I remember

I remember

This past year, Alumni Distinguished Professor of Psychology June Pilcher spent six months in Austria as a Fulbright-Freud Scholar, researching, teaching, training and traveling. It was a marvelous experience for her, and one that she pursued in part because of another Fulbright award almost 30 years ago. Clemson World asked her to share her reflections.

I remember opening the small packet from the Deutscher Akademischer Austausch Dienst (German Academic Exchange Service) with a letter dated 1st March 1984 that began with, “We are pleased to inform you…” That was about as far as I read, at least in those first few minutes. I went back to my apartment, sat in an old rocker, and listened to “The Grand Illusion” by Styx, thinking that this whole thing could be a mistake, an illusion.

I had worked hard for seven years to finish my undergraduate degree; I enlisted in the Navy to support myself, and then I worked full time in an emergency room during my last two years as an undergraduate. Was I really fortunate enough to be going to Freiburg and then Munich, Germany, for a year on a PAID scholarship just to be a student?

A different world

I applied for the Fulbright student award in the fall of 1983, my last year at the University of Southern Mississippi. My knowledge of academic grants and awards was nonexistent; I didn’t even know what a Fulbright was. I was what Clemson calls a FIRST. My father finished sixth grade, but he was big enough to work the family farm so he didn’t return to school. My mother finished eighth grade but then had to go to work as a live-in housekeeper. I am a first-generation college graduate and a first-generation (in fact, only) Ph.D. in my family. The only reason I knew about the Fulbright was because my German professor, Dr. William Odom, told me I should apply for it. I wonder if he ever knew what a turning point getting that Fulbright award became in my life.

I remember that year in Europe. In Freiburg, I took an immersion course in German at the Goethe Institute, then moved to Munich and lived in student housing at the Olympic Village (from the 1972 Olympics). At the Max Planck Institute for Psychiatry, I worked on projects on sleep and biological rhythms and was fortunate to establish a long-term relationship with Dr. Hartmut Schulz. He was generous with his time and advice and helped me begin my scientific career. I sat in on undergraduate and graduate classes at the University of Munich and tried to understand as much as I could. And, of course, I traveled. I experienced life in Europe, and I loved it!

A continuing illusion

I remember the feeling of an illusion even after my Fulbright year. It was only after completing my Ph.D. at the University of Chicago and starting to work in academia that the feeling slowly faded. I gradually became more comfortable in my academic surroundings. And I became ever more devoted to helping students, much as my professors had helped me – a total greenhorn to the academic world – understand what it takes to succeed.

Before long, I realized that I wanted to become a Fulbright Scholar, to travel again to Europe, but this time to work with international students and offer them the chance to work with a professor from a different culture and scientific background.

It wasn’t until the spring and summer of 2010 that I didn’t have research funding that precluded a prolonged trip. I made the decision in a flash — I would apply for a sabbatical and for a Fulbright Scholar award. This time, being a little more aware of academic grants and awards, I knew that it would be competitive. I applied to work in the Social, Cognitive, Affective, Neuroscience Unit (SCAN) and teach at the University of Vienna. But instead of being awarded a Fulbright to work exclusively at the university, I received the Fulbright-Freud Scholar Award, which allowed me to work at the university and the Sigmund Freud Museum.

International collaboration

My experience as a Fulbright Scholar is something I will always remember. I lived in Vienna for about six months. I taught a seminar on human brain and behavior (in English) to about 40 students where we read and discussed a science-based popular press book and scientific articles. Our classes were oriented around presentations, discussions and projects. The students gave their presentations and contributed to discussions in English. And much like my students at Clemson, they were concerned about the amount of work needed to complete the course, but they did the work and did a great job! I was impressed with their effort, and I truly loved getting to know them and watching them learn.

I also started several research projects while in Vienna that are ongoing, so my Creative Inquiry and graduate students at Clemson also benefit by working on research projects with an international team. Maybe some of them will decide to go to Vienna in the future to experience Europe and the opportunity to collaborate with an international research team.

