BDC, Community Partners Jump into First Collaborative Project with Release of Nashville Hypertension Report
Belmont University’s new Data Platform (BDP), housed at belmontdata.org, is a solution to the city’s need for a shared inventory of community data that can inform data-driven solutions to issues in Nashville.
The new platform takes community-level data and aggregates it into one centralized location, open and available to the public and other stakeholders. This collaborative platform offers a collective impact framework for the community to have intentional opportunities to work together and share information for the purpose of solving complex problems, such as the disparate negative health outcomes across zip codes that disproportionately affect people of color.
“Leaders across Nashville recognize that without a common data platform, there is a risk of wasting resources and duplicating efforts in the quest to address community challenges, having little impact,” said Belmont Data Collaborative Executive Director Dr. Charlie Apigian. “We want to change the narrative on how we use data to empower individuals, organizations and communities to bring people together to spark action.”
One project using the BDP is already underway. The Healthy Community Insights (HCI) working group recently released its Nashville Hypertension Report which offers an initial snapshot into the issue of hypertension in Nashville. The Report uses BDC’s Data Warehouse of publicly available, state-wide health data and looks at its prevalence and unequal distribution across the city. The report is available on the Data Platform at belmontdata.org.
Led by the Belmont Data Collaborative (BDC) and non-profit partner Thriving Cities Group, HCI is a resulting organization of the BDC’s Data Warehouse initiative that looks to harness data to build healthy communities.
According to the report, the city of Nashville spends more than $126 million each year on health care costs associated with hypertension, yet, nearly one-third of Nashvillians suffer from hypertension and many insist the root cause is due to disparities within Nashville community neighborhoods.
The prevalence rates of hypertension vary widely between zip codes in Nashville, with some neighborhoods seeing numbers as high as 47.3 percent, higher than the national average. Findings also indicate that when compared to white people, Black people report the highest hypertension rates, have twice as many hypertension-related hospitalizations, experience higher rates of hypertension-related mortality and have higher rates of pre-pregnancy hypertension or pregnancy-induced preeclampsia. Additionally, the lowest reported rates are seen in the Hispanic population, likely due to undiagnosed cases of hypertension.
With more than 70 percent of Nashville having limited access to healthy foods, the data demonstrates the choice-constrained-by-availability paradox. The issues do not boil down to education alone. (i.e. People may recognize an apple is a healthier choice than a cookie, but without access to the apple, they are forced to choose the cookie.) Some Nashville zip codes are “food swamps” with no full-service grocery stores or farmers’ markets, such as zip code 37228 which does have 62 fast food establishments instead. Hypertension prevalence is 24.1 percent higher than the Nashville average in this area.
Director of the Belmont Data Collaborative Dr. Catherine Bass said unique drivers necessitate unique solutions, rather than a universal solution for the entire city.
“The peanut butter approach, or spreading resources evenly across the city, is not sufficient. We need to create and locate resources in the areas that need attention,” she explained. “Data is the key to understanding where the differences are and what resources are needed. When we can see where vulnerabilities exist on a more granular level, then we can allocate resources and interventions accordingly.”
HCI sees this report not as a final deliverable, but instead as the initial conversation about collaborating to find unique solutions to this issue. Accurate, shared data is a big factor in making collaborative efforts happen among multiple agencies that lead to meaningful impact.
Apigian continued, “Data alone cannot solve complex problems, but it can be the catalyst for change and meaningful solutions, and with a group like Healthy Community Insights, data can be used for good.”
The BDP combines the Data Warehouse with Thriving Cities Group’s user-friendly mapping tool, RoundTable, and will eventually include a collaboration tool called ReLight that will allow public users to participate in data competitions and challenges and to share insights on future data reports. The group invites the community to use and share data through the BDP to better address hypertension and other critical issues across the city.
Curb College Associate Dean Dr. Cheryl Slay Carr was selected to lead, research and present “The State of Black Music Report” for the National Museum of African American Music (NMAAM).
The report was commissioned in concert with NMAAM’s mission: “…to tell the story that has never been told before—one that shares how African Americans play a critical role in shaping our country’s heritage and culture…” Carr was selected in response to the Museum’s request for proposals to develop the report along with co-research Dr. Morgan Bryant, assistant professor at St. Joseph’s University.
Preliminary findings were presented during the Museum’s State of Black Music Summit as part of celebration of Black Music Month, and included an interview with Henry Hicks, President and CEO of NMAAM.
The last time Hailey Pierce attended the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival she popped in for a day with her mom to see The Lemon Twigs before a campus visit to Belmont. Now at age 21 and a student in Belmont’s Bonnaroo U course, she ventured out on her own.
