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MTSU Spring Poll: Voters weigh in on Trump, state leaders, gas tax

Tennessee’s 11 Electoral College votes were an easy win for President Donald Trump in the November 2016 presidential election, with 61 percent of the popular vote in the state. Now though, only a narrow majority of the state’s voters say they approve of the job he has done as president since taking office in January, according to the latest statewide poll from Middle Tennessee State University.

Trump’s Tennessee “hangover” similar to Obama’s Tennessee “honeymoon”

The latest MTSU Poll of 600 registered voters was conducted Feb. 12-16 with a margin of error of 4 percentage points.

Donald Trump is sworn in as the 45th president of the United States.

Donald Trump is sworn in as the 45th president of the United States.

Asked, “Do you approve or disapprove of the way Donald Trump is handling his job as president?” the poll found that:

  • 51 percent approve
  • 32 percent disapprove
  • 17 percent don’t know or don’t answer

For comparison, when the spring 2009 MTSU Poll was conducted shortly after Barack Obama took office, it asked whether respondents approved of the job he was doing as president and found that:

  • 53 percent approved
  • 27 percent disapproved
  • 20 percent didn’t know or didn’t answer

Those were Obama’s best job approval ratings in Tennessee during his presidency. In most of the polls that followed, around 35 percent of Tennesseans said they approved of the job Obama was doing. Similarly, when asked to look back on Obama’s presidency as a whole in the latest MTSU Poll, only 39 percent said they approve, and 56 percent said they disapprove.

Obama lost the state of Tennessee with only 42 percent of the vote in 2008. Trump won the state with 61 percent of the vote in 2016.

Dr. Jason Reineke

Dr. Jason Reineke

“New presidents often enjoy a so-called honeymoon shortly after winning their first election, when unifying inaugural addresses and a public that hopes for the best contribute to even greater support and job approval than their winning vote totals,” said Jason Reineke, Ph.D., associate director of the poll. “But that doesn’t appear to be the case for Trump.”

“The numbers are very similar, but they represent more of a hangover for Trump, whose job approval at the outset of his presidency is actually worse than his winning vote total in the state,” Reineke said.

Accounting for a surprising win

The fall 2016 MTSU Poll, conducted between Sept. 28 and Oct. 2 of that year, found that 48 percent of all Tennessee voters and 54 percent of decided voters in the state chose Trump at that time. Trump went on to win the election with 61 percent of the vote in Tennessee.

The accuracy of polling about Trump has been in question since his surprise, national Electoral College win. To address this and determine whether Trump supporters were fairly represented in the sample, the spring 2017 MTSU poll asked respondents whom they had voted for in the 2016 presidential election.

Of poll respondents who answered the question and said that they had voted in the presidential race, 60 percent reported voting for Trump, just one percentage point different from the proportion of voters who chose him in the state on Election Day.

Poll respondents who said they had voted in the presidential election were also asked when they had decided on the candidate they chose. According to the results:MTSU Poll combo logo-NEW WEB

  • 52 percent decided before the party conventions
  • 31 percent decided between the beginning of the conventions and the end of the debates
  • 14 percent decided after the debates
  • 3 percent didn’t know or didn’t answer

Of those who said they made up their minds after the debates, 58 percent reported voting for Trump, while only 18 percent said they voted for Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.

“Although Trump had Tennessee wrapped up for some time, it appears that his ability to maintain his gains late in the race helped to increase his margin of victory in the state,” said Reineke.

For more about the MTSU Poll and to see previous poll results, go to mtsupoll.org.

Methodology

Between Feb. 12-16, 2017, Issues & Answers Network Inc. completed 600 telephone surveys for the poll among a random sample of registered Tennessee voters aged 18 and over. Data were collected using a Tennessee statewide voter registration sample with 60 percent landlines and 40 percent cell phones. The average interview length was 13 minutes.

Quotas by gender and Grand Region were implemented. Data were weighted based on respondent age to ensure the data are representative of Tennessee registered voters. Landline numbers represent 58 percent of the completed interviews and 42 percent are from cell phones.

The survey’s margin of error is +/- 4 percentage points, meaning one can be 95 percent confident that the population percentage being estimated lies within four percentage points, in either direction, of the result the sample produced.


