On March 14, the Country Music Association, and special guests Little Big Town, unveiled plans at Belmont University for a new, education-based, national college initiative named CMA EDU (Photographer: John Russell / CMA). The program is designed to reach and engage undergraduate college students with a hands-on opportunity to enhance their skills in marketing and promotion. Belmont University was chosen to host the pilot program for CMA EDU and currently boasts more than 115 members.
“CMA is excited to be making history by launching this new initiative that will bring the Power of Country to campuses across the nation,” said Sarah McGrady, CMA Senior Coordinator of Partner Programs, who spearheads the project. “The college demographic is a great source for research, and their fresh perspective and passion will support the future growth of the Country Music format.”
With the support of CMA and the Country Music community, students will gain networking opportunities, unique educational experiences, and leadership training all while promoting the Country Music genre. The students enrolled in CMA EDU commit to holding monthly meetings and work closely with CMA and members of the Country Music community to develop workshops, panels, networking opportunities, and leadership training.
Dan Keen, a former ASCAP VP and instructor in music publishing at Belmont serves as faculty adviser for CMA EDU. He said response to the program has been “overwhelming.” Adding, “College kids are very interested in Country Music.” Keen notes that the program exemplifies a significant shift in the way young aspirants look for a place in the music industry. “Fifteen years ago, when I began at Belmont, I was trying to train kids in how to fit into a machine,” he said. “The publishing houses, the record labels, management companies, and everything looked a certain way, and had a certain way of doing business, so you trained the kids to fill specific roles. That’s no longer true. Now we try to educate kids to be entrepreneurial and develop critical thinking skills so they can go out and build their own machine.”
“This is a great opportunity for networking and getting your foot in the door of the industry,” said Aubrey Rupe, 21, a Belmont Music Business major from Oklahoma. “Networking, definitely,” agreed her friend and fellow Oklahoman Ben Tripp, 20, double-majoring in Music Business and Accounting. “And also the prospects of working with CMA and getting a chance to work with artists we’re familiar with.”
Another important component of the agenda is to pursue volunteerism, not only at the CMA Music Festival, CMA Awards, and other events, but as part of a bigger picture.
“One of my roles as a faculty adviser is to encourage the kids to think in terms of volunteerism,” Keen said. “My thoughts in that regard, were that if you volunteer to work with CMA, you’re going to be networking with a lot of people. You won’t just be at some cocktail party. You’ll be working together on charitable causes and other events that matter. When you work with people on things that matter, you bond better. And they also get to see how you work. Your nature and your character, come through.
“That comes with being part of the Nashville community, which CMA certainly nurtures,” he continued. “And the kids trust the CMA brand. They know what CMA is about. They trust its stability and its dedication to core principles, and that’s one reason they want to be involved.”