Audio Arts students launch Culture Cauldron, a musical melting pot

Audio Arts students launch Culture Cauldron, a musical melting pot

Culture Cauldron produces site-specific digital performances for local artists.
Published: October 23, 2021 | Updated: October 26th, 2021 at 2:38 pm
The Executive Team of Culture Cauldron
The executive team for Culture Cauldron. From left to right: Bass Conde, Delaney Shaffer, Nick Peta, Maya Abrams, Scott Greenblatt.

While walking past a laundromat on a late night in July, Nick Peta told Bass Conde about his idea to rebrand a music recording series into a collaborative production company. Two months later, they released the first episode of their digital performance series: Culture Cauldron. 

Culture Cauldron is a student-run digital artist showcase and production team. The brand was originally called Pulse: The Unplugged Series, created in 2019 by three Audio Arts graduate students. It entirely produced and showcased local Syracuse music talent, until COVID-19 brought Pulse to an end.

Audio Arts graduate Peta remembered performing through Pulse as an undergrad, and after talking to one of the founders he decided to take on the project and rebrand. Now, Culture Cauldron is run by five fellow students in Peta’s program and has already featured two SU artists: Sarah Gross, who recently performed with Sammy Rae & The Friends at The Westcott Theater, and Peter Groppe, who also performs with SU student band NONEWFRIENDS.  

“I want to be involved with creative collaboration and find people who are really good at the things that I am not,” said Peta. “That is how the best teams function … Everyone has their own unique skill set.”

Peta established himself as Creative Director and recruited his classmates for Culture Cauldron’s executive board. Conde acts as Executive Producer, Scott Greenblatt is Head Sound Engineer, Maya Abrams takes care of Artist Relations, and Delaney Shaffer is Marketing Director.

Abrams said that for the executive roles, they are all working in an environment they are interested in. She wants to work in artist management, and she said Culture Cauldron is a great opportunity to practice and get exposure.

“We are all playing to our strengths,” said Abrams.

Culture Cauldron also has a production team of about ten people who help with sound, video and managing the set. 

Abrams described that despite them working at no cost to the artist, the team wants to give each artist a professional experience. Peta also labeled each artist as a team member.

“In terms of the artist, that’s another person that you’re fluctuating into your team who you want to feel that same amount of synergy with,” Peta said. 

Every two weeks, Culture Cauldron has a shoot day. Each artist performs two songs: one cover and one original. The team not only records the songs, but also produces a music video and an interview series. 

Senior Sarah Gross was the first student musician the team worked with.

“It was super intimate and it felt right in my element and I was super impressed by everyone,” she said. “Everything was so well thought of and taken care of – all they had to do was press record.”

Gross sang a cover of “Willin’” by Linda Ronstadt and an original song entitled “Osprey Park,” and they filmed in Peta’s family garden in Liverpool. 

Culture Cauldron wants to be a product of diversity in terms of both the genre of the artists and the identity of each artist. Peta said one way for the team to express diversity is through the explicit branding of their shoot locations. 

“We were not going to film all of our sessions in a studio… It’s important for the location to be an extension for the musical identity of the artist,” he said.

Culture Cauldron sound engineers
Greenblatt works on set as Head Sound Engineer.

Abrams said that the team plans to highlight Black artists in February and women artists in May. And Conde said that each episode features a different genre of music, too. 

“Sarah [Gross] had a folky-country vibe and Peter [Groppe] had indie-rock, and our third artist will be R&B,” said Conde. “The music will help us create a different video style and a different editing style. It’s all going to affect each other.”

Conde described Culture Cauldron as a promotional company and melting pot of music, which is where their group’s name came from. He said their mission is to bring together different types of people, artists, and creatives to shape the culture of Syracuse and beyond.

Peta said that with each session, the team understands visually what their identity will become. At the end of the semester, the team plans to release an album of all Culture Cauldron recordings, as well as produce a live-performance house show.

“They are visionary people,” said Gross. “They have a strong idea in their heads of what they want and what they are going to do and they have someone on the team who knows what to do to make that happen.” She went on, “I have to give credit to them. It’s not easy to have that many moving parts and still make it fun.”

Culture Cauldron on set
Culture Cauldron produces content in site-specific locations that matches the identity of each artist.