Earning a college degree is not an easy accomplishment; only about one third of Americans have done so.
Rowan student Phillip “Rook” Toliver is currently at work to get his degree at age 43, while simultaneously running his record label “Salvation Wreckordz”.
Toliver revealed that he has been making music for over 20 years. He could have been satisfied with that experience and used it to run his label; instead, he wanted to go the extra mile.
Toliver, who is also a recording artist under the stage name “Azarael,” attended Camden County College in the 90s but ultimately ended up dropping out.
This time around he says he came back to school with a different mindset and is much more focused. He is on the pursuit of knowledge.
“Doing music and going to school was a conversation that I had with my wife and my parents. I was always doing music but I wanted to learn the things that I don’t know,” he said.
Toliver is a sophomore music industry major, with a specialization in both technology and business. According to Rook, at Camden County their program was tailored more towards the recording side of the music industry, not business.
By going back to school, Toliver wanted to learn more about how to develop his business, so he needed to find a school that would educate him on precisely that. After being recommended by a former professor at Camden County, he chose Rowan and firmly believes he made the right choice.
“I think the professors they have here are more than qualified…these professors are really connected to the music scene so I’m like I gotta be in there,” Toliver said of Rowan’s program. “It’s not textbook stuff, they tell you real life experiences.”
That real life experience being passed down to students is very valuable especially within the music industry. Professor Michael McArthur, who works with musician Estelle, and professor Mathieu Gendreau who works with Duck Down Records are just two examples. But Toliver has been pleased with all the professors that he has come across on his double-specialization schedule.
Toliver has used the music industry program at Rowan to educate himself in his field and to run Salvation Wreckordz to the best of his ability.
He and his colleagues are all attending different institutions and universities to build their knowledge of the business and further develop their skills. The team will share all the information they learn with each other in order to maximize knowledge within the company.
“We take all of what we learn, bring it back to the hub and teach it to the rest,” he said.
The creation of Salvation Wreckordz came about in the mid 2010s after himself and others close to him found a new relationship with Christianity.
“We kept making music so we turned that more into a movement and progress through our lives,” Toliver said. “Salvation Wreckordz is a new concept, before that we were Dirty Dungeon records. Salvation Wreckordz came about after I accepted Christ in 2012.”
The record label has had gospel, hip-hop and rock music come out of it. Besides Azarael (Toliver), the founding artists at Salvation Wreckordz are Slick Nyce, Christal Clear, Jwalkz, Stiggz and Legacy.
Passion is something that cannot be learned or taught, but instead needs to be derived from inside. Phillip Toliver has a burning passion for music and his choice to further develop his education to improve his company expresses this passion.
When asked about what makes him love music so much, his response was about the listeners.
“Music has this way of tapping into everybody’s life and unifying people on a level that’s unbelievable to me,” he said.
It’s a beautiful thing when passion mixes with determination and that is exactly how to describe Phillip Toliver’s journey to getting his music industry degree. It may not be the most traditional way to do it, but everyone’s path is different.
His story proves that with determination and persistence, it is never too late to get an education.
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