MTSU Poll: Support mixed for gas tax hike, but many don’t know much about it

Feb. 22, 2017

About a third of Tennessee voters support Gov. Bill Haslam’s proposal to fund road projects through a plan that would increase fuel taxes while cutting grocery and other taxes, but fewer oppose it, and many remain undecided, according to the latest MTSU Poll.

“Support for the plan is fairly low among voters, but that’s not the whole story,” said Ken Blake, Ph.D., director of the poll at Middle Tennessee State University. “In a pattern reminiscent of attitudes toward the governor’s ‘Insure Tennessee’ plan two years ago, opposition is fairly low as well, many have read or heard little about the issue and simply have no opinion yet, and support for the plan rises markedly among those who have the most information about it.”

Dr. Ken Blake

Dr. Ken Blake

The latest MTSU Poll of 600 registered voters was conducted Feb. 12-16 with a margin of error of 4 percentage points.

In other findings, 57 percent approve of Haslam’s job performance, 50 percent approve of the job the Tennessee General Assembly is doing, and about half of state voters want another Republican to succeed Haslam. By comparison, more like a quarter would prefer a Democratic governor.

Support mixed for gas tax increase

When the current poll asked state voters about the governor’s “proposal to pay for road projects by raising taxes on gas and diesel fuel while cutting other taxes, including taxes on groceries”:

  • 38 percent expressed support.
  • 28 percent were opposed, a significantly smaller proportion.
  • 33 percent said they weren’t sure.
  • The remaining 1 percent declined to answer.

Support appeared significantly higher among the 52 percent of state voters who had read or heard “a lot” or “some” information about the proposal than among the 46 percent who had read or heard “only a little” or “nothing at all” about it.

Among those who had read or heard “a lot” or “some” about the proposal:

  • 51 percent expressed support.
  • 31 percent said they opposed it.
  • 18 percent said they didn’t know how they felt about it.

By contrast, among those who had read or heard “only a little” or “nothing at all about the proposal:

  • 24 percent expressed support.
  • 24 percent said they opposed it.
  • 52 percent said they didn’t know how the felt about it.

Asking about the governor’s “Insure Tennessee” health care proposal two years ago, the MTSU Poll found that support measured 34 percent statewide but rose to 49 percent among the third of Tennesseans who had heard about the plan. By contrast, support measured only 26 percent among the two-thirds who had little or no information about the plan. Ultimately, the plan failed to gain traction in the Legislature.

Haslam approval holding at solid majority; Legislature at 50 percent
Gov. Bill Haslam

Gov. Bill Haslam

Fifty-seven percent of Tennessee voters approve “of the way Bill Haslam is handling his job as governor,” a figure virtually unchanged from his 58 percent approval ratings in the Spring 2016 and Fall 2016 editions of the MTSU Poll. Twenty-three percent express disapproval of the governor, and 19 percent don’t know.

Approval of Haslam measures 64 percent among Republicans, 60 percent among independents, and 46 percent among Democrats.

“MTSU Polls conducted during the administration of Haslam’s Democratic predecessor, Phil Bredesen, also tended to find relatively high bipartisan approval,” Blake said.

Meanwhile, 50 percent approve of “the way the state Legislature is handing its job,” while 27 percent disapprove, and 22 percent don’t know. The remaining 1 percent declined to answer. Approval of the Legislature is about the same as it was throughout 2016.

Undated photo of the Tennessee General Assembly convening at the Capitol in Nashville.

Undated photo of the Tennessee General Assembly convening at the Capitol in Nashville.

About half of state voters want a Republican as their next governor

Fifty-one percent of state voters prefer that the governor elected next year to replace Haslam, who is in his second and final term, be either a “conservative Republican” (33 percent) or a “moderate Republican” (18 percent).

Approximately a quarter (23 percent) would like either a “moderate Democrat” (14 percent) or a “progressive Democrat” (9 percent). Ten percent prefer “something else,” and a sizable 14 percent don’t know. The rest refused to answer.

“A Republican candidate would enter the race with a pretty stiff tail wind,” Blake said. “But recent history suggests a moderate from either party can build and maintain a winning coalition.”

For more about the MTSU Poll and to see previous poll results, go to mtsupoll.org.