“The hardest part,” she said, scanning the crowd like a detective looking for someone to interview, “is finding the right person to approach.”
Hailey and the other 18 students in Bonnaroo U would gather about 400 interviews over the course of the festival, and she wanted to make sure she had a good mix. She looked past the ravers and hippies for the time being and zeroed in on a woman named Meg, age 62.
Meg, who lives nearby in Tullahoma, wore a scrunched up straw cowboy hat with a bandana around the rim. She had a lighter hanging around her neck in a purple case studded with sparkly stones. Hailey had practiced spotting these type details in class during the weeks prior—the choices of style, the clues and outward expressions of personality that could indicate taste in music. As she worked through a set of questions with Meg, she learned even more. Eventually they came to an artist they both loved— Tom Petty, a former Bonnaroo headliner. “He’s my favorite,” Hailey said as it had been a favorite of her mother’s too.
Of course the goal of Hailey’s research wasn’t to find common ground—it was just a side effect of the two women spending some time together talking about music and festivals. Rather, Hailey was learning about how music discovery works, consumption of culture and the inner workings and influences of music festivals. Later that same day she would speak with some younger people from Chicago who came to Bonnaroo for EDM while another guy in his 40s wearing a Phish T-shirt couldn’t name a single artist on the lineup.
The students who participated in Bonnaroo U’s third iteration this year lived on two tour buses during the festival. Part of their time on site happened behind-the-scenes in the media tent where they met with panelists representing an impressive array of artists, managers, festival organizers and more. The experience at the festival also was bookended by class time when students study the sociology of music and cultural theory. They learned about consumer research methods, developed interview questions, and practiced observation techniques in the classroom and at CMA Fest. They toured the Bonnaroo grounds before the festival began. Then following Bonnaroo, they gathered again in the classroom to compile, code and present their findings for up to 40 festival organizers and music industry folks.
It’s a creative and innovative way of approaching education that connects theory with practice.
Road to ‘Roo
In the week before Bonnaroo, Dr. Ken Spring paced the floor of a classroom talking about a dive bar outside of Detroit. It’s the subject of a well-regarded article the sociology professor has written called “Behind the Rave.” The story includes details about politics, art, law enforcement, money and the commerce that grew around the bar in a formerly derelict factory town. Spring later related some of the material to how parts of other music scenes take root including the formation of Bonnaroo.
He co-teaches Bonnaroo U with Dr. Sarita Stewart, a professor of Creative & Entertainment Industries. The pair tag in to lead sessions seamlessly, each complimenting the other with their strengths. In the process, students learn about the conditions leading to consumption of music as a cultural product and its relationship with various social institutions. They learn how festivals fit into the scope of the music business. As a result of their experiential and team learning, consumer research and cultural theory are made more approachable, and their experiences with industry folks leads to internships and jobs.
Indeed, the panel discussions in the media tent included personal advice for the students from heavy hitters like Ken Weinstein, a Bonnaroo co-founder and longtime publicist with his firm Big Hassle. (“If you love something, do not talk yourself out of it,” he said.) The panels, which happened about twice a day, are coordinated with the help of Bonnaroo U partners Brad Parker of C3 Presents’ U.S. Festival initiatives and music industry veteran Jeff McClusky. As another example, speakers on the Women of United Talent Agency panel suggested that students ”remember your why,” and “if there’s not a seat left at the table, roll up a chair.”
The course is in its fourth iteration. Since it began, Stewart and Spring have added a networking requirement, a journaling component and a festival curation exercise where students recommendation a headliner, mid-tier and emerging acts. Diversity has been added to panels so students can see themselves reflected in the work of the music business including an alumni panel where students hear from folks who have walked in their shoes.
“I tell our students they’re getting five years of networking in five days,” Spring said.
And the students seem to fully recognize this. The course fills up quickly with a waitlist. Two women in this year’s group said they came to Belmont specifically for the course.
“It’s nothing I’ve ever heard of or experienced in my life and probably will never experience again specifically in a school setting. Being able to talk to so many industry people and see so many amazing artists and be able to do so many amazing things,” said another student and audio engineering major, Kaitlyn Walker. “It’s probably gonna be the highlight of my whole college career.”
Universities across the country and in Europe also have been taking note. Stewart and Spring presented about the festival in the Netherlands; they’ve written a teaching paper on how to replicate the program; and courses such as Lollapalooza U at DePaul University have been modeled after their program. They’ve been pulling in additional disciplines too such as Belmont nursing students who completed clinical hours this year alongside the Bonnaroo medical team.
