Black TSU students have provided unprecedented access to music industry leadership

A group of black college students who emerged Tuesday morning from a 90-minute conversation about songwriting with rising star Joy Oladokun at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum could represent the future of the Nashville music industry.

After an immersive and unprecedented three-week curriculum, students at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) could be uniquely positioned for immediate and game-changing success in the music business.

Historically, predominantly white-populated Music City area universities, including Belmont and Middle Tennessee State, have developed many vaunted industry professionals through their music industry programs. However, in the wake of social justice and institutional change invigorated by the Black Lives Matter movement, depth and reach – via restorative equity – have been added to the conversation.

Students listen to Joy Oladokun and publicists, managers, songwriters speak at the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville, Tennessee on Tuesday, May 24, 2022.

In 2021, Lindsay LaBennett, Senior Director of Inclusion, Equity and Diversity at Music Wasserman and Brian Sexton, Nashville Business Journal’s Top 40 Under 40 Class Member, Special Projects Manager for Community Development at the Nashville Metropolitan Housing and Development Agency (both HBCU graduates) emailed email to Dr. Mark Crawford, Director of HBCU Tennessee State University. Commercial music department with an intriguing proposal. It evolved into the inaugural Music Accelerator program – which visited the hallowed halls of country music on Tuesday.

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The duo wanted to combine the existing work of sports marketing and talent management firm Wasserman with Color Of Change, the nation’s largest online racial justice organization, the Black Music Action Coalition (BMAC)local collaborative effort Musical equality in Nashville and many other industry partners with the ability to facilitate access for 20 of Dr. Crawford’s students to unprecedented opportunities to establish themselves in the evolving music industry of the modern era.

Joy Oladokun performs at the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville, Tennessee on Tuesday, May 24, 2022.

From music marketing to team building, songwriting, production, public relations and more, ten courses (described as “deep dives with experts in all industry disciplines”) have been proposed.

At the Hall of Fame and museum — which 99% of students had never visited — students asked questions after discovering contextual similarities to Black American cultural landmarks in gender fashions and traditions during a tour.

The band caught up with Oladokun, their production collaborator and protege of Grammy-winning Dr. Dr. Mike Elizondo, and his cohort of songwriters and management at the Nashville outpost of Los Angeles’ Prescription Songs. in the museum theatre. TSU’s music industry hopes were inspired by Oladakun’s blend of sensitive singer-songwriter handwork, as well as the loving yet honest music industry wisdom offered by the emerging Nigerian performer. -American and his team.

Accounting major Armani Geter photographs records on display from floor to ceiling at the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville, Tennessee, Tuesday, May 24, 2022.

Connecting Tennessee State University students to music stars like Breland, Oladokun, and Post Malone, digital and streaming brands like YouTube and Spotify, festival organizer Coachella and Stagecoach Goldenvoice, and music groups as BMI and BMG prepare future college graduates for what Dr. Crawford calls “life beyond the college bubble.”

“We are thrilled that this group of prestigious and accomplished speakers has chosen to be part of our efforts to nurture the next generation of music industry leaders,” said Denise Melanson, Director of Social Impact at Wasserman. “We are proud to work with all of them, as well as our partners, to make this an exceptional program for these students.”

“My dad is a teacher at an HBCU, so this is a real loophole moment for me,” said Tuma Basa, director of Black Music & Culture at YouTube. “It is a pleasure to walk in his footsteps by sharing knowledge with students at Tennessee State University.

LaBennett said she hopes the plan will spawn a “music industry legacy” for Nashville that will extend beyond this moment to generations of young HBCU graduates – just as it once was. — invigorating a pipeline of black music industry professionals teeming with undeniable executives or otherwise top-level talent.

Lindsay LaBennett, Senior Director of Inclusion, Equality and Diversity, Wasserman

“Legacy is a constant inspiration, over time. This inaugural class will inspire their classmates, as well as spaces like Universal Music Group and YouTube Music, to engage more with black professionals who want leadership opportunities. .”

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Brian Sexton is a Chicago native who has lived in Nashville for two decades. Unfortunately, however, he found that the racist attitudes that permeated the city’s music industry limited his ability to fully appreciate its pervasive impact on Nashville culture. In the wake of the growth of the Black Lives Matter movement, her daily desire to serve as a “broker to connect people to access, opportunity and resources” met her desire to create a legacy of change in her chosen home.

Brian Sexton

Thus, for him, the Music Accelerator Program offers “motivated blacks and browns” more direct opportunities to succeed in a music industry that is resolutely focused on equity between the industry and its large globalized, multicultural and multi-ethnic.

“I would selfishly wish the Music Accelerator program would stay [at TSU] and be a ‘destination course’ for students across the country,” says Dr. Crawford. “This is a crucial, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” adds Sexton. “We are setting the bar for success with this program. »

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