Paying it forward

A Fulbright in Vienna was even more attractive to me since the headquarters of my traditional martial art group, Karatedo Doshinkan, is located there, as well as the home of our grand master, Hanshi 10.Dan Nobuo Ichikawa. I have been training in and teaching Doshinkan for more than 25 years and have frequently visited Vienna for a week or two in the summer to train. Getting the Fulbright allowed me to train with our grand master for more than six months.

The Fulbright award gave me a fantastic opportunity to give back in so many ways. I could give back to the international students and research collaborators as a way to help “pay forward” for the opportunity I had as a student in Munich. I could also give back to my martial art group by contributing to the training, the positive atmosphere and the growing knowledge base of our martial art.

It was a memorable six months in Vienna. I traveled around Europe for research presentations and to train with some of the dojos in my martial art group. In Vienna, I listened to horse carriages pass below my apartment windows on their way home in the evenings, watched the 400-plus varieties of roses bloom in the Volksgarten, attended the Summer Night Concert by the Vienna Philharmonic at Schoenbrunn Palace, and experienced the 4th of July reception (with fireworks) at the American ambassador’s residence.

I expected my time in Vienna to be productive and a fantastic experience. What surprises me is how much of it I am bringing back to Clemson with me. I feel a renewed desire to help students succeed, to watch them learn and admire their effort, to better see their college education from their perspective, to remember that they are here to learn in the classroom and in research but to also learn outside of the classroom, much like I did on my Fulbright adventures.

Doing the Right Thing

As children with siblings, many of us were admonished by our parents to “do the right thing” and “set a good example.” For most of us, following that advice didn’t mean choosing to make groundbreaking decisions. But, for Harvey Gantt, those words were prophetic and resulted in decisions that would change Clemson University and South Carolina.

On January 28, 1963, Harvey B. Gantt took a step onto Clemson’s campus that would stake his claim in history. But as a quiet young man who only wanted a great education at a great institution, Gantt’s battle to gain admission to Clemson during state-mandated segregation was a step of courage and commitment. It was one step in a lifetime of steps that would set a good example and provide inspiration for generations to come, even for a future president of the United States.

An early inspiration

In 1990, Gantt was in a tight race for a U.S. Senate seat in North Carolina. In Cambridge, Mass., 850 miles to the north, Harvard law students gathered for an election watch. One of those students, 29-year-old Barack Obama, proudly donned a T-shirt in support of Gantt. Gantt, a successful architect and two-term mayor of Charlotte, was the city’s first African-American in that leadership role. And although Gantt lost his Senate race, he provided an inspirational example for the students who would follow him, including Obama, who would become the 44th president of the United States. Today, Gantt takes pleasure in displaying the signed photo of Pres. Obama, inscribed with the message, “To Harvey, an early inspiration,” and signed, “Barack Obama.”

This past fall, Gantt returned to Clemson to give the keynote address at Convocation to mark the beginning of the University’s 50th anniversary of integration. Gantt talked with pride about the accomplishments of his classmates and how the members of the Class of 1965 had made a positive impact on their world. He challenged faculty and students to do the same. But he also talked about the importance of the relationships they would forge at Clemson. These are just a few stories of African-American students who followed in his footsteps in the decades since Gantt stepped on campus.

The lessons of diversity

By the time Frank L. Matthews ’71 came to Clemson in 1968 from a two-year branch campus in Sumter, there were approximately 35 African-American students on campus. In looking for ways to bond, this small community formed the Student League for Black Identity to enhance their college experience, support each other and respond to other needs. “There were no black role models on campus,” Matthews recalls. “No black faculty or administrators. We got to know people in the community who were kindhearted and wanted us to succeed. They acted as surrogate parents and mentors.”

Despite some challenges during his college experience, Matthews said he learned lessons that have carried him through the rest of his life. “I learned to overcome obstacles, and I learned resilience,” he explains. “I made some lifelong friends, both black and white. Friendship comes in all shades.”

The co-founder of Cox, Matthews and Associates, an educational publishing and communications company, Matthews is publisher/editor-in-chief of Diverse: Issues in Higher Education, considered the premier news source for information about access and opportunity for all in higher education.

Matthews went on to simultaneously earn his J.D. and MBA from the University of South Carolina in 1976. Affiliated with George Mason University for the past 29 years, he has taught in both the Law School and School of Business Administration. He was recently inducted into the Writers’ Hall of Fame for his contributions in publishing.