“From a professor’s standpoint, you always want to build and share your knowledge with other people because that’s what we’re trying to do,” Stewart said.
The professors also dream of Belmont hosting its own music festival someday as an educational tool that simultaneously showcases the musical talent of the students.
“Every time we do this class, we learn from the years before and evolve the class,” Spring said.
Each year, though, he also warns the Bonnaroo U students that the experience might ruin music festivals for them forever – especially if they attend as general population.
Music business student Chris Barefoot sees it another way. While he has indeed relished the opportunity to meet industry contacts and watch shows from the front row during Bonnaroo U he says, “it’s motivating, because I want to get back here.” Classmate Madeline Sanderson chimed in to clarify. “Back here working in the industry” she said, “with the same access.”
Embedding career readiness into curriculum is a priority at Belmont. Through steady attention and fruitful faculty partnerships, Belmont’s Office of Career and Professional Development (OCPD) is making great impact and has created numerous scalable career readiness touchpoints for students in the Curb College of Entertainment & Music Business.
Through collaboration with Curb College, OCPD staff members Nina Woodard and Caroline Rupard partnered with faculty to incorporate career readiness assignments into the MBU 2000 curriculum, an internship prerequisite course. Students learned to write effective cover letters, resumes and reference document approvals, resulting in a 32% increase in online resume reviews through OCPD.
Additionally, OCPD is fully integrated into Curb College’s required senior capstone course with assignments designed to help students develop their post-graduate job search strategy. More than 800 students have engaged with digital content in OCPD’s “Senior Strategy 5-Step Guide,” leading to even greater career outcomes for recent graduates. Through intentional partnerships and comprehensive career materials embedded into the Curb College experience, faculty are better equipped to share career guidance and students leave Belmont feeling prepared to successfully pursue careers in the entertainment and music business.
These initiatives titled “Explore, Prepare, Connect, Flourish: Embedding Career Readiness,” recently received a “National Career Innovation Award” from the Career Leadership Collective recognizing outstanding university career services offerings.
Current Middle Tennessee community college students interested in transferring to Belmont will receive guaranteed admittance to the University through their membership in the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society.
Transfer students who are members in good standing of Phi Theta Kappa will receive $7,500 in scholarship, of which $5,000 is Belmont’s general transfer merit scholarship and an additional $2,500 is scholarship from PTK membership.
The applying transfer student must be a current member of Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society with a minimum of a 3.2 cumulative GPA. All majors are encouraged to apply, except nursing. Due to unprecedented demand, the School of Nursing has hit class and clinical capacity for Fall 2022.
“This is the first year Belmont has offered the $5,000 merit scholarship for transfer students and we are thrilled to provide the extra benefit in addition to the PTK scholarship,” said Renease Perkins, assistant director of transfer admissions. “With more than 125 majors and programs to choose from, we’ll help you find your perfect fit transferring to Belmont.”
Applications are accepted on a rolling basis. For more information, contact Renease Perkins, assistant director of transfer admissions at firstname.lastname@example.org.
*The student must be in good standing with no disciplinary issues.
Belmont alumna Ashley Crawford has seen a lot of “full-circle moments” in her life.
When she was 10-years-old, “the flute chose her.”
She realized this as she was sitting in the movie theater to see the new film, “Pocahontas,” and the images of the dancing leaves across the native scenery captured her heart as the sounds of the flute filled the soundtrack.
The next week in her elementary school music class, she picked up the flute, gave it a try and described the noise that came out as “the purest tone” (after having the opposite experience with all the other available instruments).
That same day, her dad coincidentally came home and gifted her with her very own flute, knowing how much she loved hearing its melodies in “Pocahontas.” Full circle.
Fascinated with the instrument, she flew through an instructional book and quickly taught herself how to play. “It took on a life of its own,” Crawford beamed.
Naturally, she continued playing in the band through middle and high school and then attended Tennessee State University to play in the marching band and study music performance, with hopes of someday joining a symphony. After graduating and taking a gap year, Crawford started in Belmont’s Master of Music program.
Admittedly, Crawford said growing up in predominantly black spaces made coming to Belmont in 2012—a predominately white institution—a challenge. But she continued to show up, be her best self and focus on the task at hand.
Thankfully, she felt as though her Belmont professors were very hands-on with her. She mentioned Director of Orchestras Dr. Robert Gregg as one of her favorites, Instructor of Flute Dr. Carolyn Totaro for helping her “break through the glass ceiling” on the classical flute track, and others like Dr. Richard Hoffman, Dr. Richard Shadinger, Dr. Madeline Bridges, Dr. Terry Klefstad and Dr. Barry Kraus for loving her well and presenting her with opportunities both in the University and the community.