VSA Tennessee’s Young Soloist Competition set for Feb. 22 at MTSU

VSA Tennessee is excited to introduce six young individuals competing in vocal and instrumental music at its Feb. 22 Young Soloist Competition at MTSU.

The annual event will last from 7 to 9 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 22, in the Hinton Music Hall of the Wright Music Building on MTSU’s campus. Tickets are $5 at the door, and those age 13 and younger will be admitted free.

Competitors are vying to represent the state of Tennessee in the International Young Soloist Competition at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts later this year.VSA national logo web

The musicians performing at MTSU are part of VSA Tennessee, the state organization on arts and disability that was established in 2001 on the MTSU campus. Students in MTSU professor Lori Kissinger’s Organizational Communication in Communities EXL Class are once again handling logistics for this year’s event.

The statewide event is open to any vocalist or instrumentalist under the age of 25 with any form of disability. In addition, bands and musical groups can apply as long as one of the members of the group has a disability, according to the vsatn.org website. The state contest is part of an international competition, which will be held May 25 at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., and will feature winners from across the nation.

Lori Kissinger

Lori Kissinger

Laura Dodd

Laura Dodd

JP Williams, country music artist

JP Williams

Sen. Jim Tracy

Sen. Jim Tracy

Hosts for the state contest include state Sen. Jim Tracy as well as VSA’s International Young Soloist 2003 and 2004 winner, Laura Dodd, who will perform a song. Dodd has shared stages with some of country music’s best, including George Jones, Travis Tritt, Rascal Flatts, Patty Loveless, Bruce Hornsby, Josh Turner and Ben Vereen.

The Young Soloist event will also feature Nashville singer/songwriter JP Williams as a special guest for the night. Williams has built his solo artist resume, including openers for Charlie Daniels, Ricky Skaggs, Randy Travis and Jo Dee Messina, as well as a headliner spot for a college tour singing his original tunes for students throughout the northeastern U.S.

The 2016-17 Tennessee VSA Young Soloist program is sponsored by U.S. Rep. Diane and Dr. David Black and the First Tennessee Foundation as well as fundraising efforts of the Kissinger’s fall 2016 and spring 2017 ORCO 3250 classes.

For more information about VSA Tennessee, visit www.vsatn.org or contact Kissinger at userk7706@comcast.net or 615-210-8819.

— Jessica Allen, jlh2gd@mtmail.mtsu.edu

VSA Tennessee will choose the top performers from among the six young individuals competing in vocal and instrumental music at its Feb. 22 Young Soloist Competition at MTSU. (Submitted photo)

VSA Tennessee will choose the top performers from among the six young individuals competing in vocal and instrumental music at its Feb. 22 Young Soloist Competition at MTSU. (Submitted photo)

Register now for MTSU’s upcoming accelerated Spanish course


MTSU is again offering a breakthrough learning experience during spring break with its accelerated language program that will get participants excited and confident about speaking Spanish.

Registration is open for the five-day program, which will run from 6-9 p.m. March 6-10 at the Paul W. Martin Sr. Honors Building.

The course is offered by the Center for Accelerated Language Acquisition at MTSU. CALA Spanish instructor Brian Roberts said that the course structure is based on brain research to give learners a special interactive experience that results in accelerated knowledge of the language.

Click the image to see class offerings and to register for the 2016 Summer Language Institute.

Click the image to see class offerings and to register for the upcoming five-day accelerated Spanish class.

“The course aims to develop conversational abilities in a fun, low-stress classroom, and you will use movement, songs, games and stories to acquire the language naturally,” Roberts said.

“CALA courses develop participants’ abilities in some of the most commonly used communicative tools. At the end of the course, participants are able to recognize the rhythm of the language and are capable of producing enough language to compose basic communicative needs in Spanish.”

One student who took the course last semester shared this feedback with course organizers: “What I liked most was the laughter and high energy through storytelling. Everyone seemed to build off each other, and we were all excited about learning, which got me excited.”

Discounts are available for MTSU students, alumni, faculty and staff. To register or for more information, including course fees, visit www.mtsu.edu/cala or contact Roberts at brian.roberts@mtsu.edu.

