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Jennifer Piurek
University Communications

Last modified: Friday, September 19, 2008

Jacobs alumnus, major infant product manufacturer partner to offer free baby CD

"Hangin' Out With My Baby" to be distributed to new moms at hospitals across the nation

Sept. 18, 2008

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- From the time he could walk, Rod Clemmons took every opportunity to toddle over to the nearest piano bench and start pounding away. He could just make out the difference between the black and white keys -- Clemmons was born legally blind.

Rod Clemmons

Rod Clemmons

He was also talented enough that his mother started taking him to piano lessons at the University of Arkansas when he was just four years old. Clemmons continued his classical piano training (from age six to 18) at the Arkansas School for the Blind, from which he graduated in 1980. When he was later accepted into the prestigious piano program at the Jacobs School of Music, Indiana University provided him with audio textbooks, while the late Peter Delone -- then a professor of music theory at IU -- set up private music theory classes so Clemmons could bypass the large lecture hall for the required class.

Clemmons is now president and CEO of Verdict Entertainment in New York City. He's also the producer of Hangin' Out With My Baby, a new CD that will be given out to new mothers at hospitals across the nation as part of "New Baby, New Music," a joint promotion with a major infant product manufacturer (the company will be made public when the campaign launches).

Clemmons recalls fondly the Jacobs connection that indirectly helped launch his current career. During his sophomore at IU, he was introduced to Isaiah Sanders, one of Stevie Wonder's principal keyboard players. Sanders had a speaking engagement in Bloomington and needed to borrow a special keyboard; Clemmons was one of a small handful of people who had the keyboard, and the only one Sanders could reach.

"He asked if he could borrow the keyboard and I was like 'well,'" laughed Clemmons of his hesitation at the time. "Then he said, 'If you let me borrow it, I'll teach you everything you need to know to work in this business.'"

Clemmons agreed and subsequently spent several hours working with Sanders, who taught him that keyboard players are mimicking other instruments, not just playing the piano on a keyboard. "It was a wonderful trade. From there I got into electronic music and producing."

Today, Clemmons runs Verdict Entertainment, a label he started in 1990 under the name RJC productions. While he usually produces albums for pop and rock artists, he has produced everything from Latin pop music to a recent slew of albums for babies, children and families.

"At one point, Hangin' Out With My Baby was one of the most downloaded children's albums on iTunes," he said. "It's not just for the baby, but for parents with newborns to enjoy.'"

Kids songs

The CD, featuring upbeat, often humorous songs that include "Time to Get Dressed," "Diaper Change" and "Sleepy Time" (written and performed by Dwayne Arvinger), will be part of the "New Baby, New Music" promotion that is scheduled to kick off in October in Chicago at MetroSouth Medical Center. The second phase of the promotion will include a tie-in with a major infant product manufacturer that will provide new moms at more hospitals across the nation with coupons along with the CD.

As a producer, Clemmons helps artists achieve their artistic vision and arranges and orchestrates all musical parts of the songs, using his new Roland XP60 to control a Yamaha Motif Module. "I don't do looping. I create all of the drum parts, the bass parts, the piano, strings -- with this new equipment, I can make some of the richest drum sounds and very warm string sounds. It's quite a departure from the tinny sounds we used to get."

Next up: completing his master's degree in music at Juilliard, where he is currently enrolled, and finishing his own R&B album, What's Up, It's Me. He will offer the single as a free download on iTunes to coincide with Mother's Day 2009.

No matter what the future brings, Clemmons will never forget his Jacobs education -- or the man who started him on his road to success. "Isaiah Sanders was an instrumental part in my getting into commercial pop music."