On Mentorship and the Road:  An Interview with Judy Tint, Musician and Lawyer

Judy Tint, clinical assistant professor of music business, has more than twenty five years of experience as an attorney, consultant, and producer in the entertainment industry.  A graduate of Columbia Law School, she serves as a Governor of the Recording Academy’s New York Chapter and travels regularly to Capitol Hill to advocate for artists’ rights. Tint is also a songwriter and musician who has performed at Carnegie Hall, The Apollo Theater, Radio City Music Hall, the Portland Waterfront Blues Festival, and the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, Tennessee.  A board member of The Rhythm & Blues Foundation and WhyHunger, she devotes her time to a variety of benefits and charitable endeavors.

Judy Tint in front of The Palace Theatre before a performance of Temptations and Four Tops on Broadway (January 2015).

How does your work as a lawyer in the music business industry inform your creative and musical vision?

I grew up surrounded by music. My father went to Juilliard, and I was singing and playing instruments from childhood on, so by the time I got to law school, it was already clear to me that I wanted to work in the entertainment industry. To this day, my work — as a lawyer, an educator, and a musician — is rooted in my belief that the arts (music in particular) serve not only to entertain, but also to inspire, and to help transcend the boundaries between people, cultures, and communities. I’d like to think that my passion for music makes me a better advocate for those I serve. As to whether my legal experience makes me a better songwriter, I guess the jury’s still out, no pun intended.

Judy Tint on stage with the Four Tops.

You’ve had a lot of musical adventures.  You’ve been a vocalist, percussionist, and a background singer for many artists, and have played on tours with the Four Tops and tambourine with R & B singer Gary U.S. Bonds.  What is life like on the road and what have you learned from the artists you have worked with? 

Life on the road is exhilarating, illuminating, inspiring, and exhausting, in equal measures. It’s an amazing way to see the world, and to experience new environments, but it can also be lonely and draining, both physically and emotionally. In my Concert Management classes at NYU, I often quote Jackson Browne’s great song “The Loadout,” which perfectly sums up the life of a touring musician: “We’ve got time to think of the ones we love as the miles roll away, but the only time that seems too short is the time that we get to play.”  Having experienced it firsthand, I have enormous respect for those who are able to sustain that lifestyle over the course of their careers, and I’ve come to believe that anyone who works in the music industry, especially those who represent talent in any capacity, should be forced to do at least a couple of short tours, to fully understand the demands of road life. It has its moments of unparalleled joy, but it’s not for the faint of heart.

Judy Tint on stage at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, Tennessee.

What influence shaped you most as an artist?  Could you speak to the value of mentorship?

As a child, I was fortunate to have access to a lot of different kinds of music, from classical to Broadway to blues, jazz, R&B and, of course, rock and roll. And I’ve been influenced by all of it. I’m open to pretty much anything with melody and a groove. And I’d trade the gym for the dance floor any day.

Mentorship is an invaluable building block to anyone’s career. And, in my experience, a good mentor does not necessarily have to be someone in the exact same professional field, but rather someone who sees your potential and is willing to take the time to help you see it yourself. My first and greatest mentor was my father, who encouraged me both to make wise choices and to hold on to my wildest dreams. I’m also grateful to those who knew me primarily from my role as an industry professional but who were willing to take me seriously as a creative person. There was understandably some skepticism when I started my blues band, Jude and the Dudes, after having been a lawyer for years, but I made a point of surrounding myself with some of the best musicians in New York.  I was the weak link in the chain, but thanks to the experience and artistry of my bandmates, I was able to get stronger.  Thankfully, today’s world has become more open to those who choose to wear multiple hats. Technology has radically transformed how music is produced, distributed, and consumed, and this has created new challenges as well as many new opportunities. So, whether dealing with students, clients, or colleagues, I’m glad to provide a dose of encouragement along the way. We all need it!

 If I took your class in the Music Business Program, what would I learn?

My approach to teaching draws upon my legal and business background as well as my creative background. I think it’s extremely helpful to be able to speak both languages in order to navigate today’s industry, and our program at NYU Steinhardt incorporates this as well. My classes cover a broad range of topics, but one constant and underlying theme is that the business depends on the music, not the other way around. No matter how much technology evolves and the business models change, none of it means anything — at least not for long — without gifted artists and great songs.

You have said you are a firm believer that music can change the world.  Can you elaborate on that?

Music gets through to children of all ages in ways that no other force can. Barriers of age and race and class and language can be overcome more easily by rhythm than by rhetoric. Melodies and harmonies can inspire and excite and galvanize us, whether or not we know or understand the words. Music has been an integral part of most social justice movements, and artists have a unique ability to raise both awareness and funds for causes they believe in. The right song can change minds, move hearts, and fill coffers…so, in the words of the immortal David Bowie, “Let’s Dance.”


This post appears in the following categories: Faculty, music