MTSU Connects with Alums, Industry Pros on First Day at GRAMMYS


Middle Tennessee State University students and faculty connected with Southern California alumni and recording industry executives Friday (Feb. 8) on its first full day at the festivities before the 61st annual Grammy Awards.

Six students from the MTSU Department of Recording Industry, who were selected by chair Beverly Keel to represent the university, went both backstage and on stage Friday as the Recording Academy prepared Staples Center to host Sunday’s national telecast.

The students, along with professor Matthew O’Brien, also met with Billboard magazine’s west coast editor, Melinda Newman, and artist executive Jay Landers, who has worked with legendary artists, including Barbra Streisand, Frank Sinatra and Bette Midler.

The day concluded with President Sidney A. McPhee, Provost Mark Byrnes and Ken Paulson, dean of the College of Media and Entertainment, hosting a reception for Southern California members of the MTSU Alumni Association.

The event allowed the graduates to provide career advice and insights to the six students.

“The reason we come to the Grammys, now six years in a row, is not only to underscore the impressive footprint of our graduates in the recording industry, but to provide these students such amazing opportunities,” McPhee said.

Junior Micaela Griffin was wowed after learning all that the Recording Academy does to prepare for the Grammys, the industry’s largest and most prestigious event.

“I have gained a more vast understanding of everything that goes into the planning and production of the biggest night in music,” she said.

“The most exciting part of the day was walking the ‘Winner’s Walk’ under the stage and standing in the footsteps of all the great musicians. It was empowering, magical, and truly unforgettable.”

Senior Natalie Madigan called the tour an “eye opening and educational experience that showed me just how much detailed work goes into producing the show.”

“It was amazing to see so many MTSU alumni working these positions as well.”

One of those MTSU alums is Garry Hood, who has spent the last three decades as the head stage manager for the biggest award shows on TV, and is again will be in charge behind the scenes at Sunday’s Grammys event.

“It was an amazing experience to see music’s biggest night from a totally new and unique perspective,” says senior Samantha Bicknell. “It was a life-changing experience and I am so thankful for the opportunity.”

Bicknell, Griffin and Madigan were joined by three fellow recording industry students: seniors Neeko Crowe, Trianne Newbrey and Austin Sawyer.

On Saturday (Feb. 9), MTSU held a brunch at The Standard hotel in downtown Los Angeles in honor of repeat Grammy-winning songwriter/producer and 2003 music business alumnus Torrance “Street Symphony” Esmond, who’s recognized this year for producing “Hussle & Motivate” on Nipsey Hussle’s best rap album-nominated “Victory Lap” CD.

Then, later Saturday night, MTSU will co-sponsor The Americana Music Association’s pre-Grammy Salute to John Prine, a career-spanning tribute concert set for the legendary Troubadour nightclub in West Hollywood, Calif.

And, on Sunday, MTSU will team with Leadership Music for a reception for Nashville-area recording industry executives and artists before the national telecast of the Grammy Awards ceremony.

In addition to Esmond, six other university-connected people contributing to rap, Americana, country and gospel projects are set to be recognized with nominations at the awards ceremony.

The Grammy Awards will air live at 7 p.m. CST Sunday on CBS.