— Faith Few, student writer (news@mtsu.edu)

MTSU alumnus Pete Fisher named CEO of Academy of Country Music

MTSU alumnus Pete Fisher is leaving his executive position with the Grand Ole Opry Jan. 30 to become CEO of the California-based Academy of Country Music.

After 17 years as vice president and chief executive officer of the Nashville-based Opry, the academy announced Fisher’s new role with the ACM on Jan. 9. He’s expected to relocate with his wife, Hope, to the West Coast in the coming weeks, according to an ACM news release.

Pete Fisher

Pete Fisher

Fisher earned a bachelor’s degree in recording industry management from Middle Tennessee State University in 1987 and was recognized as a distinguished alumnus in 2004. He also serves on the Board of Trust for the College of Media and Entertainment.

“As I enter my 30th year in the country music industry, I am extremely grateful for all of the opportunities I have been given to serve those who both create country music and those who help connect that great music with fans all over the world,” Fisher said in a statement.

“I want to thank the officers and board for giving me this exciting opportunity to lead the academy into a new era. I look forward to collaborating with them and our passionate and talented staff, charting an exciting course into the future.”

At the Opry, Fisher managed the daily operations of the 4,400-seat Grand Ole Opry House and produced its weekly shows, along with numerous audio projects and television specials.

academy-of-country-music-logo-web“Pete has served the Academy of Country Music for 14 years as an active, engaged board member and his skills as an innovative leader are proven,” Ken Tucker, chairman of the ACM’s board of directors, said in the release.

“Pete is a team builder, a champion of the importance of office culture and a person who believes strongly in discerning and following a strategic path alongside those around him. Through Pete’s successful leadership, the Opry became a place that recognized the importance of exposing legendary, contemporary and emerging artists equally.”CME-logo-web

Fisher will be only the second CEO in the ACM’s 53-year-history. Bob Romeo stepped down from the post in May 2016 after 13 years.

According to the ACM, Fisher’s entertainment experience ranges from artist management to music publishing with a special emphasis placed on service to a variety of music industry organizations.

Founded in 1964, the Academy of Country Music is a fan-focused artist and industry-driven organization, providing the financial resources to ensure the ongoing philanthropic work of ACM Lifting Lives, the charitable arm of the Academy. The ACM comprises more than 4,900 professional members nationwide and is headquartered in Encino, California. For more information, visit www.ACMcountry.com.

Vice Mayor Doug Young, MTSU alumnus, dies after cancer battle

MTSU alumnus Doug Young, a Murfreesboro native, vice mayor, councilman, businessman and family man, lost his long battle with cancer Sunday, Dec. 18. He was 68.

Mayor Shane McFarland ordered flags on city buildings be lowered to half-staff this week in honor of Young, according to a news release from the city of Murfreesboro.

Doug Young

Doug Young

“Murfreesboro has lost one of its greatest champions,” said McFarland. “We will miss his leadership and dedication to our City Council. Doug Young was one of the most selfless people I have ever met and that showed in the way he helped our City for many years. Murfreesboro is a better place because of him and I am better for having known him. He will truly be missed.”

MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee extended the University’s condolences in the passing of Young, who served his alma mater in the MTSU Alumni Association, the MTSU Foundation and as chairman of the MTSU College of Liberal Arts Advisory Board.

“Doug Young was a friend, a tireless advocate for our University and a force for good in our community,” McPhee said. “Our hearts at MTSU are heavy with this news.”

Young was elected to the Murfreesboro City Council in 2002 and as vice mayor in 2014. He was a leading advocate for the funding, planning and development of the Public Safety Training Center, honored in his name during a groundbreaking Nov. 8 at the former Franklin Heights Housing Complex.

The Rutherford County Chamber of Commerce recently named Young as the inaugural recipient of a lifetime achievement award named in his honor. Young, the owner of City Tile and Floor Covering Company since 1973, was a fixture in the community and instrumental in shaping Murfreesboro through his leadership and service.

Visitation with the family will be from 4 to 8 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 21, at Woodfin Memorial Chapel. A celebration of life will be held Thursday, Dec. 22, at 11 a.m. at First Presbyterian Church.