The power of friendship

Frank E. Wise was a three-sport standout athlete at Eau Claire High School in 1972, just a few years after Gantt had graduated from Clemson and three years after Craig Mobley had became the University’s first African-American student-athlete in 1969. Clemson was on his short list because of the relationship Eau Claire faculty had with Clemson administrators. But Wise was a member of a large family, and staying close was a priority. Clemson won out for one simple reason. “I wanted my mother up there in the stands cheering me on,” Wise explains, “and she could do that if I came to Clemson.”

Unlike high school, Wise was unknown to his classmates at Clemson. But several factors helped smooth the waters. One was his teammate, Bennie Cunningham Jr., a local star athlete who had visited most of the same colleges as Wise and had played in the Shrine Bowl with him. Cunningham would introduce him to a friend who lived nearby, Rosemary Holland, which proved to be a turning point. The introduction led to a date and later to marriage.

“That proved to be a stable force in my transition to college,” Wise says with a laugh. “We just never saw any African-American women on East Campus.”

Wise also credits his relationship with administrators and faculty. “I had a great relationship with Dr. (R.C.) Edwards and Dr. Gordon Gray, dean of the School of Education. He had a genuine interest in African-American students and wanted them to be successful.”

Wise received his B.A. from Clemson in 1976 and his Master of City and Regional Planning in 1979. The first African-American city planner in Seneca, he later worked for the Health and Human Services Agency in Anderson. While he was in this position, Wise was diagnose with leukemia. And during his low points, he came to realize the value of the friendships he’d made at Clemson.

“I can’t say enough about G.G. Galloway and staying with him in Florida after my bone marrow transplant. He was also instrumental in pulling together the Clemson community. Contributions from the Clemson Family allowed us to focus on recovery rather than financial burdens. Those former student-athletes gave me hope. We don’t forget each other.”

All in the family

In 1978, with a stellar high school basketball career under her belt, Barbara Kennedy-Dixon ’85, M ’92 had several options for college. Clemson varsity athletics had just started for women in 1975. Kennedy-Dixon considered other schools, but after meeting coach Annie Tribble, the decision was easy. “The first time I spoke to her, it was like talking to my mother. She was so pleasant and personable. I didn’t know anything about Clemson, but I wanted to play for her.”

As a freshman, Kennedy-Dixon was one of three African-American women on the Lady Tigers team, which was a comfortable fit. “A family supports each person. I didn’t see anything different from my basketball family.” And part of her family experience was living in Clemson House, where permanent residents still occupied apartments on the top floors. “It was like having grandparents on campus,” she says.

In 1982, Clemson played in the first women’s NCAA basketball tournament; Kennedy-Dixon scored the first two points. She led the nation in scoring that season (1981-82) and was named a First-Team All-American by Kodak, the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association and “Basketball Weekly.” Still the ACC’s record holder in career scoring, field goals made and rebounding, she’s listed in the NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Records for season field goals and scoring average. She is the first woman to be inducted into the Clemson University Ring of Honor and Clemson’s Hall of Fame and the first Clemson woman inducted into the S.C. Athletic Hall of Fame. Her Clemson jersey was retired at the end of her student-athlete career.

After playing in Italy for a couple of years, Kennedy-Dixon returned to Clemson as an assistant basketball coach, and she has remained enthusiastic about her Clemson home.

“Sometimes students see Clemson as a rural institution. But I tell them to focus on the people. There is a unique, strong family bond here. Once a Tiger, always a Tiger.”

Musical Tigers

By the time Eric Foster ’85 and Lisa Johnson Foster ’84, MBA ’95 came to Clemson in 1980, there was a small but growing number of African-American students. The first African-American drum major for the marching band at nearby Seneca High, Eric had attended Clemson’s Career Workshop program to recruit academically talented African-American students into engineering majors. Lisa had graduated from Lugoff-Elgin High School and already had a brother attending Clemson.

Both describe Tiger Band as an important part of their Clemson experience. By senior year, Eric had been selected to lead the band as drum major. Although not the first African-American to hold that position, he was the first student to simultaneously hold the position of band commander and drum major.

