The Contemporary Music Center (CMC) in Nashville provides aspiring musicians with pretty much everything that they could ever want.
While the majority of Taylor students spend fall in a study room, Gonzalez and some of her friends spent theirs on a stage.
Senior Annelise Gonzalez, senior Tyler Newitt, junior Michael Carroll and Odessa Wieland (‘21) were four of roughly 30 students from around the Midwest chosen to participate in the semester-long program put on by Greenville University and the school’s partner, the CMC.
Students chose one of three program tracks to complete: artist, business or technical. Then they spent the following 15 weeks improving their respective skills with the help of industry professionals.
“These were people who were still active in the music industry, so it wasn’t like washed-up producers from the ’80s,” Gonzalez said. “It was always about having the most experience you could have, being well-rounded and being people of good character that (professionals) in Nashville would know they could rely on.”
Gaining experience might be an understatement. Gonzalez and her fellow artists had to balance daily lectures with composing original work, studio time, rehearsals and a weekly show on Thursday evenings.
“I would say if you’re interested in the music industry and you want to have the most grounding and informative but also loving exposure to the industry, this program is it because no one ever wants you to fail which is largely what the music industry is outside of CMC,” Gonzalez said. “It’s just so supportive and you never lose your touch with reality.”
The semester culminated with a week-long tour across the Midwest. Their “final exam” included performances at multiple universities, including Taylor, as well as a show at the historic Clyde Theatre in Fort Wayne.
This was all done with two box trucks and a bus — and the desire to squeeze as much music and sound out of that one week as possible. The tour helped Gonzalez, Newitt and the rest of their classmates get a feel for the life of a professional musician. It was the real-world experience that mattered most.
“You go back to schools that some of the (students) went to and learn how to unload the truck and build everything, and then do the show and tear it all down,” Newitt said.
Primarily a guitarist, Newitt has been playing since he was in the fourth grade.
“If you want to do music, it has to be the number one thing that you want to do, or you’re going to fall back on something else,” Newitt said. “If you really want to play guitar for a band like Journey, that’s going to have to be your number one priority, and you’re going to have to be good at it.”
Unlike Gonzalez and Newitt, Carroll chose the technical track. Having already gained some tech experience prior to coming to Taylor, he joined media services as a freshman and hasn’t looked back.
Even though he is a declared film major, Carroll says that he’s at his best when he’s behind the soundboard. That is one of the main reasons why he chose the semester in Nashville over the one in Los Angeles.
“I’m not the typical film major, in that I’m not the person who’s going to know all the movies and all of that,” Carroll said. “That’s not really my thing. Audio is more where I lean. The Nashville semester seemed like a great opportunity to get more where I want to go in life.”
Carroll served as the production manager during the tour. His responsibilities ranged from checking equipment to making sure the rest of the crew was fed prior to the start of a show.
For 15 weeks, Gonzalez, Newitt, Carroll and Wieland were pushed creatively so that they might grow as artists. Like so many other things in life, it took team effort to ensure musical evolution and success.
“Everyone has that shared love of music; it’s just so special (to have) new experiences with your new friends,” Gonzalez said. “Everything about Nashville and exploring the city, or going downtown, or finding new little places that you love to go to was a really amazing part.”
In the Music City, all roads lead to groove and growth.