Read the city of Murfreesboro’s full story at http://www.murfreesborotn.gov/CivicAlerts.aspx?AID=1622.

In this spring file photo, pictured from left are Murfreesboro City Councilman and MTSU alumnus Doug Young; Danielle Mayeaux, MTSU assistant athletic director; Murfreesboro Fire and Rescue Department Chief Mark Foulks; and Andrew Oppmann, vice president of marketing and communications at MTSU stand in front of the new MTSU-themed fire truck unveiled on campus that will serve the university campus from Station No. 3. (MTSU file photo)

In this spring file photo, pictured from left are Murfreesboro City Councilman and MTSU alumnus Doug Young; Danielle Mayeaux, MTSU assistant athletic director; Murfreesboro Fire and Rescue Department Chief Mark Foulks; and Andrew Oppmann, vice president of marketing and communications at MTSU stand in front of the new MTSU-themed fire truck unveiled on campus that will serve the university campus from Station No. 3. (MTSU file photo)

WMOT/Roots Radio to broadcast Dec. 17 ‘Mountain Tough’ benefit concert

WMOT/Roots Radio 89.5 FM will be the flagship live broadcaster for Saturday’s free benefit concert to help those affected by the fatal Smoky Mountain wildfires that ravaged parts of the Gatlinburg, Tennessee, area in late November.

All this week, artists and radio stations have been signing on to support “Mountain Tough,” an all-day, free outdoor musical celebration and fundraiser that will be held from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. EST Saturday, Dec. 17, at 705 Parkway in Gatlinburg.WMOT-new web logo

The full show will be carried by flagship broadcaster WMOT/Roots Radio 89.5 FM (www.wmot.org), which serves Middle Tennessee from the College of Media and Entertainment at Middle Tennessee State University. The show is being produced by Yee-Haw Brewing Co., Ole Smoky Moonshine, Music City Roots and the Gatlinburg Convention and Visitors Bureau.

The word went out on social media Wednesday just after noon from Zac Brown BandGatlinburg, Tennessee, is open for business & welcoming visitors! We’ll be there playing the #MountainTough Benefit Show this Saturday, December 17. You can donate to ongoing fire relief efforts here: http://bit.ly/DonateETF.

Most importantly, in addition to Zac Brown Band, the talent lineup continues to take shape, organizers said. Nationally renowned duo The Secret Sisters signed on within the last 48 hours. Other artists committed include Sam Bush, Jason D. Williams, Derek St. Holmes, Jim Lauderdale, Chuck Mead, Rob Ickes & Trey Hensley, Shannon Whitworth & Barrett Smith, Sarah Potenza, Firewater Junction, Greg Reish, Chelle Rose, Carl Anderson, R.B. Morris and Mo Pitney.

Zac Brown Band will take the stage last around 7:50 p.m. EST Saturday.

While the benefit is free, donations are encouraged, with all proceeds going to the Sevier County Community Fund. To make a contribution, visit https://etf.givingfuel.com/sevier-county-community-fund.

Donations can also be sent by checks payable to East Tennessee Foundation with “SCCF” in the memo line. Mail to: East Tennessee Foundation, 520 W. Summit Hill Drive, Suite 1101, Knoxville, TN 37902.

Other stations committed to broadcast or stream Mountain Tough include: Knoxville country powerhouse WIVK-FM, Knoxville indie/Americana station WDVX-FM, Nashville public radio station WPLN-FM, University of Tennessee stations WUTK-FM and WUOT-FM and Chattanooga’s WUTC-FM.

In addition, NPR Music-affiliated World Café and the VuHaus digital music video service will host the video stream of the show produced and served by Music City Roots of Nashville.

You can follow the concert via social Media: #mountaintough, @TravelGburg, @zacbrownband, @olesmoky, @yeehawbrewing, @musiccityroots and @wmot_rootsradio.

WMOT-FM/Roots Radio 89.5 is a 100,000-watt NPR affiliated radio station serving Middle Tennessee from the College of Media and Entertainment, owned and operated by Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. It has served the Midstate since 1969, and in September 2016 it adopted a full-time Americana music format with a Nashville focus branded as Roots Radio.

With live DJs from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekdays and a range of specialty programming on nights and weekends, its mission is to reflect the ongoing evolution of Music City and its American roots traditions. Learn more at www.wmot.org.

