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Kelly Balance, Founder and President of CMA EDU South Carolina

A resume builder that allows you to listen to country music and attend concerts for both local and nationally known artists? Sounds too good to be true, right?

These are just a few of the perks of being a student involved with CMA (Country Music Association) EDU. According to their website http://www.cmaworld.com/initiatives/cmaedu/, CMA EDU is a “campus-based program that gathers college students in celebration of their love for music and gives them an inside look into the music industry”. Since its first chapter was started at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee, it has continually expanded to numerous other schools all over the country. HC South Carolina got a chance to interview the founder and president of the new South Carolina chapter, Kelly Balance. Here’s what she has to say about CMA EDU, her career goals, and her passion for country music.

Hometown: Fort Mill, SC

Graduation Date and Major: Sport/Entertainment Management, and I’ll technically be walking in August, as my last internship for credit is this summer.

What made you want to work in the music/entertainment industry?

For having been so passionate about music, it actually took me a long time to make the realization.  It’s one of those things, I guess, that was always there in the background and just sort of came to light in college.  Going to concerts since age six was always a huge treat for me and always such an event—listening to the artist the entire week leading up to the show then again on the way to the amphitheater, running to buy a shirt from the merch stand before the house lights went down, then frantically screaming when they did and when the drums started playing the beginning notes of a familiar song.  There’s just something about being in that moment that gives me chills and reminds me, “This is what I need to do for the rest of my life.”

What are your plans after graduation?

Well, in May I leave for Nashville to intern with McGhee Entertainment, an artist management company with a pretty diverse roster including Darius Rucker, KISS, and an awesome new band called Elliot Root.  The internship technically ends in August, but we’ll see where it goes.  My plan is definitely to stay in Nashville with the dream of either being a Tour Manager or a Publicist.

How did the South Carolina chapter of CMA EDU start, and how did you get involved with it?

Ironically, I applied for a CMA internship last year, and when I wasn’t chosen, I decided to volunteer at CMA Fest instead.  After driving 12 hours cross-country just for that weekend and talking with CMA staff and the woman in charge of CMA EDU, it just kind of dawned on us that there wasn’t a chapter yet here at USC.  CMA had already been looking into it, but they just needed someone to take the initiative, and there I was.

What are some of the things that CMA EDU does as a club for South Carolina students, and in the Columbia community as well?

Right now, our main focus is to create awareness and interest in the new organization.  We’re also focused on creating long-lasting relationships and connections with local music venues, radio staff, and industry veterans.  We’ve had several meetings with guest speakers who gave great insight to students interested in the business.  We also had the opportunity for an acoustic set/Q&A session with Sam Hunt’s opening act last semester, Cale Dodds.  Basically, when we hear about an opportunity, we jump on it.  It’s always sporadic and usually last minute, much like the music business itself.

What kind of things can students look forward to seeing from CMA EDU?

We’ll be co-hosting this month’s Acoustic Nite at Tin Roof on St. Patrick’s Day, Tuesday, March 17th.  The event starts at 7 and features lots of local, talented artists until the bar closes at 2.  Admission is free, and we’ll have $3 tallboys and $3 Fireball drink specials as well as raffles for upcoming concert tickets.

What advice do you have for people who want to work in the music industry?

Based on advice I’ve had relayed to me and that I’ve learned, I would say that persistence and creativity are key.  I practice rarely taking “no” for an answer and instead find unique solutions or ways around things.  With so many people vying for such a limited number of positions out there, you have to make yourself unforgettable and indispensable to whoever your employers are.  Make yourself an asset to the company that they can’t afford to lose…at least, that’s what I’ll be trying to do when I get to Nashville.

Who are some of your favorite country artists and why?

As nerdy as it sounds, I feel like I have my favorites sort of categorized: artists that write their own amazing songs (or pay great songwriters), artists with unique vocals, and artists with catchy, interesting beats.  Another side category is how artists act when they’re not in the limelight and what types of people they are—but that rarely even needs to be said for in country music.  

After getting hooked on Sam Hunt last summer, his music has pretty much been on repeat in my car.  I love getting to see an artist come up through the charts and watch people fall in love with them.  He and Brett Eldredge both have killer voices and songwriting abilities.  I also love listening to Thomas Rhett’s music, Dustin Lynch’s voice, and of course, SC local and fave, Darius.

What’s the best concert you’ve ever been to?

The ultimate question I always get asked and can never quite answer. But I’d have to go with Jason Aldean.  The man, whether you agree with choices in his personal life or not, is a rock-star.  He completely claims the stage and out-shines most other performers in my book.  When an artist can completely captivate me and take me into their world, that’s a great show.  And I have to hand it to Sam Hunt again.  Anyone can record an album these days, but the art of live performance is something that will never get old or insignificant, and he just nails it.  His live show is incredible, and it’s no surprise how quickly he’s risen to the top.

If you’re interested in joining CMA EDU, email Kelly at ballanca@email.sc.edu and be sure to follow @UofSCCMAEDU on Twitter to keep up with all their latest news and events!

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