Carl Rydlund Intertwines Extensive Music Industry Experience and Classroom Philosophy

Carl leading masterclass
College of Music & Performing Arts

Carl Rydlund Intertwines Extensive Music Industry Experience and Classroom Philosophy

March 7, 2024 | by Haley Charlton

Rydlund Also Serves as Belmont’s First ‘Artist in Residence’ at Ocean Way Studios 

carl-rydlund-headshot.jpegA composer, arranger, orchestrator, conductor and guitarist, Carl Rydlund has become one of the most sought-after studio musicians in the world due to his adaptability and proven expertise. He has worked with industry powerhouses such as Hans Zimmer and Hans Zimm/Remote Control Productions, Disney, Josh Groban, Joann Kane Music, Hildur Guðnadóttir, EA Games, Riot Games, Warner Brothers, Universal and Fox Studios. He has worked on more than 1,500 movies and has been a session guitarist for thousands of records, television shows and films.  

Since 2021, Rydlund has also included professor of practice, music & media at Belmont on his extensive resume. With the goal to prepare the next generation of music professionals, Rydlund is fusing his robust industry experience into the classroom. Though, he stays busy in both worlds, prioritizing classes at Belmont, but continuing to squeeze in sessions with real-world clients in between. 

“My teaching philosophy is to bring to the classroom what I did yesterday or this morning in the studio. I like to give my students the most up-to-date information they can have and show them what’s happening in the professional world right now,” Rydlund said.  

With roots deeply entrenched in music, Rydlund's upbringing was steeped in melody and rhythm. "My dad was a musician, and he owned a music store. I grew up thinking everybody was a musician," he reminisced. That early exposure and passion led him to study at The Grove School of Music in Los Angeles where he became connected with a long list of industry contacts that set him up for his illustrious career of more than 30 years.  

“A lot of people I learned from never asked me to pay them anything, they just told me to teach someone else,” Rydlund explained. “And I took that seriously.” 

carl-rydlund-teaching.jpegDuring one of his visits to Nashville as he was working on video game recordings, he met Pat McMakin at Ocean Way Studios and Belmont Music Professor Dr. Jeff Kirk. They hit it off and became good friends, ultimately leading Rydlund to guest lead a few clinics at Belmont. Thankfully, Rydlund fell in love with Nashville and was able to join the College of Music and Performing Arts faculty shortly after moving to the city with his family. 

He now gets to “pay back” those industry mentors through his own classes in arranging, DAW as musical instrument, studio musicianship, guitar and composition at Belmont.  

Rydlund said students need a healthy balance of book knowledge with real world, “just do it” experiences. He does his best to give students an authentic picture of what to expect once they get into the industry. One way he does this is by leaning heavily on his industry connections to help paint that picture. 

Last fall, for example, Rydlund brought in music copyist Matt Franko to conduct a masterclass with music technology majors and students in Dr. Jeff Kirk’s arranging class. This full-day experience, showcasing the copying process and tips and tricks on creating well copied music and template design, culminated with a demonstration at Ocean Way Nashville Studios. At Ocean Way, Rydlund and Franko brought in session musicians to showcase the importance of well copied music. 

carl-rydlund-oceanway.jpegThis masterclass was the start of a new partnership with Ocean Way as Rydlund was recently announced as the first “Artist in Residence” at the studio. In this role, Rydlund will continue to develop masterclasses, guest lectures and immersive experiences that give students a dynamic learning environment that mirrors the realities of the music industry. 

However, Rydlund also said he typically learns more than his students do when he teaches.  

“They ask questions and give feedback in ways I don’t expect, and I think that’s indicative of the Belmont student in and of itself,” Rydlund commented. “They are inquisitive and want to know what’s really happening. This generation has such good baloney detectors – they want to know what’s real. So, I try to balance showing them what they can really expect while giving them the support to feel like they are capable of navigating it.”  

Rydlund says his favorite parts of working in the music industry are the lifelong relationships he’s developed. Though, if he had to pick a favorite “gig,” it would be the short stint at Radio City Music Hall with Josh Groban last year. “It was so musically fulfilling because he’s such a great artist,” Rydlund said. “Growing up, I was always a huge fan of the guys that arranged for the crooners, and I got to do that with Josh Groban. It was a dream come true to fulfil a lifelong passion of mine to arrange for a singer.” 

When sharing these stories and real-world perspectives with his students, Rydlund leans on borrowed advice from his dear friend and remix DJ Chris Cox. “The greatest thing Chris said is that this business is like a flowing river. You just have to jump in and go for it, and then see what happens.”  

He likens it to advice from comedian Steve Harvey, who says that we all find ourselves on the edge of a cliff sometimes, and our choice is to stay there or jump off. If you stay, nothing will change. If you jump, it may be a bumpy ride down, but your parachute will open eventually.  

Rydlund concluded, “That’s what students need to hear. In all this, as you jump in the stream or jump off the cliff, your parachute will open. Just go do it. Here’s my blessing. And that means a lot to them.”