Student-run WMTS-FM boasts first black female GM, diverse lineup

Approaching its 25th anniversary, MTSU’s WMTS-FM 88.3 student radio station is celebrating its diversity with the landmark appointment of its first African-American female general manager and a renewed push to promote its wide-ranging programming featuring the next generation of media talent.

General manager Ebon’e Merrimon, who will start in January, also is just the third woman to hold the top position at the station, which was formed in 1992 and is housed in the university’s Center for Innovation in Media inside the Bragg Media and Entertainment Building. (Editor’s note: The original posting incorrectly stated that Merrimon was the first black GM in WMTS history. Nyronn Bryant was the first African-American general manager in the early 2000’s.)

MTSU junior Ebon’e Merrimon of Nashville, Tenn., will become the first African-American female general manager at the university’s student-run radio station WMTS-FM 88.3. Merrimon starts her new role in January. (Submitted photo)

The Nashville area junior with the electric smile said she developed her drive in a single-parent household under the tutelage of her mother, Pastor Stacey Young.

“When it comes to growing up, I had to learn ‘adult first, child later,’ and I’m still like that now,” Merrimon said.

“My entire life I’ve seen nothing but a woman on the move, on the grind. My mother worked three jobs one time to provide for me and my sibling.”

CME-logo-webA College of Media and Entertainment student majoring in media management with a minor in African-American studies, Merrimon said she’s looking forward to working alongside Assistant General Manager Melissa Summit to expand the station’s footprint and continue creating a more diverse array of shows.

Merrimon and her team will manage nearly 60 shows, which include the award-winning “The Justin Reed Show,” which features classic country, bluegrass, Americana, classic and Southern rock music, and the station’s highly rated hip-hop program, “The Remix.”

Named for the well-known graduate student who serves as its host, “The Justin Reed Show” is broadcast 6-10 a.m. on Thursdays. “The Remix” airs 8-10 a.m. on Fridays. You can see the station’s full lineup at WMTS.org.

Merrimon has been involved with the station since her freshman year and served as a host for the station’s first gospel show, “Deep Soul Gospel,” as well as “Deep Soul Radio.”

MTSU graduate student Justin Reed hosts the award-winning “The Justin Reed Show” on WMTS-FM 88.3. (Courtesy of The Justin Reed Show)

MTSU graduate student Justin Reed hosts the award-winning “The Justin Reed Show” on WMTS-FM 88.3. (Courtesy of The Justin Reed Show)

Those around the station, including center director Val Hoeppner, say Merrimon’s ambition and tenacity ultimately led her to becoming the general manager.

Val Hoeppner

Val Hoeppner

“She’s got a ton of energy, she’s incredibly passionate about this,” said Hoeppner. “She came to me a freshman, banging down my door to get in here and get on the radio. I think that’s really great, and she’s so organized and dedicated to doing this.”

In the male-dominated industry, especially in leadership positions, WMTS has worked to stay ahead of the curve in promoting diversity at the top. Hoeppner plays a vital role overseeing the station, and Merrimon will be taking over for the second woman to hold the station manager’s position, Melissa Ferguson.

Ferguson trained Merrimon this semester to prepare her for the role. The new station manager said already has a plan set up for when she takes office.

One facet of that plan, Merrimon said, stresses promoting more community involvement between the station and its students, including a WMTS-sponsored concert that will invite local acts, especially students, to perform.

While details are still being developed, Merrimon and her team envision that the concert will take place in August and feature acts from all genres, including rock bands, rappers, and even jazz artists.

Forming stronger relationships with other organizations on campus also is a part of Merrimon’s agenda.

“I’m definitely all about networking with other organizations on campus to make sure their organization is getting out there. If the station is student-run, it should be student-associated,” she said.

Internally, Merrimon and her team will focus on locating more self-motivated radio personalities, such as Reed and Jasmine McCraven, who hosts the hip-hop and discussion-based “JazzyLo Radio” each Thursday from 11 p.m. to midnight. Increasing the profile of such shows will help with acquiring more sponsorships and increase the funding for WMTS, Merrimon said.