Lisa, now a disability examiner with the state of South Carolina, and Eric, an engineer with Square D-Schneider Electric in Seneca, say the best outcome from their Clemson days was meeting each other. Lisa says with a smile, “The best part of attending Clemson was finding the person with whom I would spend the rest of my life.”

Fifty years later

Harvey Gantt’s admission into Clemson opened the doors that led to the University that exists today. Clemson now has students of every race (as defined by the U.S. Census Bureau). There are students from almost every state in the U.S. (49), as well as the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. And more than 90 countries are represented in the Clemson Family.

Fifty years later, a grateful University community commemorates Harvey Gantt’s courage and determination to do the right thing and set a truly good example.

Fifty years has made a difference – let’s keep building.

“I know that many of my classmates from the Class of ’65 had a lot to do with the changes we have witnessed. A lot of them, through personal and public initiatives, large and small, changed minds, changed attitudes and influenced behavior. That’s what an educated corps of good students do … they change minds, they change attitudes, and they influence behavior.”

This is an excerpt from the speech given by Harvey Gantt as part of the Victor Hurst Convocation on August 21, 2012. Hear his complete remarks at clemson.edu/clemsonworld/2013/winter/gantt.html.

Clemson Roots – Nashville Dreams

Clemson Roots - Nashville Dreams

Wander down Nashville’s Broadway early any evening, and you’ll hear strains of country music coming out of almost every door. Guitars are being tuned, microphones being checked, band members are chatting as the instruments get pulled out and plugged in.

In groups of twos and threes, tourists wander down the sidewalk, listening, stopping to hear the strains of music start to build. The bars and restaurants are interrupted by record stores and gift shops where you can find a cowboy boot-shaped vase, an Elvis Beanie Baby or a Johnny Cash onesie. There’s enough country music memorabilia to satisfy the most hard-core fan.

Stop by Boot Country, and buy one pair of cowboy boots and get two more for free. Get your picture taken with the large guitar mounted on the sidewalk that reads “Honky-Tonk Heroes” and sports pictures of country music legends from Johnny Cash and Willie Nelson to Dolly Parton and Loretta Lynn. Wander by the windows of Hatch Show Print where old letterpress-printed posters plaster the walls. You know the kind, the ones that look the way country music concert posters ought to look. They still print those here.

The bar stools and tables fill up as the music begins for real. Most of the musicians who inhabit the neon-lit venues in this haven of honky-tonks are not household names. These aren’t the Merle Haggards and Tim McGraws of the music world. Neither are they the Reba McEntires or the Taylor Swifts. They’re often working two or three jobs in addition to these gigs.

But if they’re playing here on Broadway, they’ve got their foot in the door of Music City. And that’s why these Clemson alumni come to Nashville.

Making a living

Michael Hughes

Michael Hughes

Many nights, you can find Michael Hughes ’96 on one of these stages. He plays a mean keyboard and a masterful guitar. In fact, he’s played 50 concerts this past summer plus a USO tour with former American Idol finalist Kellie Pickler, with whom he’s traveled for the last five years.

He’s been in the music business 20 years now, but he got his first job playing the piano from a friend who lived down the hall in Johnstone his freshman year. With a mother as a Clemson nursing professor, Hughes didn’t just go to Clemson; he grew up here. And even though he was a psychology major, it was an organic chemistry professor whose offhand comment had a great impact on him.

“Karl Dieter casually mentioned after class one day that the secret to life was answering these three questions: What do you love doing? What are you good at? What do you have to do to make the answers to No. 1 and No. 2 your career? I never forgot that, and it kept me going through many frustrations and setbacks,” says Hughes.

He’s had his share of frustrations and setbacks. He came to Nashville after college, stayed for six months then went back to Clemson where, as he says, he “learned what I needed to know.” After nine years in Nashville, he can say he’s making his living in the music business.

Not to say that’s a simple task. “I think most musicians today that do music full-time wear a number of different hats in order to make a living,” he says, “and I’m no different.” He reels off the list of his various “hats”: singer/songwriter/touring and session musician/studio owner, producer and engineer.