Getting to perform in Belmont’s Symphony Orchestra was a new experience for her. Although she was asked to play principal flute in Belmont’s Wind Ensemble, she decided she wanted to instead take on a new challenge and focus on the symphony. She described a rocky start, feeling uncomfortable in the new space but wanting to practice and prove to herself she could do it, all while meeting the demands of graduate-level coursework.
Today, those lessons learned are still being utilized as Crawford serves as the co-founder and president of the new Nashville African American Wind Symphony, a local wind ensemble composed of Black musicians. Many of the musicians in the ensemble studied music in college but put their instruments down after graduating. This group is a reason to pick them up again and restore their lifelong love for music.
Co-founder Bruce Ayers, a friend of Crawford’s from TSU, came to her about a year ago presenting his vision for the group and a proposal for her to come on board. Crawford said, “Of course. Let’s find a rehearsal space, find some instruments and drop the downbeat.”
The group began rehearsing each month and will hold their debut performance in celebration of Juneteenth on June 19 at 4 p.m. in Belmont’s McAfee Concert Hall. “Juneteenth: A Celebration of Freedom” will dive into the history of Juneteenth, feature works by African American composers and include selections from other local artists and groups.
Another full circle moment. The opportunity to see the Belmont stage filled with talented Black musicians has been extra meaningful to Crawford.
If one were to go to a classical symphony in Nashville or any other city, he or she would mostly see one type of player, a narrative NAAWS is hoping to change by shedding a light on how the Black community is able to perform classical music well.
“This concert is personal to me because sometimes when I’d come out on that stage, I felt like I had to do more to prove that I was good enough to belong there,” Crawford said. “This is showing the community that we can be part of these spaces, and we can play in harmony with other groups. That’s what music is about.”
Crawford talked about how representation matters, and the group is a great opportunity to create exposure for the Black community and invite them into those spaces where they do not always feel welcome.
“We created this organization to serve African American Nashvillians. It provides an environment where these types of players will feel safe, feel seen and feel heard in a space where that doesn’t often happen,” Crawford explained.
“We want the community to have access to see people who look like me play this music and see that they can play it well. We want to create this community where everyone feels welcome and comfortable coming. Our youth will see a group of musicians that looks like them and think, ‘hey, I can do that, too.’”
In addition to leading the NAAWS, Crawford teaches flute at TSU, offers private lessons and records original music under the name FluteBae, a name that stuck when a video of her free-styling for the “mask off challenge” went viral in 2017.
Since then, she has had continued success under that brand, receiving new opportunities both commercially and through private lessons. At the upcoming National Flute Association convention, she will be a guest clinician and teach about flute and hip hop.
“It’s been interesting to see how things are pivoting outside of traditional flute and classical music. When I found myself on the traditional road and in the audition circuit, I was in a low place feeling like I wasn’t good enough or feeling burnt out,” Crawford explained. “So, with FluteBae, I’ve been able to break out of this box of perfectionism found in classical music and branch out, using those classical elements I’ve been trained in for so long, but learning and implementing other elements of playing such as jazz, funk or hip hop, and it’s all in one sound now that is being recognized under the FluteBae name. It’s been instrumental in finding myself and my voice.”
FluteBae’s first EP will be released at the end of July.
To learn more about NAAWS, visit their website and be sure to attend their debut performance at Belmont on Sunday, June 19.
President Greg Jones’ inaugural year theme—Let Hope Abound—lends itself perfectly to one of Belmont’s greatest artistic expressions–songwriting, and alumnus Chad Cates was up for the challenge. “Dr. Jones teed us up with such a great title,” he said. “And alongside songwriter Tony Wood and vocalist Melinda Doolittle we were able to write for the moment and create a song that would transcend any single event and live on.”
Giving appreciation for the past and hope for the future, the trio wrote to pay homage to Belmont’s story. “We stand on the shoulders of the ones who came before,” Chad said. “In writing this song, we expressed gratitude to the Belmont story, the goodness of God and how the Lord led us here.”
But a great song is more than just words–it needs a great vocalist to perform it. Alumna and songstress Melinda Doolittle worked on the project as both a singer and a co-writer. “I was happy to be part of it, but I don’t do a lot of writing,” she explained.
There’s a big difference between writing a song and putting a song in front of an audience, Melinda said, and she was grateful to add her performance expertise to help bring the song to life. “The writing process was a gift I did not know I needed,” she said. “Writing with Tony was like a masterclass for me. Learning what the process is like from veteran writers who have these hit songs was such a great experience.”
