I’ve interviewed over 600 artists and bands in three years and let me tell you, sometimes it’s not as fun as it sounds. Don’t get me wrong, PensEyeView.com is the best job in the world - I’ve sat down with bands that I used to wait in line for hours at their concerts – so I’m not complaining about that. Sometimes though, getting answers from an artist can be tough. I often wonder how some of them were able to make it this far in the business, let alone make it out of bed in the morning. Then, I remember who put the meeting together; their loyal, dedicated, overworked and hyper attentive manager or publicist who keeps them afloat.
One of those magical multitaskers that I’ve been lucky enough to work with has been Jake Wilkenfeld-Mongillo, a musician, manager and publicist who has earned his stripes in the music business by working with mega bands from all genres of the music industry. When bands need help, they turned to Jake who found his own niche for being able to tackle the day-to-day operations of running a band. “Somewhere in college, I discovered that my strongsuit was always on sitting the planning side when it came to being a member of an active band. In every unsigned band, there is (and should be) at least one person who’s on the horn getting the shows, making the phone calls, organizing practices, and making things happen. By no means was I ever alone, but I found I was the point man when it came to these tasks.”
Early on, Jake scratched his teeth in various bands since high school, a pop/punk band called Push To Release, along with three years of college at the University of Connecticut playing bass in a nine piece band called Tap Out and is currently balancing his talents playing bass in a pop/ska band called Hey Stranger, and guitar in an early reggae band called The Hard Times. Despite being able to pick up any instrument and play on a whim, Jake was also managing the band’s career and making sure people were paying attention. “I had spent high school and college performing and running my own bands, and had to figure out for myself whether or not it was something I could do full time. I moved to New York City, and after about six months of knocking on doors, and through some very unexpected connections, I found myself a part-time Production Assistant at Rock Ridge Music in Newark, New Jersey, later moving on to Online Marketing and Product Management positions.”
Rock Ridge allowed Jake to really get into the inner workings of how bands operate at every level and with each band he took something different away. “I’ve had the pleasure of working with some amazing musicians and gifted songwriters that very much played the artist and creative “role” and I’m sure appreciated my ability to keep my head on straight and get things done. I love having the opportunities to perform and entertain crowds and I think I’m just one of the guys who enjoys the work that it takes to put the myself and my bandmates in front of those crowds.” Jake adds, “I will say that being the “behind the scenes” guys means making the real relationships and has lead to some great friendships and some great opportunities to play with some of my heroes.”
Ironically, what seemed to be a gift of Jake’s from the start, his transition into the music business was first started by operating the “behind the scenes” of Hillel (at his alma mater), where Jake was part of the now defunct Jewish Campus Service Corps Fellowship, charged with engaging those who would not normally participate in organized Jewish life. His job was to spend time meeting those who would likely never step through the doors of Hillel. “My purpose was to help connect them on their terms, where they were at, to Jewish life in a meaningful way. This was by way of meeting students one-on-one, creating on campus initiatives, programs, events, and most of all having great conversations.”
Recently Jake has taken on another role as the new Communications Associate for Hazon. “I will be helping improve Hazon’s visibility. They already have a wide range of programming, including high profile bike rides and CSA programs for example, but I will be on the side that helps market those programs. My responsibilities will pretty diverse from writing copy, some web design, PR, mass communications, social media marketing, being a general tech guy, and any other challenges they throw my way.”
But don’t think for a second that Jake is stopping with the music while working with Hazon. For musicians - whether they are on stage, behind the scenes or in the car listening to rare live CD they were lucky enough to get a hold of - music is always a part of them. It’s a feeling you can’t escape and a desire that calls on you at all times of the night - the same feeling that brought Jake to New York in the first place and always reminds him that everyone needs someone to be there pushing them towards success.
“I’d like to leave this planet a little bit better off than I found it, and I think Hazon is going to be a huge help to me in that respect. When I’m not promoting sustainability, I’ll be playing music and helping out bands, which I can only assume help someone somewhere, given how much music has done for me in my life.”