As chief of staff, Lara Donahue ’14 handles the logistics that make Amper Music, an Artificial Intelligence (AI) composer, run properly.

“Our co-founders saw a need to produce music efficiently,” Donahue says. “What our team has essentially done is teach computers music theory.”

Amper’s Los Angeles team is in charge of music production, recording instruments note by note in the studio. They translate tunes to the engineering team by identifying key elements (such as rhythm and chord progression) that give the music its identity. Then, the engineers in New York City “work up the algorithmic magic behind what we do,” she says.

One of the company’s biggest feats was producing the first album composed and produced with AI: I Am AI by singer-songwriter Taryn Southern. The album single “Break Free” has 1.7 million views on YouTube. “We are using a broader form of AI because we believe in the creativity and decisions that humans get to make when working with technology,” Donahue says. “We don’t want to completely leave it up to the machine.”

Donahue’s role is behind the scenes. Her day-to-day is a blend of operations and strategic projects, ranging from organizing different facets of company culture to hiring to serving as a sounding board for the CEO.

Who uses Amper:

It is designed to be used by anyone, regardless of their music experience. Amper provides a creative advantage for content distribution platforms that make music at scale, like our client Mental Floss. Its use extends into media and news, video games, and apps. Some companies utilize Amper for their business needs and others in an educational context — students at University of Southern California have used this for their music classes to understand the fundamentals of music theory from a mathematical perspective. They learn lessons like what elements (instrumentation, key, tempo, etc.) must be combined for a pop song to be a pop song.

Before Amper:

I worked in sales at iHeartMedia. I knew my next move would be something in a more innovative space, and I wanted to scale down to what I call a small, liberal arts company because I came from a small, liberal arts school.

Heard it through the grapevine:

I hosted a WRCU radio show at Colgate: The Grapevine with Lay Ray (me) and DJ Derf (Fred Williams ’14). We spun a different genre every week.

Why bivalves may have helped:

When I applied to Amper, I put “Chief of Staff: The One Who Shucks Oysters” in the e-mail subject line. I learned to shuck oysters in a cooking class years before, and I thought that in a sea of applications, some quirky skill might make me stand out. That’s my party trick. A great one. You can feed people.