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Alumni capture the heartbeat of American music

With graduation fast approaching last fall, Eric Santagada and Marie Sullivan asked an age-old question: “What’s next?” They set guidelines for their future plans, agreeing to pursue a fun-filled endeavor that would combine their passions and further their careers. From there, they arrived at their answer: the American Music Project.

“Northeastern gave us the drive to create our own opportunities, instead of waiting for a job to come to us,” said Sullivan, who graduated in December with a bachelor of arts degree in communication studies with a concentration in media production. “We wanted to go out there and make it happen for ourselves, and that’s exactly what we did.”

Sullivan and Santagada—who graduated in December from the D’Amore-McKim School of Business with a concentration in entrepreneurship—quickly launched a Kickstarter campaign for the AMP. To raise even more money, the duo hosted two benefit concerts in Boston featuring Northeastern bands. More than 200 people pledged some $10,000 to support their cause, and their dream of documenting vibrant music around the country became a reality.

Above, a clarinet player in Austin, captured by American Music Project photographer Marie Sullivan.

The project combines Santagada’s business knowledge and Sullivan’s video skills with their mutual passion for music. The team is currently in the midst of a three-month road trip through Nashville, New Orleans, and Austin, where they are documenting festivals, popular venues, bands, and more, to tell the story of each city’s unique music scene. While on the road, they are sharing what they find through videos, photographs, blog posts, and social media.

“We wanted to cover unique cities that we could compare and contrast,” explained Santagada. “New Orleans has an established feel and tradition, Austin is up and coming and growing every day, and Nashville is a professional music industry hub.”

Santagada and Sullivan are on the road with two other Northeastern alumni, Charlie Treat and James Metzger. Aside from the crew, a major player in this project is the AMPmobile, a conversion van complete with instruments, microphones, and an audio interface. The mobility of the van gives the team the potential to accomplish a lot more than many other film crews: With their equipment in tow, they can drive to any location and set up a professional recording studio.

“This experience is more about our personal growth than anything else,” said Santagada. “I want everyone to see how we’re following our passions successfully, and we want to inspire people to do the same thing, whatever their passion may be.”