Roommates pursue music careers in Nashville

Last Updated 20 March, 2015

Senior music industry majors and roommates Nathan Knox and Miles Wilson both knew that their best shot at landing jobs in their field of study lay in Nashville. So after learning of the Contemporary Music Center (CMC), an off-campus semester program in Nashville that provides 30 students an opportunity to pursue careers in the music industry, they both applied and were accepted.

Nathan, a drummer, knew this was a rare opportunity. “I told myself, ‘I can either have a lot of fun this semester and rest, or I can have a lot of fun and work the hardest I’ve ever worked in my life.’ I chose the latter.” Nathan, a standout musician at NNU, remembers feeling intimidated upon his arrival. “Chances are the barista is a better drummer than you, and the gas station attendant plays guitar on the weekends.” But soon he found the city to be welcoming. “It is a very supportive small-town feel community. If you are willing to listen, people are willing to talk and help get your career going.”

Miles, a guitarist, remembers thinking he knew a lot before he arrived. “Now I’m pretty sure I don’t really know anything at all. As it turned out neither did the other students,” he says. “From the start I could tell this place [CMC] was the real deal—millions of dollars in gear, staff with vast industry experience and talent everywhere.” Also getting to live with students who shared similar passions was a high point for Miles. “We would talk about our dreams, and our genuine fears about the future. I was surrounded by great people.”

Mornings consisted of core classes attended by all students before they would split into focused tracks during the afternoon. Both Nathan and Miles were in the technology track which meant they studied studio recording, audio engineering and concert production. “We talked about soldering, the lighting director’s job, the monitor world, the stage manager’s job and the first things to do when getting off a tour bus,” says Nathan.

In addition, every Thursday the students performed a show which made for a relentless pace. “I would say yes to everything,” says Nathan. “‘Hey Nate, can you drum in my session from 3am-6am?’ ‘Absolutely, I’ll be there.’ It was the hardest I have ever worked. Never before have I got blisters on my feet from drumming.”

Miles adds “the entire semester was a test of endurance and determination. Once I was mixing a project late into the night and after re-listening to the same section countless times I became frustrated because it all started sounding the same. Then, I looked up and realized the sun had risen. Initially, I focused on my desire for sleep, but as it continued rising I thought about my opportunity to study in Nashville and how I should cherish that.”

One of the program’s strengths was the faculty’s honesty, says Nathan. “They would let us fail even if it was detrimental. They would call us out without sugarcoating it, but it was all about learning.” Miles adds that “none of us had quite experienced this before, but it was exactly what we wanted—to have our eyes opened to where we need to improve.” Looking back, this kind of mentorship was a main highlight for Nathan. “They helped by honestly speaking into our lives. Many learned the music scene was a little romanticized. But, I learned this is what I am supposed to do. I’ve never felt so excited about what I was doing before.”

Images courtesy of Warren Petit, Director, Contemporary Music Center