From having music featured on various shows such as “Madmen” and touring all over the U.S and Europe, Josh Ottum has shifted his focus from his creating own music to helping develop the music of others.
His journey to becoming a professor and launching the commercial music program at Bakersfield College started three years ago but his passion for creating music was with him since he can remember.
“I got into music because I was forced to take piano lessons when I was 3,” said Ottum. “That was my start.”
That was the beginning of his long relationship with music, though he didn’t take it seriously until he was in high school. Even at that age, he knew he wanted to create his own music.
“I remember a lot of friends in high school were always covering music, but we just didn’t,” he said. “We were always interested in making our own music, and to this day, it remains the same thing.”
Ottum studied jazz guitar seriously for over a decade while he lived in Seattle. He attended Seattle Pacific University where he received his B.A. in music and a B.A. in psychology.
It was while he was living in Seattle that he learned his biggest lessons and caught his biggest breaks.
“I was really interested in jazz, but I was surrounded by people who wrote songs and played rock ’n’ roll and were into everything except jazz,” Ottum said. “For some weird reason, I stayed there and let myself be influenced by them instead of leaving and trying to find people like me, which I always kind of think back on as like a pertinent moment because somebody else would have just left.”
After that realization he, “caught the bug” to write his own music. It was his goal to get signed by a record label, which was achieved in the early 2000s when he was signed to independent labels in the U.S., Mill Pond Records, and Germany, Tapete Records.
Tapete Records ended up booking a bunch of tours and festivals for Ottum all over Europe in places like Switzerland, Germany, France, the U.K. and Iceland.
After having played and toured for about a decade, he started to get a sense of what “that” life was like and decided he was ready for something else.
He went back to school to become a professor.
He attended UC Irvine where he received a master’s degree in integrated composition improvisation and technology. He then got his Ph.D. in interdisciplinary arts from Ohio University.
At Bakersfield College, Ottum teaches a series of classes that specialize in bringing out students’ musical potential. Classes like recording techniques, live sound and songwriting all serve to provide students with practical experience on how to make music.
Since last fall, Ottum and fellow professor Kris Tiner have put together a festival called the Panorama Creative Music Summit.
“The whole idea is that it brings together a lot of different genres and the main focus is that it is original music,” Ottum said. “We take (original) submissions from students.”
This festival is expected to be an annual fall event. Along with the festival, they have also started a student- run record label called Panorama Recordings.
“What Kris and I are trying to do is lay the groundwork for students to create a thriving music community and maybe give students the tools to succeed that I wish I was given when I was in college,” said Ottum.