Spotlight: Tennessee State University

Music Forward doesn’t just produce content for our broad global audiences. We also partner with organizations and schools across the country to ensure our programming is getting to passionate, young people in communities we can’t reach in-person! This month we want to highlight Tennessee State University as one such partnership. We caught up with Mark Crawford, Coordinator of Commercial Music at the university, to let us know all about their Music Forward connection.

How did your organization become connected with Music Forward?

The Education Partnerships Manager, Oswaldo Navarro, reached out to me to connect about potential opportunities and from there we began to explore and build our partnership.

How does your organization engage with Music Forward? What programs do you utilize most? 

We’ve just recently become acquainted and are still identifying ways to engage. From our brief time together, I can already see how Music Forward can help find opportunities for students to acquire “real-life” experience in their area of interest, from internships, mentorships, apprenticeships, and beyond.

What are the most important aspects of the music industry your students need to understand? How does Music Forward support that message? 

An important aspect that’s a challenge to teach, and often must be experienced first-hand, is how connected the industry is, regardless of genre. Networking is critical, and maintaining the network is how one expands opportunity. It is through Music Forward that students can start to build that network and truly begin to see its impact. Another important aspect is the business side of music. Many creatives focus only on their content and often ignore how to develop sources of revenue. While Music Forward has programs to support the creative aspect they also hold workshops and panels focused specifically on the business side, and the foundation can really make or break a career in music.

Why do you think organizations like Music Forward are important partners in your work? 

It takes partners “in the field” to extend a hand to educators. A teacher’s schedule is already compacted and it is a challenge to make time to find opportunities for students. An organization like Music Forward can be that bridge from the classroom to the workforce.

What aspects of the partnership with Music Forward have been most beneficial for your constituents?

So far, it’s been exposure to Music Forward’s connections within the music industry. Working with Music Forward doesn’t just open doors to their programs but also to their partnerships with leading companies in the industry.

How does your own passion for music / the music industry impact your work?

My passion is more about helping a student see his/her potential and then finding opportunities to develop the potential into a marketable skill set. My bias is for young musicians, as I once had aspirations to be a professional musician, but lacked the sources to make informed decisions. This was before the Internet!

Learn More About TSU’s Commercial Music Program


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