The College of Media, Communication and Information’s Josephine Jones Speaking Lab accomplished its second Artist in Residence workshop with local platinum-recording artists Bonnie and Taylor Sims on Monday, Sept. 12.
The speaking lab, located in room W262 of the CASE building, is a haven for students eager to practice and master any element of the presentation process. Doctorate students are coaches to guide individuals in public speaking, job interviews, argumentation and more. The speaking lab is utilizing a $1 million endowment gifted to the communication department by 1923 alumni and public discourse enthusiast Josephine Jones to fund the seven workshops every other Monday throughout the semester.
The Artist in Residence program is a space for students to enhance the quality of conversations in culture. The Sims duo was handpicked by the founding director and professor Jamie Skerski, Ph.D., because they use language, words and voice to make the world a better place in nontraditional ways.
Skerski said the artists in residence are a fierce duo to kickstart this program because of their investment in the community and ability to discuss communication in nuanced and sophisticated ways.
“Whether it’s imposter syndrome, promoting their own work, using social media channels, finding audiences and business relationships, I was so impressed with the way they talked about how communication has landed them,” Skerski added.
The Sims met and graduated from South Plains College in Texas in the commercial music program, where they learned the intersection of promotion and performance before the digital age. The two are self-taught in the digital format after their song “I See Red” was used in the Netflix blockbuster “365 Days” and went viral. Their interactive lecture topics include commodifying art, detachment and persistence, prompt communication, finding an audience, cross-promotion, collaborations and networking.
“We want [students] to understand that it’s not this huge, indomitable mountain that they have to climb that is going to chew them up and spit them out,” Taylor Sims said. “There are legitimate ways to climb.”
Bonnie Sims said she stresses authenticity in her communication and branding and not putting all eggs in one basket—there is never a pristine time to self-market and challenge creativity.
“Ready is not a real place a creative person gets to,” Bonnie said. “The more you learn, the more you realize you need to learn, so starting now is the most valuable thing you can do for yourself and whatever your creative outlet is. Do not wait until you feel you have accumulated everything.”
For Monday’s workshop, the Sims created social media platforms for the Josephine Jones Speaking Lab, where students collaborated to build the brand, network and connect with people in adjacent fields. The artists acknowledged their special connection with their fans and followers because their fans have been watching their journey from the start.
Senior communication student Lily Chavkin, who launched her own permanent jewelry brand at the start of the semester, said it is important to take advantage of the university’s opportunities. Chavkin said that she felt inspired when Bonnie was discussing the importance of being fearless.
“I hope for myself that I can take her advice and be less strict about what I post and let people see the real me,” she stated.
Both Bonnie and Taylor have a background in teaching. For over a decade, they have been providing private lessons in guitar mandolin, ukulele, songwriting, voice and performance. They have also managed and directed musical kids camps throughout Colorado and California.
“Teaching has always been a way for us to continue with our craft during the week when we’re not playing shows,” Taylor said. “It’s a way to pass the music on because it was passed on to us.”
Bonnie explained that this teaching experience is special because college students are hungry for knowledge and find the content applicable.
At the end of the semester, there will be a production with all of the participants. Bonnie and Taylor will coordinate with students to put on performances, market and organize the event. Logistics are being finalized at this time.
Skerski said she hopes to continue the program in the following semesters with future leaders from any art discipline. She stated that she thinks about art broadly and would be open to inviting individuals who are poets, slam poets, painters, speech writers, digital designers or anyone who applies and enriches language creatively.
The Sims said they encourage their students to do as they are: to step out of their comfort zone and apply themselves in new ways.
“Be aware that a rising tide carries all the ships, and if you are networking with people you look up to and respect in your field, you will be successful,” Taylor Sims said.
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Chloe Wasserstrom at Chloe.Wasserstrom@colorado.edu.