NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Tennessee State University is now home to one of the top music business programs in the world. The October 7 issue of Billboard Magazine highlighted over 25 internationally acclaimed music business programs, including TSU, as one of the 2023 Top Music Business Schools.
“This is a major milestone,” said Dr. Mark Crawford, who serves as coordinator of TSU’s commercial music program. “Not every HBCU has this program to begin with. This recognition puts us on the global stage.”
Dr. Crawford expressed his excitement for what he believes is a remarkable achievement and recognition that will open doors to new opportunities for students. This is in the form of internships and career opportunities.
Sophomore Honoria Hodges is already reaping the benefits of the program. Hodges is currently a TSU Meistersingers and said what she is learning from the program, in addition to her talent, will set her up to become an R&B/ pop artist.
“It is wonderful that we received this recognition,” Hodges said. “This will get all our names (students) out there to get what we want out of our careers. And my experience so far at TSU has been very enlightening.”
In May, TSU offered students the music business accelerator program, a 4-week course in partnership with the Black Music Action Coalition. Students got a chance to collaborate with industry giants such as Wasserman Music, Amazon Music, Nashville Music Equality, the RIAA, Live Nation, and more. The once-in-a-lifetime opportunity gave them access to internships and employment. Notable guest speakers included producer Rodney “Darkchild” Jerkins, BET and NAACP award-winning music artist CoCo Jones, rapper Waka Flocka, and others who provided valuable industry insights.
TSU alumnus Jonathan Boddie said it is unique opportunities like the accelerator program that sets the program a part. Boddie is a Nashville native and professional musician who graduated from the commercial music program in 2010.
“I think this is well deserved,” Boddie said in response to the recognition, especially noting that the university is in the heart of ‘Music City.’ “I want to raise awareness that we have one of the top programs, and we can also get people to invest into the school.”
As a professional musician, Boddie has had a residency overseas, and even lived in Korea for six months to pursue his musical career. Boddie shared that the TSU commercial program and Dr. Crawford have had the greatest impact on his career.
“Dr. Crawford has never stopped looking out for us. He is always going the extra mile to give you more opportunities and I cannot say that about any other institution I have been a part of,” Boddie said.
“The professors really do care even beyond graduation and I appreciate that.”
TSU alumni of the commercial music program include Harry Fox Agency client solutions coordinator Dashawn Howard and two-time Grammy-nominated producer Dwane “Key Wane” Wier, II.
“I hope we will continue to build on this kind of momentum,” Crawford added. “Recognition by Billboard and other professional entities will lead to curiosity. This will create additional opportunities.”
TSU makes the list as one of the two HBCUs, alongside Howard University. The prestigious recognition from Billboard comes as the program prepares to celebrate 25 years of educating students.
Dr. Samantha Morgan-Curtis, Dean of the College of Liberal Arts, said the honor to the 25-year program is well earned, and well overdue.
“I was ecstatic because I know how hard everyone works,” Morgan-Curtis said, referring to the department’s faculty, and especially chair Dr. Robert Elliot, and Dr. Crawford for ensuring the students have “access to real world applications.”
“Our students are getting these paid internships that are allowing them to do not only what they are being trained in, but what they love,” she said.
To celebrate the anniversary, the University will host a Commercial Ensemble Showcase November 13-15 at the Cox Lewis Theater inside the Performing Arts Center. Showtime is 7 p.m. each night and is free and open to the public. Traditionally a two-night event, an extra night was added to mark this significant milestone, featuring an alumni commercial ensemble as well as a faculty ensemble.
As TSU’s commercial music program continues to shine on the global stage, Crawford, who has overseen the program since the inception, is confident that faculty will help to foster the next generation of performers, producers, songwriters, and industry leaders.
Check out Billboard’s latest issue recognizing TSU here.