Looking at human behavior through a songwriter’s lens
By Angela Nixon
Jennifer Goree has always been interested in human behavior. That interest has manifested itself in many ways through the years — when Goree was an actor in high school and college, during her career as a singer-songwriter and now as the director of Clemson’s Healthy Campus program in the Division of Student Affairs.
The Six Mile native grew up in the world of academia, as the daughter of Clemson mechanical engineering professor James Goree. The fact that she ended up working at Clemson herself is not particularly surprising, but she took a rather meandering path to get here.
Goree learned to sing, quite literally, at her mother’s knee. Katherine “Bunny” Goree is a singer, and the younger Goree remembers singing with her mother as a young child.
“I started singing when I started talking,” she said. “I can remember at a very early age being able to sing the melody to a song while my mom would sing the harmony.”
Goree’s main interest as she grew up, though, was theater. During high school, she attended the Fine Arts Center in Greenville to study acting and music. As a student at Clemson, she was an active member of the Clemson Players.
“I kept acting and theater separate from music. I was much more interested in theater and drama at the time. I viewed music more as something I did on the side,” Goree said.
Toward the end of her college days, however, she started singing more, performing with a local Southern rock band. She eventually worked up the courage to start playing guitar and performing her own songs, which were more folk/Americana style. After graduating from Clemson in 1993 with a bachelor’s in English, she had a choice to make — graduate school and a career in academia or music.
“Both career paths would have been challenging in different ways, but I decided that if I was ever going to try to go into music, that was the best time to do it,” she said.
Goree spent the next 10 years performing, both on her own and with other singers or bands. She recorded several CDs and toured the country, mostly in the Northeast, California and Canada. During this time period, she met her husband, Kevin Moloney, an Irish record producer who has worked with such acts as Sinead O’Connor and U2.
The music industry was starting to change, Goree said. Independent record stores were closing, and more and more music was going online. Those changes, combined with several other factors, led Goree and Moloney to the decision to move to the Upstate.
“The music industry certainly favors young people, and I was hitting that magical age of 30. By the time I reached 30, I felt like if I hadn’t gotten a major record deal by this stage, it probably wasn’t going to happen,” she said. “I had to take a hard look at my life. I was playing at great venues in big cities, but I wasn’t getting paid well for it. I was spending loads of hours in cars on the road, and I thought to myself, ‘This just isn’t cutting it any more.’”
Goree and Moloney also decided they wanted to have children, but life on the road was not the way they wanted to start a family. In 2004, they moved to Six Mile and Goree enrolled at Clemson to get a master’s in clinical counseling, which she completed in 2007.
“I did what I knew best — I came back to school,” she said.
Music is still part of Goree’s life, but not the focus of her career. She said that she and Moloney regularly have “family band time” with their children Jamie, 5, and Sophie, 3, where they will all play instruments and sing together, and she enjoys performing for her children and their friends. She also still performs locally on occasion — she is scheduled to perform at Songwriters in the Round Friday, March 18, at The Vault in downtown Seneca.
“I don’t go looking for opportunities to perform, but if they come looking for me, I’ll do it,” she said.
The focus of Goree’s career now is students and creating a healthy campus environment for them. She began her Clemson career in Redfern Health Center’s health promotions office, working as a health educator on sexual health and sexual assault prevention issues. The Healthy Campus program was created out of a desire to look at the overall campus environment and how conducive it is to health and wellness. Goree was asked to direct the new program.
“Education is important, but it’s just the tip of the iceberg,” she said. “We have to work on change at a higher level to get people to live healthier lifestyles.”
In looking at health issues, such as making campus more pedestrian-friendly and offering healthier food choices on campus, Goree noticed a correlation between personal health and wellness and environmental sustainability.
“I realized that almost all the policy changes I was interested in that would have a positive impact on health on campus would also have a positive impact on Clemson’s carbon footprint,” she said.
The goal of Healthy Campus became twofold: to promote healthy lifestyles and choices while at the same time promoting sustainability. For Goree, the connection is obvious — a healthy environment leads to healthier people.
Goree now serves on the President’s Commission on Sustainability and the city of Clemson’s Green Ribbon Committee, and she coordinates events such as the Sustainability Café, which brings people together every two weeks to have conversations about the environment.
“I’m getting to work with a lot of faculty and staff from different departments on these issues, which is exciting for me. The way Clemson is approaching its commitment to sustainability is very broad. It’s not limited to just one department or college; we’re not just working in our own ‘silos,’” she said.
Even though her job at Clemson is somewhat different from her father’s time as a professor, she very much enjoys working in student affairs.
“My experiences with Clemson had always been from the academic perspective, but in getting my master’s degree, I discovered this whole world of student affairs that I didn’t know much about,” she said. “I always thought working at a university would be the most wonderful kind of job to have, to be able to work in an environment where you’re surrounded by people who are big thinkers and ‘innovation’ is the word of the day.”
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