voted Co-President. I am currently planning shows for the label to produce this fall with acts from both Monmouth and the local scene, as well as all the way from my hometown of Los Angeles, CA.

Last year, I was able to plan BHR’s first ever trip to LA, where we made lasting connections with entertainment companies like NBC Universal, Capitol Records, and The Grammy Museum. This huge opportunity would never have been possible without the help and encouragement of Professor Rapolla, whose guidance has enabled me to truly make a name for myself at the University.

Immersed in the Industry

A staple of the Jersey Shore music scene, Zack Sandler ’20 is an instrumentalist, producer, promoter, manager, and booking agent. Sandler plays saxophone and guitar for the bands Bobby Mahoney and the Seventh Son and the Psychotic Submarines, and has rocked notorious New Jersey venues such as the Stone Pony, Starland Ballroom, the House of Independents, and the Stone Pony Summer Stage. Sandler has also produced concerts under his own name, most notably his annual “Set for Vets” benefit concert series that made its debut in January 2017. All of the proceeds from this show were donated to the Wounded Warrior Project.

As a former intern at the Stone Pony, Sandler has worked professionally alongside artists like Jason Mraz, Carly Rae Jepsen, the Bouncing Souls, Mariana’s Trench, and the Struts. Sandler currently books and manages the band Glenn Alexander and Shadowland, which features members of Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes. He has also met and shared the stage with various prominent musicians such as Bruce Springsteen, Jon Bon Jovi, Little Steven Van Zandt, Southside Johnny Lyon, Joan Jett, Paul Shaffer, Rob Trujillo various members of the E Street Band, and many others.

“All of the professors in the music department at Monmouth University are truly special and unique because when they’re not focused on teaching in the classroom, they are heavily involved in their personal endeavors within the music industry. The music courses at Monmouth aren’t just textbook studies; they’re the real scenarios and situations that musicians are put into during their everyday work life out in the music world.”

A Robust Education

Monmouth’s music industry program was a perfect fit for me. The curriculum includes both music and business classes, which prepares students for all aspects of the music industry. My professors provide a hands-on approach to learning by guiding students through the process of producing a record. With Blue Hawk Records, Monmouth’s student-run record label, students are responsible for selecting talent, as well as recording, releasing, promoting, and distributing music through physical copies and streaming platforms. The faculty is committed to enhancing the program and providing opportunities for us to expand our knowledge, apply our skills, and make connections within the industry.

At Monmouth, my education has extended far beyond the classroom. As the Secretary of Blue Hawk Records and member of The Music Alliance, I am an active part of the music scene on campus. And by working with the Music and Theatre department, I have secured an internship for booking and promoting acoustic concerts at a local venue to expand upon my industry knowledge.

Thanks to the education I’m receiving in Monmouth’s music industry program, I have the knowledge and the confidence to apply my skills in real-world situations.

Joe Rapolla


Joe Rapolla is the Chair of the Music & Theater Arts Department at Monmouth University and Director of the Music Industry Program (MBA ‘90, Monmouth). Since taking over as department chair in July of 2013, Rapolla has completely redesigned the program, helming the launch of Blue Hawk Records, a student-run record label.

In addition, Rapolla is responsible for forming innovative partnerships with organizations such as Asbury Park-based Lakehouse Recording Studios, as well as the GRAMMY Museum. Monmouth University is one of only nine universities nationwide with access to GRAMMY Museum content for educational purposes, curriculum resources, research programs, professional development seminars, collaborative marketing and promotions, project-based learning and unique student internship opportunities. These partnerships further the goal of providing students with real world experiences and hands-on projects to complement Monmouth’s comprehensive academic offerings.

Rapolla is also a marketing and strategy consultant for music, media, entertainment and consumer brands. He built and headed integrated consumer marketing departments at both Universal Music and Warner Music Group, where he successfully introduced and created direct-to-consumer marketing/CRM strategies, campaigns and platforms. Additionally, Rapolla directed all digital marketing for a video game start-up partnered with Def Jam Enterprises.

Rapolla’s work has won honors by AdAge for innovative campaign design and results, and has also been recognized by the Direct Marketing Association, which endowed him with two top ECHO Awards. Case studies of his work are highlighted in The Customer Loyalty Solution written by direct marketing pioneer, Arthur Hughes.

As a performing songwriter and producer, Rapolla has released three studio CD’s and produced dozens more, including a film soundtrack. Rapolla collaborates with top writers and artists in NYC and Nashville, and continues to perform locally and abroad.

Monmouth Proud

Dr. David M. Tripold is an associate professor of music in the Music and Theatre Arts Department at Monmouth University. He received his doctorate in liturgical studies from Drew University and a Master of Music Degree in Sacred Music from Westminster Choir College of Rider University.


Tripold has taught at Monmouth University since 1997. His research focuses on the repertoire and cultural climate of 19th-century American church music. Since coming to Monmouth University, he has taught courses in music theory, music history, music appreciation, choral conducting, group voice, music education methods, ear training, and choir. Likewise, he has conducted or trained soloists and choirs for well over 100 concerts and musical theatre productions during his tenure at Monmouth.


His most recent publication is Sing to the Lord a New Song: Choirs in the Worship and Culture of the Dutch Reformed Church in America, 1785-1860, which was published in 2012 by Eerdmans Publishing in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Tripold is currently spearheading a project on worship and music of the Reformed Church in America 1865-1929. He is specifically fond of the independent studies that focus on American church music and culture.  


“I am especially proud of The Global Understanding initiative, a vital and wide-reaching entity established at Monmouth University to connect people of different ethnic backgrounds, to breach invisible walls, and to counteract insular and unfounded points of view between people of differing ethnicities,” says Tripold. “Monmouth’s work in this regard has been groundbreaking and essential to a mission of bringing about social change through cooperation.”

One of his favorite Monmouth memories was the Music and Theatre Department’s trip to England to visit London, Oxford, Bath, and Stratford-upon-Avon.

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