Where Education Meets Real Life!

As the calendar year winds to a close, I decided to take some time to think back over the last two academic semesters this year. This has been busy year, both in and outside the classroom.

I have always approached teaching in the Music Business program with the thought that Academia needs the Industry, as much as the Industry needs Academia. Educated graduates benefits everyone. So from day one, I’ve always looked beyond the textbook, choosing to incorporate guest speakers from the music and entertainment industry into the curriculum of every course I teach. In addition, I make it a personal practice to remain engaged in the industry, through organizational memberships, presentations at industry conferences, and attending industry events to maintain business relationships, and to continue learning and remaining current with what’s going on in the music business today. I do all that so that I’m always able to present my students not just with the knowledge of industry terms, definitions, and the basics of working in the business; which are all very important. But also in an effort to help them to be ready to walk across the commencement stage, right onto the stage of life; the real life of working, growing, and succeeding in their chosen field.

Bringing industry executives in to speak is always a real treat, as students have the opportunity to hear from Song Pluggers, Publishing Administrators, Booking Agents, Artist Managers, Entertainment Publicists, and Tour Managers.

We traveled down to Nashville for some industry showcases:

And again to Nashville to visit top Talent Agencies:



I also encourage my students to volunteer at various music conferences and attend networking events:

I’ll admit that my approach to teaching does require more of my energy, more creativity, and more out-of-the-classroom time, as I work to make every event tie-in to what we’re learning, and how to apply it to real world working. But it’s worth it as I watch some students listen more intently when they meet people who are doing what they want to do when they graduate. And pushing students out of their comfort zones, getting them to do some things they don’t want to do, or they didn’t think they could complete successfully. And then seeing the results of them making a connection, and getting that internship or job. Or getting email from former students who talk about how they didn’t realize just how much they were learning in class, until they had to apply that knowledge at work.


An industry friend shared this graphic with a group of my students at a Tour Management Workshop.* I kept it because it applies to so much more; to life itself. It was a reminder to them that success (the iceberg) required a lot of sacrifice to achieve. Sometimes people only see what’s above the surface (the success), but they don’t take note of all of the hard work, persistence, discipline, rejection, courage, risks and other things required to achieve it. But that’s also why it’s important for people to surrounded themselves with good habits, passion, honesty, and dedication to maintain that success.

Education is important. But where education meets real life makes it even more worthwhile. Helps me to enjoy what I do even more. I can’t wait to get another year started!


  • Success graphic provided by Eric Kilby, Director of Touring for Compassion Productions

You Are a Better Teacher Than Most of the (other) Professors That I’ve Had!

Those were the words, among others, that came from one of my students at the end of this school year. It was an unexpected compliment from a guy who two months earlier said he didn’t have any motivation to do his work. He was pretty much attending college because that’s where he thought he should be — pleasing the family is what I suspect. So doing homework, speaking up in class, reading the textbook, and even studying for tests just wasn’t at the top of his list of important things to accomplish. And the funny thing is that he was honest about it. When I met with him a couple of months ago, he said he did just enough to get in and was having a hard time staying motivated to remain in the program.

But stay in he did. And he didn’t just finish; but rather he finished strong!

So what changed? Not much. He already had a natural intelligence that enabled him to pass tests without trying hard. Perhaps that’s why he spent so much time not wanting to apply himself. He once told me he preferred procrastination because he got more out of the reading assignment if he waited until the last minute to complete it. What he probably meant is that he is able to “remember” what he read the night before taking an exam. But is that really “learning” or just “memorization?”  I don’t know. Or rather, I won’t give my commentary on that. What I do know is that something kept him engaged; coming to class, doing, what he deemed, as minimal, but nonetheless, at least not “checking out.”

He referred to himself as a “bad student.” But I told him I thought it was about more than that. “I think you lack self confidence,” I said. “I think because you don’t know want you want to do with your life when you graduate, you don’t feel invested in to what you’re doing now in school.”  He didn’t disagree. And I didn’t give up on him. And even though on the outside, he may have pretended not to care, he was one of the students who always checked back with me on grades, if I was ever slow to post results of certain projects or tests. So I shouldn’t be totally surprised to get an email from him that confirmed my suspicion with his revelation, “I just hope one day a switch will flip on and I Start doing what I am supposed to do.”

But what DID touch me, in addition to his praise of calling me one of his “better teachers” was his parting words, “It means a lot to me that you believe in me and I hope you have a great summer!”

I guess when it’s all said and done, if I had anything to do with even one student hanging in there, not giving up on school or themselves; and hopefully gaining more confidence in life itself, then perhaps it’s worth all the other not-so-fun stuff you have to put up with throughout the school year to get there!


My Music Publicity class with special guest Entertainment Journalists Deborah-Evans Price, Becca, and Vernell Hackett


The other Music Publicity class with Artist Manager (Mary Mary, Natalie Grant) Mitchell Solarek (in the middle)


One of my Artist Management classes with Artist Manager Jennifer Smith-Wolczyk


Country Music Artist Jo Dee Messina after speaking to some of my recording industry students.