In 1966, when John Snyder was a
senior in high school in Charlotte,
his father declared, “You are not
going to music school. Not with my
Young Snyder asked, “Why not?”
“Because you can’t make a living at it.”
Snyder was bewildered. Ever since they
were small kids, he and his two brothers
and sister had been awakened by their
father at 6 in the morning and made to
practice music. His father, who was a barber and union organizer, played the organ.
“Why,” he pleaded, “didn’t you tell me
that before you woke me up every morning of my life to practice music?”
“That’s just a hobby. That’s not real
work,” his father replied.
John Snyder ’ 73 (JD) has worked for
the past 35 years to bridge the divide that
his father saw between music and “real
work.” He dedicated his career and his
eventual legal skills to helping musicians
become professionals. As a music producer
in New York for three decades, he worked
side by side with icons of the American
music industry: business leaders such as
Creed Taylor, John Hammond and Ahmet
Ertegun and artists like Ornette Coleman,
Chet Baker, Etta James and Paul Desmond.
Snyder helped sell millions of records, and
he won several Grammy awards.
Today, at Loyola University in New
Orleans, Snyder is founding chair of the
ground-breaking new department of music
and entertainment arts, which traverses
almost every discipline at Loyola, including
business, law, fine arts, natural sciences and
humanities. He is passing along wisdom
gained from his life in the arts.
Snyder makes no false promises, and he
is the first one to admit that a career in the
arts won’t be easy. But he wants to teach as
many kids as possible that a legitimate
career in the creative arts is available. It
requires painstaking perseverance and flexibility. But he believes that the dedication
brings unimaginable rewards to the individual and that it helps make the world a
An early-arriving visitor to Snyder’s
office finds four students working with
Snyder and his assistant. There is a loose,
engaged banter among them. Everyone
seems to be performing a different task.
The students ask Snyder questions about a
grant proposal and an upcoming symposium; he asks them questions about a new
course and a new computer program.
This could have been a scene from the
shop of a master craftsman — say, a shoemaker, a tailor, a printer — in some early
20th-century, downtown America shop,
with apprentices learning the trade by
doing it, not by hearing someone lecture at
the head of a classroom.
Loyola senior Alexandra Grant said later,
“John’s office is always chaotic because his
door is never closed and students are always
in there telling him about a new CD they
just heard or asking him for advice. He
makes himself available at all times and
never shuts anyone out. He trusts students,
and we all trust him in return, and he is
incredibly inspiring. I’ve had opportunities
I never dreamed I would have.”
As Snyder walks across Loyola’s campus,
he randomly crosses paths with three more
students, who greet him enthusiastically. He
calls their names and has brief conversations
with all three. Snyder’s rapport with students
40 years younger is natural, not learned from
experience; he has been working in academics for less than five years.
Senior Shannon Baffoni transferred to
Loyola after being dissatisfied with the music
management program at Boston’s acclaimed
conservatory, Berklee College of Music.
“The teachers at Berklee didn’t know how
to teach business, and the students didn’t
know how to socialize … but everyone was
a great musician,” Baffoni said.
“The thing John does is combine
everything. Music is not just about instruments and recordings; it’s about TV, radio,
advertising, reviews, business and legal
issues. John makes you believe that for
every great idea, there are 10 more great
things to do, as long as you put your mind