The safe, the expected, the tried-and-true: It’s as if Laura Sutnick were allergic to these tendencies, at least musically. Under the moniker Laura of Miami—an ode to the naming conventions of local midcentury design houses like Alix of Miami—she’s made it her mission to push the city’s musical conversation forward. For the past two years, while pursuing master’s degrees in music business and in arts presenting and live entertainment management at the University of Miami, Sutnick served as music director at the progressive independent college radio station WVUM 90.5 FM and hosted her own popular weekly show, Vamos a La Playa. As director, she moved the station away from what she describes as its old ambient-heavy “beats and clicks” sound to a more dynamic format mirroring music trends at large. The result: an MTVu Woodie award last year, naming WVUM the best college radio station in the country.
Since graduating this past spring, 32-yearold Sutnick has stayed busy as ever. She recently moved Vamos a La Playa to the local online station WynwoodRadio.com, and continues to broadcast every Monday from 2 to 4 pm. She’s also ramped up her work as cofounder of the avant-garde music blog, DJ collective, and event production company Nightdrive, and was instrumental in bringing blog-hot performers like Little Dragon and Austra to town for the first time. As if that were not enough, she also spins the ones and twos at venues such as The Electric Pickle Company in Wynwood.
Her predilection for eclectic dance floor sounds took root during her childhood in Bogotá, Colombia. “I listened to strange music growing up,” she says, name-checking her mother’s Latin favorites (Juan Gabriel and Rocío Dúrcal) alongside the obscure synth-pop and tunes by Miami Sound Machine she heard on summer trips between Miami and Europe. When she was eight years old, a live tour promoting the early hip-hop movie Beat Street came to town. “It changed my life. All I wanted to learn how to do was break-dance,” she recalls.
She moved to Miami as an adolescent, and WVUM came into play. “I used to listen to the station on my way to school,” she says. “It was instrumental.” After earning a double bachelor’s degree from Boston College, she enrolled in the master’s program at UM and manned the only open slot on the WVUM schedule—a reggae block—until she moved up the ranks and got the chance to shape the station’s sound.
The exploration continues with Nightdrive’s busy fall schedule. Last month, they teamed with Grand Central to bring to town the Drive tour, featuring electronic artists including College from the movie’s soundtrack. Similar events, still under wraps at press time, are slated for September. In the meantime, expect the unexpected from Sutnick: “If I can get away with mixing an old disco or house track with something that just came out, and people react positively, then I’m happy.”