Chad and Melinda’s legacy through this song carries on at Belmont as ‘Let Hope Abound’ is performed at many events across campus, further emphasizing this year’s theme and Belmont’s charge to serve the world. “I am just grateful to support what Dr. Jones is doing in some small capacity,” reflected Chad. The torch was passed to alumna and vocalist Piper Jones who has performed ‘Let Hope Abound’ at multiple events this year, from Dr. Jones’ Strategic Trajectory rollout to Spring 2022 commencement. Not only has Piper enjoyed singing her longtime friend Melinda’s song, she has been deeply encouraged by the song’s message. “Dr. Jones continues to talk about God-sized dreams, and I need to hear it just as much as the students,” said Piper. “The lyrics to Let Hope Abound affirm that we’ve seen incredible things done in the past, and we are hopeful that God will continue to do those things in the future.”
Belmont University hosted a Topping Out ceremony on June 14 that involved putting the last beam in place on a significant campus construction project—the Jack C. Massey Center— estimated to be complete by fall 2023. The building has been named in honor of one of the greatest entrepreneurs and businessmen in American history and is being made possible thanks to a $15 million gift from Mr. Massey’s daughter, Barbara Massey Rogers, and the Jack C. Massey Foundation.
The late Jack C. Massey (1904-1990) and his family have collectively been among one of Belmont’s biggest benefactors, supporting Belmont’s efforts for decades and providing incredible examples for students across campus.
Beth Poe, Barbara Massey Rogers’ daughter and Massey’s granddaughter, spoke at the ceremony on behalf of her family. “My grandfather loved his family, community, city, nation and Belmont. He would be very excited about the prospect of this great, new building and the future opportunities it will bring to Belmont,” she said. “The word of God states the importance of building a foundation on the Lord, with Jesus Christ as the chief cornerstone. Belmont has laid this sure foundation. The Massey family prays that all who walk through this building continue to be living stones, pointing others to the grace of Jesus.”
State-of-the-art collaboration workshops will provide spaces for students, faculty and staff to come together with the goal of using their business skills and expertise to solve complex problems. The Center will also be home to a new Welcome Center for the University and house its Admissions Team, becoming the University’s new front door.
In 1968, Massey challenged the community to build a business school at Belmont “that served Nashville.” Dean of Belmont’s College of Business Dr. Sarah Gardial said the new building is the quintessential piece of his influence on Belmont’s campus.
“This building is going to be the intersection between our campus, our programs, our students and faculty, and the community around us. We will be working on projects for and with community nonprofits, for profits and government organizations, and in fact, those projects are already underway,” said Gardial. “When I look at the building, I see not only the front door to the campus for our students and parents, but for the community to come in and partner with the Belmont community at the business school, and more broadly, to make this a more flourishing community. That’s what’s going to happen in this building, and I think Jack would be so proud of that.”
Gifts from Mr. Massey and his family over the years have helped Belmont establish its undergraduate and graduate business programs and built both the Massey Business Center–which houses the Jack C. Massey College of Business–and the Massey Performing Arts Center. In light of the new facility being built and named in his honor, the previously named Jack C. Massey Business Center, facing Wedgewood Avenue, will be renamed the Barbara Massey Rogers Center.
This summer marks 10 years since the first graduating class of Belmont’s College of Pharmacy walked across the stage in 2012. The college celebrated its 15th anniversary by holding an alumni reunion on June 11.
“We were thrilled to gather with Pharmacy alumni from across the country at the reunion to celebrate this important milestone in our college’s history. It was an opportunity to reconnect with each other as well as faculty and staff, meet their families and celebrate their professional achievements as we commemorated 15 great years,” said Dr. Kelley Kiningham, professor and associate dean of student affairs. “Our best days are ahead as we continue to champion health and well-being for our communities.”
During its 15-year tenure, the Belmont College of Pharmacy has seen growing program outcomes, with the most recent class boasting a 70.5 percent match rate for PGY1 residencies at the end of Phase II and an 89 percent match rate for PGY2 programs. 31 percent of the Class of 2022 is working in a community pharmacy, 45 percent are beginning residencies and 12 percent are employed in other settings.
The college launched the dual PharmD/MBA degree in 2015, the first of its kind to be available in Middle Tennessee, and this program is still leading the way in preparing its graduates for success and advancement in their field. The college also started the Early Assurance program, allowing incoming freshmen to complete both the undergrad and PharmD program in just six years. Additionally, Belmont’s College of Pharmacy began offering Post-Doctoral Fellowships in 2015, two-year post-doctoral training programs focused in drug information, evidence-based practice, teaching and research, in which Belmont works with corporate healthcare partners to give fellows real-world experience in specific fields.