If you’re a fan of “The Voice,” you’ve probably heard the title track from his January 2011 release, “Start Again,” which has been featured in 12 episodes. You may have caught him on “American Idol,” the “Tonight Show,” the CMA Awards, “Ellen,” “Good Morning America” or the “Today Show.”

He hasn’t forgotten those lessons from Karl Dieter. He loves music, and he’s good at it. And he’s done what it takes to make that his career.

On the road again

A four-time Academy of Country Music nominee, Lee Brice has had a highly successful album, a single ("A Woman Like You") that reached No. 1 in April 2012, and a top-5 single officially certifed Gold by the Recording Industry Association of America. Photo by Chris Newman.

Lee Brice  (Photo by Chris Newman)

There are more Clemson alumni in Nashville trying to get their foot in the door of the music business than you might expect. They all have the drive and determination to follow their dreams. And a willingness to work — long and hard.

For Lee Brice, the years of hard work are beginning to pay off. A four-time Academy of Country Music nominee, he has had a highly successful album, a single (“A Woman Like You”) that reached No. 1 in April 2012, and a top-5 single (“Hard to Love”) that was officially certified Gold by the Recording Industry Association of America for digital sales of over 500,000 downloads. The New York Times has described him as “melodically eloquent.”

He’ll assure you, however, that success didn’t come easy. Brice was studying engineering and playing football at Clemson (long snapper) until an injury ended his football career. Recuperation provided time to think and reevaluate; Brice decided it was music, not engineering, that drove him. He remembered that music industry veteran Doug Johnson had promised to help him if he came to Nashville. That summer of 2001, he packed up his bags and his music. Johnson came through on his offer.

“I was able to learn a lot from him,” says Brice, “and over the next couple of years, write a bunch of songs and get started, and eventually get into Curb Records with him.” Brice’s songwriting and performances started to gain traction. He went on tour with Willie Nelson, Jamey Johnson and Luke Bryan.

“It’s been a long road,” he says. “I’ve written a thousand songs, I’ve been on the road for seven years, and we’ve put out four or five singles. It feels like all the work is paying off.”

Brice says that a lot of songs have come out of his Clemson experience, including “Orange Empire,” written last fall for the football team. As a student, one of his favorite things to do was to go up on top of the dam with his guitar and write songs.

“Those days at Clemson were the best of my life,” he says, “and it’s a big part of who I am. It’s played a part in a lot of songs I’ve written.” Including, he says, “the girl I dated for four years from Anderson while I was there. ‘More than Memory’ came out of that, and Garth Brooks recorded that song.”

Brice’s album, “Hard to Love,” seems to signal a different look. Gone is the trademark backward baseball cap and several days’ growth, replaced with a flat cap and a neatly trimmed beard.

“I was just trying for a little different look for that one specific album,” he says. “The realm of music ranged from country to everything else.” However, Brice says, “Every night on the stage, I still put on my ball cap.”

In November, Brice returned to Clemson and played a concert at Littlejohn Coliseum. Still sporting his backward ball cap.

Workin’ hard for the money

Rich Ramsey

Rich Ramsey

In a building that looks like a castle with a history that includes Al Capone sits Clemson alumnus Rich Ramsey ’03. Leaning back in his chair next to a control panel with more than six feet of sliders and knobs and switches, he reflects that he feels really fortunate to have landed the position as manager of this studio three years ago. There are more than 1,000 recording studios in Nashville; this one has been around for more than 30 years and has played host to a long list of legendary musicians.

At Clemson, Ramsey switched out of engineering into secondary education and math. But music had always been an outlet. He had grown up taking piano, playing at church. At Clemson, he led music for Campus Crusade and sang with Tigeroar.

Tigeroar gave him a taste of production, since the group recorded an album each year. Ramsey purchased his own Pro Tools rig and began recording some of his own music.

And then he graduated and went to work as a high school math teacher for two years. “Teaching math wasn’t the worst job I ever had,” he says with a grin, “but it wasn’t very musical.”

It was a life lesson he learned from education professor Bob Horton that gave Ramsey the courage to see if he could make it in the music business.

“It was very evident he loved what he did, and that’s why he was there and why he put himself into it,” says Ramsey. “That has definitely translated into here, because I love what I do, and it just makes all the difference in the world.”

