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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.

Dr. Michael Waters

Since he was a teenager, Dr. Michael Waters has been writing poetry. Now an English professor at Monmouth University, his beloved craft is back in the spotlight. Waters is one of 173 artists, scientists, and scholars out of 3,000 applicants to be selected for a 2017 Guggenheim Fellowship. The distinction has been awarded for more than 90 years and recognizes individuals from the U.S. and Canada.

As part of the fellowship, which is set to begin in January 2018, Waters vows to use the $50,000 award to travel and craft poems that will “connect the old world in Eastern Europe to the new world.”

Waters is no stranger to recognition for his work. As a senior in college studying abroad in England, he won a national poetry competition and was invited to London to share his work with the Poetry Society. Waters became a published author at the age of 22, and has most recently released his poetry book, “Celestial Joyride,” in 2016.

Waters is expected to publish his next book, “Dean of Discipline,” in 2018.

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.

Senate Office Intern

I have always believed that an internship is a chance to leave my comfort zone and learn something new. When I began to search for the right Ex Ed placement, I knew I wanted to be challenged by a new opportunity outside my usual surroundings, as well as pursue a field that related to my goals in life. I want to be an attorney, so I searched every type of internship that could possibly involve the legal field and ultimately settled on Senator Jennifer Beck’s office in Red Bank. Although the political world is not my cup of tea, I was very excited to be given this opportunity to face something that challenges me head on. I was invited to intern for my fall semester (2016) three days per week. My enthusiasm for being in a Senator’s office and understanding the behind-the-scenes of politics was outweighing the nervous part of me. 

As an intern, I was able to take part in multiple events outside of the office and broaden my political horizon greatly. The second day at my internship, I attended a dinner where Senator Beck honored Rape Crisis Advocates. The testimonies were very powerful, and I was able to hear many advocates share their stories; I would not have been able meet such wonderful, strong women if I had not interned at the Senator’s office. I also had the opportunity to attend a luncheon at the Shadowbrook in Shrewsbury for the Affordable Housing Alliance that honored Senator Beck’s work with the organization. It was amazing to consistently see how a woman could be so important and effective in a world mainly dominated by men. 

Inside the office, I attended meetings and was introduced to the Senator’s constituents. At one of these gatherings, I met five rabbis from Long Branch who were concerned about the assisted suicide bill and whether it would be passed in New Jersey. Meeting the voices of the Jewish communities of Long Branch was enlightening, and I was fortunate to have the opportunity to begin to understand their perspective and their faith. I also met a brilliant attorney who wanted to make a difference in her community and ultimately be nominated to become a judge. Much like Senator Beck, this attorney was incredibly inspiring, and it was exciting to meet a woman who was capable of achieving what I want to do and more. Being introduced to powerful men and women at the Senator’s office has encouraged me to follow in the footsteps of people like Senator Beck.

This internship definitely allowed me to step out of my comfort zone by encouraging me to immerse myself in a new environment and grow as a student. I loved meeting new people, taking part in events, and learning what it meant to be a representative for a community. I will carry these lessons with me as I continue on to law school next year. As a student at Monmouth University, I have learned how to speak to not only my peers, but also professors and Senators. I am able to discuss multiple subjects with professionals and not feel intimidated because Monmouth has allowed me to flourish in all my classes. This internship has provided the opportunity to use all the skills I have learned at Monmouth and transform them into real-life experience.

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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To Thailand

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Casey Trautwein is a recent graduate of Monmouth University who proved that students can leverage a degree in the arts to make a positive impact in the world through personal activism. He graduated from the University with a B.A. in Art with a concentration in Photography. Trautwein was able to successfully transform his interests in documentary photography, video, travel, and issue-oriented environmentalism into a career in documentary work.  To begin his professional career after college graduation, Trautwein planned to travel across the globe to Thailand where he would begin working for Conserve National Forests. In the role, he would be documenting the organization’s efforts to halt deforestation and protect wildlife in remote, northern regions of the country. Trautwein was excited to begin using his educational credentials into a career that fuses his love of art with his motivation to improve environmental conditions throughout the world.

Creative Dreams Come True

While studying at Monmouth for her B.F.A. with a concentration in Graphic and Interactive Design, Brittany Bowling managed to snag a Disney Professional Internship with ABC Television in New York. “This internship fully convinced me that I wanted to pursue a career in entertainment,” recalled Bowling, who realized that she wanted to produce movie trailers.

A week after graduating, she packed up her car and traveled across the country to Los Angeles in order to follow her creative dreams in entertainment marketing. Bowling now works at Wild Card AV as a motion graphics coordinator. There, she has had the pleasure of contributing to movie trailers for Spider-Man: Homecoming, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, Alien: Covenant, and many more.

“It’s truly been a dream come true,” Bowling said of her experiences. “None of it would have been possible without my Monmouth experience. I owe it all to my amazing professors that pushed me every day to reach my full potential.”

Designing Community

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Recently graduated with B.F.A. with a concentration in Graphic and Interactive Design, Amanda M. Ly was an enthusiastic contributor to the arts community throughout her time at Monmouth University. Her energetic and humorous personality was matched only by her design portfolio of colorful, insightful, and adoring creatures. During her last year, she worked with Marilyn Schlossbach, an entrepreneur in the area, to develop community-based outreach programs at Langosta Lounge in Asbury Park. Perhaps most impressive are the two children’s board books and plush characters that Ly created with her original Bungaloo Monsters© theme. These age-based books, intended to help children identify their emotions, are beautifully illustrated with her original illustrations. Upon graduating with a 3.78 GPA, Ly won the coveted “Outstanding B.F.A. in Graphic Design” award at her commencement ceremony. Upon graduation, Ly headed to a post-graduate internship at Alex Brands (the maker of Slinky®) located in Fairfield, NJ. There, she hopes to find out even more about applying her art background to the toy and game industry. 





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