GTCC MUSICIAN FINDS SUCCESS BY STAYING TRUE TO HERSELF
By Jana Carver
Imani Pressley fell in love with music at a young age.
“It’s just something that drew me in,” she said. “I was playing drums at church when I was six, and I started producing my own music when I was nine.”
Pressley’s early involvement in music came naturally, and by the time she was a teenager, she made it her goal to pursue a career in the music industry.
“I played for my high school basketball team, and for me, I was always torn between playing basketball and music,” said Pressley of Greensboro. “I’ll never forget in my senior year of high school I quit my basketball team and knew that this (music) was it; I was going to do this.”
Upon graduating high school, Pressley enrolled in GTCC’s Larry Gatlin School of Entertainment Technology with a concentration in sound engineering. She says it is one of the best things she’s ever done.
“I saw the studios, and I was in awe, just the way they had everything on a professional level made me want to go there,” she said. “They taught me the acoustics of sound and the sonic integrity of music. … It really is a life-changing experience for your career.”
Today, Pressley is a successful songwriter and producer, who has worked with groups such as Grammy-nominated Trin-i-tee 5:7, as well as Virtue, and is in the process of producing her first debut album.
On Feb. 23, she’ll be returning to her alma mater to perform her original music on GTCC’s High Point Campus. Pressley, who plays keys and guitar, will take the stage with bandmates, Fitzgerald Tate (bass) and Josh Boyd (drummer), and play a mix of pop, urban, funk and electronic. Pressley said she hopes her music will inspire her audience. What speaks to her most about music is being able to reach people with her words.
“I love the fact that I can draw people into my world and speak to them, encourage them. … I love that I can paint a picture,” she said.
As an alum of GTCC’s Entertainment Technology program, Pressley has enjoyed a career that has opened doors to opportunities she had never dreamed. One of those opportunities came in 2014 when singer-songwriter and producer, Prince, and his “right-hand-man” Joshua Welton, rearranged her song, “Eruption.”
Prince heard about Pressley’s music through a mutual friend they had both worked with, and when he asked if he could rearrange one of her songs, Pressley eagerly agreed.
“I sent him over everything, and he sent me back the final version of ‘Eruption,’” she said.
Although Pressley did not get to meet with Prince face-to-face before his passing, she said that the experience shaped her and further proved to her the importance of staying true to yourself.
“It’s so important to stay who you are,” Pressley said. “Prince was an example of that. He never changed.”
During her time in GTCC’s Entertainment Technology program, Pressley was exposed to Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) Pro Tools, a line of industry-standard equipment.
“When recording, it’s vital to know the quality of your equipment. The program gave me that.”
Pressley said that one of the most important things she learned while at GTCC was signal flow, which is the theory of how sound travels from an audio console, such as a speaker, to the ear. She was able to put everything she learned to the test when it came time for her to take her final Recording Engineering class, where she recorded a classmate’s band.
“During Recording III, you get to be in your own room and work,” Pressley explained. “I was able to learn from my mistakes and be responsible for the recording. It was just a moment of ‘Do your own thing and let’s see what you’ve got.’”
That experience helped her gain confidence. One of her instructors who helped guide her through the program was Thomas (TJ) Johnson, department chair of GTCC’s Creative and Performing Arts. Johnson described Pressley as a dedicated student with a positive attitude and strong work ethic.
“The sky is the limit for Imani!” he said. “Imani took my suggestions and made the proper adjustments to the mix and nailed it on the next listen. Imani is an excellent listener.”
As a successful artist and producer, Imani has proven that to be true.
“I look at everything from a different scope now,” Pressley said. “GTCC taught me so much.”
Pressley’s advice to aspiring artists is to not let the industry change the way you think or make you forget what you’ve set out to do.
“That’s the biggest thing for me,” she said. “I just want to stay me, and I am.”
What: GTCC Entertainment Technology Presents: Imani
When: 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 23
Where: Entertainment Technology Sound Lab, H4 building, first floor, GTCC High Point Campus, 901 S. Main St., High Point
Tickets: (All tickets are general admission.)
General public: $15
GTCC faculty/staff: $10
GTCC students: $5
Available at the door or in advance at http://www.etix.com/ticket/v/9138/guilford-technical-community-college.