Ramsey picked up and moved to Nashville. He went back to school at Belmont University to get the technical knowledge he needed, then interned at another studio while he was working part time for a recording equipment rental company and for Staples. Plus, he put in 15 to 20 hours a week working for an independent engineer and kept his foot in the door at Castle, volunteering to help out when he could.

“You have to keep your foot in every door you can,” he says. That philosophy played out when the studio manager and two assistant house engineers left in the span of a year. Ramsey was at the right place at the right time. “That’s how it works in this city,” he says.

“Hopefully some day, I’ll be able to just produce and engineer albums,” he says. For now, he appreciates the steady salary and the chance for the engineering to be a part of his job.

Ramsey gets back to Clemson on occasion; one trip was for a Tigeroar concert where he was introduced to Dewey Boyd, a student in mechanical engineering who also had a passion for music. Boyd’s girlfriend (now wife) was music director of TakeNote, Clemson’s female a cappella group that was performing as well.

“He told me what it was like working for free, working two jobs,” says Boyd. “I thought, ‘I will never do that.’ And here I am.”

Dewey Boyd

Dewey Boyd

You can find Boyd in a bungalow in between a chiropractor and a palm reader. The house looks fairly typical from the outside; once you enter you realize that the space has been re-engineered to function as a studio. Insulated double doors, sound baffles hanging from the ceiling. One room set up with a drum set; another with a variety of keyboards. A control room dominated by a computer.

At Clemson, Boyd says he “dabbled in recording music, running live sound and writing music.” He took recording classes with Professor Bruce Whisler, and toyed with changing from his mechanical engineering major. He even did his departmental honors thesis on analog to digital signal converters used for recording music.

But it took a year of graduate school in mechanical engineering for Boyd to realize that he didn’t love it enough. “It wasn’t just that it was hard,” he says. “It was too hard to do without loving it.”

Not that he chose an easier path. Over the last three years, he has pieced together part-time jobs, interning and volunteering to soak up as much as his mind could hold. “Working for free,” he says, “I learned what I needed to know.”

Boyd says he’s still “working to scrape together enough income from it to say that I do this ‘for a living.’ I love what I do.”

If it makes you happy

Lauren Simpson

Lauren Simpson

The Grand Ole Opry. It’s been called “the show that made country music famous.” And it’s one of Nashville’s top tourist attractions. Tours cycle through the different parts of the facility about every 15 minutes, with everyone wanting a picture taken on stage in front of the iconic neon sign or standing on the circle of wood that was taken from the Opry’s longtime home and embedded into the stage here.

But the Grand Ole Opry is not just the three-times a week “Grand Ole Opry” show. The venue hosts concerts and award shows, corporate events, general sessions, dinners, meetings and more. And the person making sure those events come off right is Lauren Simpson ’08, events manager.

“Anything you can think of to do,” she says, “we figure out a way to make it happen.”

She may be young to hold this position, but she has a lot of experience under her belt. Four years of that experience was at Clemson, working with Tiger Paw Productions and Littlejohn Coliseum. Before she graduated, the speech and communication major had worked in every department in Littlejohn, and also interned with Radio City Music Hall and MTV.

“The way that it [Tiger Paw Productions] is structured — to have students in management roles working with other students — was really the best opportunity I could have been given. I tell people I’ve been working at a venue since I was 18,” she says. “Most internships don’t give you that much hands-on stuff.”

Nashville may be the home of country music, but it’s a city that has turned country music into a tourist industry bringing millions of people every year. Like the Grand Ole Opry, some of those tourist attractions are natural outgrowths; others are a bit more on the periphery of the music business.

Christel Foley

Christel Foley

About 20 minutes south of Nashville, you’ll find a successful vineyard owned by Kix Brooks of Brooks & Dunn. Running the commercial side of the business is Clemson alum Christel Foley ’95, who began working there six months before it opened.

“I was brought in to get everything organized and ready for us to become the premier vineyard and winery in the Southeast,” she says. “I handle all of the marketing and public relations, daily retail operations and procedures for the winery, direct the sales and management team and pretty much anything else that comes up.” She has approximately 40 employees who report to her, including the general manager, controller, wine club manager and tasting room manager. And on any given Saturday, more than 2,000 locals and tourists will be there, picnics and blankets in hand, to enjoy the free wine tasting and the music, usually a local jazz trio.