MTSU sophomore Joe Wasilewski of Knoxville, Tenn., prepares for his 4-6 p.m. show at the student-run WMTS-FM 88.3 radio station. His show, “Stop Motion,” features alternative rock, psychedelic and “trip hop” music, and is among the varied radio personalities that listeners will find on WMTS, which is housed in the Center for Innovation in Media inside the Bragg Media and Entertainment Building. (MTSU photo by Jimmy Hart)

MTSU sophomore Joe Wasilewski of Knoxville, Tenn., prepares for his 4-6 p.m. show at the student-run WMTS-FM 88.3 radio station. His show, “Stop Motion,” features alternative rock, psychedelic and “trip hop” music and is among the varied programming that listeners will find on WMTS, which is housed in the Center for Innovation in Media inside the Bragg Media and Entertainment Building. (MTSU photo by Jimmy Hart)

MTSU sophomore Joe Wasilewski of Knoxville, Tennessee, whose 4-6 p.m. show “Stop Motion” features alternative rock, psychedelic and “trip hop” music, is among the varied programming listeners will find on WMTS.

A local rapper was a recent studio guest, which was a departure from Wasilewski’s comfort zone but something he has the freedom to do.

“What’s surprising is the amount of listeners I get, particularly during the drive time hours,” said Wasilewski, who said he was recently accepted into the music business program.

Even though she doesn’t take office until January, Merrimon has already begun putting the wheels in motion for some of her plans. Ferguson, who served as her mentor and trainer, isn’t surprised by her efforts.

“She’s really a go-getter, and she’s just so inspiring to me and I think to others. The biggest thing I told her was to be prepared to make decisions for the good of the station, even when they’re hard or you don’t like them. I think she’ll do well,” said Ferguson.

Merrimon will hold the position until her expected graduation date in 2018. By the time she leaves her post, Merrimon already has a vision for what her tenure at WMTS will have accomplished.

“I want it to be when I leave out of here, you can’t go anywhere without knowing WMTS is a student-run station and it’s poppin’ and a hit,” she said.

For more information on WMTS, visit the station website, www.WMTS.org, or call 615-898-2636.

— Steven Michael Johnson (news@mtsu.edu)

MTSU seniors recognized for plans to restore 3 songwriters’ copyrights

Two MTSU seniors are the dual recipients of MTSU’s 2016 Chitwood Award for Excellence for their plans to help three best-selling songwriters reclaim ownership of two of their popular compositions.

Peyton Robinette

Peyton Robinette

Robert Williford

Robert Williford

Peyton Robinette and Robert Williford accepted the awards during a special ceremony Nov. 30 in MTSU’s Bragg Media and Entertainment Building.

Their honors recognize the best “Recapture Projects of 2015-16” proposed by a Department of Recording Industry student in MTSU associate professor Deborah Wagnon’s copyright law class.

The projects affect the songs “Dirty Pool,” created by the late musicians Stevie Ray Vaughan and Doyle Bramhall, and singer/songwriter Mike Reid’s classic “Stranger in My House,” performed by Ronnie Milsap.

Deborah Wagnon

Deborah Wagnon

“The power of each of these 1983 songs made this a particularly exciting opportunity to shine the light on both blues and country works that have stood the test of time,” Wagnon said.

The Recapture Project is tied to U.S. Copyright Act (Section 203), which lets copyright creators terminate their publishers’ rights and reclaim ownership of their songs or books after a 35-year moratorium. Each student studying copyright law with Wagnon is required to participate in the project.

Wagnon, who also is an entertainment business attorney, said she will contact the Vaughan and Bramhall estates and Reid’s representatives to present the students’ proposal.

Each of Wagnon’s students also must create a plan of action for the recaptured work, including information that’s needed to reclaim the copyright 35 years after the original grant, assignment or license was finalized.

“This means Peyton and Rob had to demonstrate a future plan hat will be inventive and timely in the marketplace as of Dec. 31, 2019,” Wagnon explained.

Robinette specifically sought out works by some of his favorite artists and realized the time frame would fit songs from Vaughan’s debut album, “Texas Flood.” The commercial songwriting major from Rockwood, Tennessee, recognized Bramhall’s name thanks to seeing the late musician’s son, Doyle Bramhall II, on stage with Eric Clapton.

