Posted: April 26, 2017 at 8:19 pm

By Alison Kaiser, Morgan Krieger and Kristen Tuell

Darko Velichkovski, a West Virginia University music industry professor, had a dream his students would do something larger than life.

He knew they had the potential to be great entrepreneurs, manager, marketing professional, leaders, and more. Velichkovski knew music would ignite a fire within students, they just needed a platform to execute their skills. This was all a mere dream less than four years ago. Today, that dream is a full-fledged student run record label called Mon Hills Records.

“I had an intro to music class with Professor Velichkovski my first semester at WVU,” says Cody Kerns, associate general manager of Mon Hills Records.

To Kerns, Velichkovski was one of those profound professors many individuals never have the privilege of learning from during their educational career. Kerns, a musician himself, grew close to Velichkovski while taking his class. Their shared passion of music and the music industry cultivated a great friendship.

“At the end of the semester, he [Velichkovski] came up to me and said, ‘I am going to start this thing,'” said Kerns. Velichkovski did not disclose to Kerns what “this thing” was.

“I tried to get him to tell me what it was, but he couldn’t,” said Kerns. “All he said was I was in it.”

That is all Kerns needed; he was on board. After a few weeks of vague discussion about this thing Kerns was in, Velichkovski was finally able to give Kerns all of the details.

“He explained he was going to start a completely student-run record label at WVU,” said Kerns.

While Velichkovski said he would oversee the label, all executive decisions would ultimately be left up to students. Velichkovski not only viewed Kerns as a confidant, but a liaison to other students.

“Professor Velichkovski asked me to spread the word about the label,” said Kerns. “I made little flyers on Word explaining what I knew about the record label and stood in front of the lair for a couple days.”

Although this was amidst Fall finals, Kerns received great interest from peers. Kerns told anyone who was interested in being part of the record label to simply email their resume. The outcome was not what he expected; he had received a roaring 50 applications.

“I went home that Christmas break and all I did was read applications,” said Kerns.

Kerns was instructed to separate the applicants into around 10 different departments depending on skill and experience. As everyone returned to school for the Spring semester, Velichkovski set up an initial meeting with the applicants to hash out details and explain in depth what Mon Hills Records would strive to be. Up until this time, Kerns was unclear as to what his part would be in Mon Hills Records.

“Professor Velichkovski started the meeting by saying, ‘Meet your general manager,'” said Kerns. “I looked around to see who it was and realized he was pointing at me!”

Surprised was an understatement. Kerns lacked any type of managerial experience. However, he has had great success while working for the record label. Kerns has held three different positions including, General Manager, head of A&R-Artist Relations, and his current position, associate general manager. During his time at the record label, Kerns has seen four projects through completion, has four projects scheduled to release in the next few months, and is currently working on four projects.

18 Strings, an acoustic string trio in Morgantown, was signed by Mon Hills Records during the Fall of 2016. They are one of the four clients currently working on their first project with the record label.