Murray State University has always been a competitor. To turn a phrase, if Murray State has a horse in the race, it is a solid bet. Competition helps breed innovation and excellence, and every year the university finds new ways to extend itself into new territories that help to boil those ideals to the surface.
Recently, the university has made strides to advance Murray into more competitive fields in the music industry. Local musicians, take note. There has never been a more opportune time than now to sell yourself as an artist.
Situated between Nashville and Paducah, Murray finds itself at an interesting junction. On one hand, it sits as a stop for traveling acts. With facilities that can accommodate such big names as John Mayer, Lady Antebellum and Maroon 5, MSU has become a notable stop to make on tour.
The university also acts as a cultural oasis in the region. With increased numbers in enrollment, Murray State is a hub of activity and entertainment for the region, drawing bigger names than the area would have seen without it.
But the fight to extend the university name and ideals is far from limited to that capacity. Enter Jim Carter, vice president of institutional advancement. Fresh from the 2011 Country Music Awards rehearsal, he is a man on a mission; one who is rarely found ‘off the clock.’
As a professional who is constantly networking and whose job title demands advancing several university causes, Carter has many feathers in his cap. One is his role as a board member of the International Entertainment Buyers Association (IEBA).
“I was elected to the IEBA board two years ago,” Carter noted. “My interest was piqued by them defining their mission as wanting to grow the leaders of the music industry through hands-on mentoring and scholarship funding.”
Carter saw opportunity knock with Murray’s relatively close proximity to Nashville and the quickly blooming music business major that the university has been cultivating over the past few years. “It looked like a great place to create some big opportunities for our students that they wouldn’t normally get outside Music Row in Nashville,” he said.
With industry heavy-hitters like Belmont and Middle Tennessee State University that sport vast music business programs and sit so close to the action in Nashville, Carter makes it his mission to find a way to bring some of that to Murray State and take some of Murray State to Music Row.
“I was obviously interested in helping them reach their big picture goals, but also in helping to keep Murray State at the table and in the know on industry opportunities,” Carter said. “It’s our way of giving our music business students a shot at the opportunity buffet that students at Belmont and MTSU get every day.”
And, recently the efforts have really paid off. Thanks to his involvement in IEBA, Carter brought back the NATD College of Knowledge event in November for its second annual open discussion event.
Industry insiders such as Karen Kane, director of marketing for Sony’s Nashville division; music executive all-star and ‘Rising-Star’ award recipient Jeff Howard; Julie Roberts, who famously performs the country-hit “Breakdown Here”; Jesse Whitley, son of the late country music star Keith Whitley; and Tony Conway, owner of Conway Entertainment and former president of Buddy Lee Attractions, joined a host of other notable Nashville talents and weighed in on the conversation with a dynamic crowd of music business majors and interested parties.
“It really was one for the books,” Carter noted about the evening. “It was a prime opportunity for those students seeking connections in the music industry to plant those seeds and to gain first-hand insight into what makes the music industry tick.”
Carter also went on to note that IEBA is looking to help Murray State music business students through scholarship awards in coming academic semesters.
At the NATD’s first Honors Gala, which honored some of Nashville’s most influential people, senior Murray State student Hannah Rodgers was in attendance as the first-ever recipient of a NATD scholarship at MSU. Rodgers also earned two NATD internships. On stage that evening were such luminaries as Nashville Mayor Karl Dean, Predators Head Coach Barry Trotz, comedian Lewis Black and famous country-rock band Alabama.
“We were the only university partner represented at the gala that evening,” Carter commented. “It is just proof-positive that we here at MSU are making big moves and leaving our fingerprint of excellence wherever we go.”
Photo: Presenters from the Nashville Association of Talent Directors (NATD) College of Knowledge at Murray State University presented a scholarship check to MSU student Sydney Guilliams for $2,500. Guilliams (seventh from right) is pictured surrounded by entertainment business representatives and artists from Nashville who performed and shared their experiences with a student audience at Murray. Artists included Julie Roberts, Chris Carpenter, Lyndsey Highlander and more. Presenting the check on behalf of NATD was Stephen H. Tolman (second from right), co-director of LogiCom and NATD president. Accepting the check with Guilliams is Jim Carter (fifth from left), vice president for institutional development at Murray State and IEBA board member.