MTSU Students Get Up-Close View of CMA Awards


Students from Middle Tennessee State University’s College of Media and Entertainment went behind-the-scenes at the 52nd Country Music Association Awards earlier this month to learn from the media professionals staging one of the industry’s biggest award telecasts.

Robert Gordon, an assistant professor of television production in the Department of Media Arts, said 11 students served as talent production assistants during rehearsals for the CMA Awards rehearsals and the telecast at Bridgestone Arena in downtown Nashville.

Six of the students got a backstage tour and an opportunity to ask questions to CMA CEO Sarah Trahern, as well as the telecast’s director and producer. Also, several helped crew the pre-awards red-carpet show produced by WKRN, Nashville’s Channel 2.

“As realistic as we try to make all of our projects at MTSU’s College of Media and Entertainment, they are still college productions,” Gordon said. “There is nothing better for students than to be brought onsite to see how the best in the business work.”

This is the fourth such up-close opportunity afforded to select students through the College of Media and Entertainment’s partnerships and connections to some of the biggest brands in both the recording industry and media arts.

MTSU has sent students and faculty to backstage and pre-show events at the Grammys since 2014 and plans another such trip in February 2019. The college provides experiential education opportunities with each year with the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival since 2015 and forged a similar tie with the Academy of Country Music telecast earlier this year.

“Thanks to the excellent work of our faculty, and the ties we’ve maintained with our alumni in these industries, our university is aligned itself with many of the biggest brands in the recording industry,” said MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee.

“These partnerships provide opportunities that are truly transformational for these students,” McPhee added.

Student Jessica Wong, a junior, said the CMA experience “was as unreal as it was eye opening to the possibilities and connections there are in the industry.”

Wong added, “These are real people dedicating so much to make something to entertain the world. This, along with other things, are the basics that are taught at MTSU, just expanded by a 1,000 percent.“

Senior Mason Hatfield said he enjoyed getting “to meet and talk with some of the biggest names in the industry,” including Trahern; Scott Igoe, vice president of ABC Entertainment; CMA Awards producer Robert Deaton and director Gary Halvorson; Nic Dugger, president of TNDV, a Nashville-based video production service; audio engineer Marc Repp; and Scott Borchetta, president of Big Machine Records.

Dugger is an MTSU alumnus and 2018-19 Distinguished Alumni recipient.

“This experience allowed me to see and learn more things I hadn’t thought about or didn’t really know. Being a senior, it really opened my eyes even more to take every opportunity given to me, while still being here at MTSU,” Hatfield said.

“I got a lot out of this trip, but the main thing was excitement,” Hatfield added. “The excitement of me improving my skills and knowledge to hopefully be in their shoes and have a successful career in video production.”

Sophomore Jonas Saich said he was awed after learning all the work that went into the Nov. 14 telecast.

“It was a really rewarding and fun experience,” he said. “A lot of controlled chaos in there.”

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