Friday, December 18, 2015

[259] MTSU songwriting classes get a ‘lift’ from ACM grant for visiting pros

MURFREESBORO — MTSU songwriting students will have more opportunities to learn from visiting professionals in the first phase of a new “Music Row in Murfreesboro” project funded by a $10,000 grant from an arm of the Academy of Country Music.

The ACM’s “Lifting Lives Foundation” made the donation to support the Department of Recording Industry’s ongoing Commercial Songwriting Program expansion, program director Odie Blackmon said.

“We’ve had several of our Advanced Songwriting classes up at the ASCAP headquarters in Nashville so we can be close to professionals,” the professor said, “and even with the kindness of ASCAP letting us use space, we still had a lot of obstacles for our students.”

Those obstacles involved both time and money, Blackmon said, when students who had other classes or off-campus work had to add a two-hour round-trip, with gas and parking costs, to a three-hour class.

Music business professionals regularly visit MTSU recording industry classes on campus to offer advice, share war stories and even critique student projects. Blackmon wrote the grant request in hopes of getting extra funds to reimburse the pros’ expenses for their MTSU songwriting-class visits.

“The Lifting Lives Foundation apparently liked the fact that 30 percent of our students at MTSU are first-generation college students,” he said, “and then they saw that we have 16 full-time music business professors, 14 audio professors and one full-time songwriting professor, so I think they felt it would be a good opportunity for us to bring some real industry pros and even more diversity to our students.”

The foundation is the philanthropic arm of the Academy of Country Music and develops and funds music-related therapy and education programs. It uses donations from artists and fans to fund programs ranging from disaster relief to music camps and music therapy for people with disabilities and military veterans.

MTSU’s program is one of 11 new beneficiaries of the ACM Lifting Lives Foundation’s fall grants totaling $180,000. Other grant recipients included Alive Hospice, CreatiVets, Musicians on Call, Nashville’s W.O. Smith Music School and the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center.

“We owe a huge debt of gratitude to the artists and volunteer board members that donate their time and efforts to ACM Lifting Lives,” said Debbie Carroll, ACM Lifting Lives vice president. “It’s because of their kindness we’re able to give back and be a part of continuing the impact made through the power of music in these communities.”

Blackmon, who expressed his gratitude to MTSU colleagues Dr. Samantha Cantrell, proposal development specialist in the Office of Research Services, and Pat Branam, director of development in the Office of Development and Advancement Services, for their help with the grant, said he intends to expand the “Music Row in Murfreesboro” project as interest, time and funds allow.

Students in the Department of Electronic Media Communication have already mentioned videotaping the visiting songwriter sessions, both for their own project proficiency and to archive for future songwriting students to view.

“These visits are so beneficial to our students,” he said. “I’ve seen repeatedly how much affected our students are by these professionals sitting down and talking with them.”

You can see a brief thank-you video from the Commercial Songwriting Program students to the ACM Lifting Lives Foundation at

For more information about MTSU’s Commercial Songwriting Program, visit More details on the Department of Recording Industry are available at

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