Foley majored in parks, recreation and tourism management, which she says provided a good foundation for the two industries in which she has worked: sports marketing and the wine business.

As a Clemson student, Foley waitressed at Charlie T’s, a local hangout across from the baseball field. One night, she waited on a group of men who turned out to be professional baseball scouts, two from the Minnesota Twins, one from the Atlanta Braves.

“I struck up a conversation with them,” she says, “and they said, ‘You need to work for a sports team; they need people like you with a lot of enthusiasm.’” That stuck in her mind; her first job out of college was with the Charleston Stingrays (minor league hockey). She went from there to the Cincinnati Bengals, the Tennessee Titans and back to hockey with the Nashville Predators.

Two young children made her reassess all the nights and evenings of sports marketing. The contacts she had in Nashville led her to Kix Brooks and his fledgling vineyard. The wine business, she says, has many similarities to sports marketing. “I’m selling a product here that’s similar to selling a ticket. I have a celebrity — like having players. The difference here is that there’s no winning and losing; it’s all winning,” she says. “And no lockouts. Everybody goes away happy.”

Foley may be more on the edge of the music business than some of the other alumni in town, but she shares a drive and determination and ability to see the possibilities. When asked what about a Clemson experience makes alumni successful in Nashville, she responds, “a great education that doesn’t limit your ideas of what opportunities are out there.”

No business like show business

Teaching management may seem even further away from the music business, but not when it’s at Belmont University, named by Time and Rolling Stone magazines as having one of the best music business programs in the country.

Beth Woodard

Beth Woodard

And in the hallway of the building where she teaches, Beth Woodard ’87 shows off the display of gold and platinum records. Belmont grads have been a part of each of those records, whether writing, performing or producing.

Teaching music business students adds a different dimension to the classroom, says Woodard, who has been at Belmont since 1999. “My music business students are very creative. They see things through different lenses.”

Woodard, a management major at Clemson, might not have even finished her undergraduate degree if it hadn’t been for Professor Mike McDonald. His teaching, she says, both gave her a thirst for knowledge and restored her confidence in herself. “It was because of him that I stayed in school and I finished my degree,” she says.

And when she finished that degree, she never imagined she would end up back on a college campus, encouraging aspiring musicians and patterning her teaching style, in many ways, after McDonald.

Tigers raised in the Southland

Aspiring musicians keep coming to Nashville, its siren song pulling those who dream of connecting with sold-out audiences and producing gold records. Musicians like Doug McCormick ’04, whose voice belies his age. You’d swear you were listening to a seasoned singer when you hear the strains of “Tiger Raised in the Southland.”

In his Tiger Paw cap, he revs up the crowd at the Esso Club on one of his returns to town. Clemson University, he says, “is more than a football game. It’s a way of life. It’s who I am.”

He’s beginning to make himself known in Nashville and the Southeast, sharing the stage with artists like Luke Bryan, Rhett Akins and Corey Smith. And his success has inspired Cody Webb ’11, who spent weekends during his time at Clemson listening to McCormick play at TDs. Like others, Webb has taken memories of college and turned them into music. “Turning Four Years into Five” was his first single. He took advantage of Kickstarter, a popular online funding platform for creative projects, to underwrite the production costs of his first album, “Thing to Prove,” in 2011.

Like other Clemson alumni in the music business in Nashville, Webb has discovered that it takes a lot of grit and determination and hard work. Not that his quick smile and the self-deprecating, likable personality don’t help. But he’s taken the fan base he developed in Clemson and broadened that by playing 150 shows last year around the Southeast. And it’s beginning to pay off; he has a contract with Monument Entertainment to produce his next album.

Roots & Dreams

There are more Clemson alumni in Nashville than these. More who are following their dreams, wedging their foot in the door. Some have always known they wanted to be in the music business; others have ended up there almost serendipitously.

What they all seem to have in common is a willingness to work long and hard, and a desire to follow their dreams and do what they love.

And they haven’t left their Clemson roots behind.