CMA EDU members volunteered at Acoustic Jam, presented by WSSL 100.3 in Greenville. From left to right: Katie Barolak (President), Danielle Bradbery, Jon Pardi, Leah Turner, musical group the Brothers Osborne, Kinley Meyer (Vice President), and singer Scotty McCreery.

CMA EDU members volunteered at Acoustic Jam, presented by WSSL 100.3 in Greenville. From left to right: Katie Barolak (president), Danielle Bradbery, Jon Pardi, Leah Turner, musical group the Brothers Osborne, Kinley Meyer (vice president), and Scotty McCreery.

Sophomore communications major Katie Barolak is a fan of country music. A big fan.

In fact, Barolak has her sights set on working in the industry. She says she doesn’t know what she wants to do in the country music capitol of Nashville, but, “I just know I want to be there.”

Barolak has been proactive in pursuing internship opportunities in the country music field for a while. She attended last year’s Country Music Association (CMA) Festival in Nashville. While looking for information on the association’s website, she saw a link for a new program called CMA EDU, which now has chapters at almost a dozen universities across the country. “I thought, ‘This could be a great opportunity to bring Nashville here and start making connections,’” she said.

CMA EDU gives students “opportunities to network with industry professionals and build their resumes through participation in various promotional, research, and marketing activities.” Each chapter is organized and led by students. According to guidelines, every participant be a “full-time undergraduate student, [remain in] good academic and social standing at the university, [and] have an appreciation for Country Music and commitment to the growth of the genre.”

“She’s a go-getter,” music professor Mark Hosler said. As a student in Hosler’s class on the history of country music, Barolak was already making connections. “Even when she was taking the class, before this opportunity came around, she’d tell me about going to Nashville and meeting songwriters and people like Scotty McCreery.”

After the class finished, Barolak came back to Hosler to ask him to be a faculty adviser. “With the music industry, you don’t have to have a music degree to do some of these jobs: Agents, publicists and all those kinds of people. The music industry involves people who are capable of speaking well and writing well, and it’s those kinds of interpersonal skills that employers look for. It’s not just someone who says, ‘Oh, I can play a little guitar on the side too.’ You definitely have your performers, but it takes everyone else to help it along.”

Meetings take place once a month and are a time for discussion about current events in the music industry. Barolak, in association with national CMA EDU representative Tiffany Kerns, recently helped secure the group’s first speaker: country superstar Josh Turner, who will speak to the chapter on Saturday, April 12, before his concert that evening at Littlejohn Coliseum. The meeting will be held in the ballroom of Hendrix at 10:30 a.m. and is open to all Clemson students. It will be a chance for individuals to ask questions about the industry and how they can make inroads to a career, which is what the program is ultimately about.

In addition to guest speakers, the chapter intends to volunteer at music events in Clemson and the surrounding area. Barolak herself recently volunteered at an event hosted by Greenville-based radio station WSSL 100.5. She and other members of the CMA EDU chapter helped set up the venue and even made trips to the airport to pick up artists and managers.

“I got to meet all the artists and their managers. It was a great networking opportunity,” she said. Barolak hopes others can benefit from similar opportunities. “We’re going to search out any opportunities in the area so that students who want to work in that industry will have a lead before they get to Nashville.”

The Clemson University chapter has been officially recognized by the CMA, and the chapter’s first meeting took place in late February.