“When I realized the connection between the two, my heart was set on the song ‘Dirty Pool,’” Robinette said. “This recapture project … blended legal process with art, allowing me to fully dive into my efforts.”

Doyle Bramhall

Doyle Bramhall

Stevie Ray Vaughn web

Stevie Ray Vaughn

Williford, a Nashville recording industry major who also is a songwriter and musician, said his project on Reid’s 1984 Grammy winner for best country song “presented a particularly interesting and educational opportunity to gain real-world experience in the publishing world.”

“Drafting a proposal outlining the process which would allow Mr. Reid to exercise his right to recapture his intellectual property was a unique, exciting endeavor,” he added. “I especially enjoyed the creative challenge of envisioning ideas for potential exploitation of his song in the future.”

Mike Reid webMTSU’s Department of Recording Industry inaugurated the Chitwood Award of Excellence in fall 2014 to honor recording industry major David “Ritt” Chitwood, who was killed in a January 2014 traffic accident near campus. Organizers said Chitwood, a Nolensville, Tennessee, resident, served as an inspiration for faculty and students alike because of his optimism and eagerness to learn after surviving a near-fatal 2006 car wreck.

They expanded the award this year to also honor the estate of Charles Monroe Johnson, a Tennessee attorney, author and World War II veteran whose 1954 memoir, “Action with the Seaforths,” had fallen into the public domain and has now been restored to Johnson’s family in a new copyrighted derivative work with new photos, a foreword by Johnson’s daughter, Mona, and a new cover illustrated by recording industry graduate Victoria Richardson.

Wagnon began the Recapture Project in 2011 for her copyright law classes to encourage research and legal detail as well as creativity and entrepreneurial thinking. Copyright law is a required course in MTSU’s Department of Recording Industry, which is a part of the university’s College of Media and Entertainment.

For more information about the Department of Recording Industry at MTSU, visit www.mtsu.edu/recording-industry.

MTSU scholar wins $1K study-abroad grant from Phi Kappa Phi

The nation’s oldest and most selective collegiate honor society has presented a $1,000 grant to an MTSU student.

Tiffany Miller

Tiffany Miller

Tiffany Miller, a junior from Bell Buckle, Tennessee, received the stipend from The Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi. She is one of only 26 students nationwide to receive the study-abroad grant.

Miller, who majors in both international relations and Spanish, will use the money to study at Universidad Andres Bello in Santiago, Chile.

“Chile is considered one of the most prosperous nations in South America, and I’m intrigued by what mechanisms are in place in Chile that allow it to thrive,” said Miller.

phi kappa phi logo web“Understanding this blend of political and economic success will enrich my other interests in international relations and economics.”

Miller added that in her opinion, Chile is one of the most beautiful places that a person can visit.

“Santiago is nestled in between the Atacama Desert to the north, the Andes Mountains in the east, the Pacific Ocean in the west and frozen Patagonia in the south,” she said.

The MTSU student said she’s considering many options for her future, including seeking a Fulbright grant, attending graduate school and pursuing a career in higher education.

Founded in 1897, Phi Kappa Phi inducts approximately 30,000 students, faculty, professional staff and alumni each year. The society has chapters at more than 300 select colleges and universities, including MTSU.

Membership for undergraduates is by invitation only. It’s offered to the top 10 percent of seniors and graduate students and the top 7.5 percent of juniors.

For more information, contact Gina Logue, public affairs officer of MTSU’s Phi Kappa Phi chapter, at 615-898-5081 or gina.logue@mtsu.edu.

Singer Young creates scholarship for recording students

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — RCA Records Nashville artist and former MTSU student Chris Young celebrated the season of giving Nov. 27 by creating an annual scholarship for recording industry students at his alma mater.

“MTSU helped to give me a foundation for the music business, and I want this scholarship to help other students who are looking to take a similar path,” said Young, a native of Murfreesboro.

Chris Young

Chris Young

Young’s gift will allow MTSU’s Department of Recording Industry to award a yearly scholarship, starting this fall, for a rising junior or senior.

“Chris has remained a loyal and connected MTSU alumnus through the years,” said Joe Bales, vice president of university advancement.

“He’s returned to perform several times in MTSU’s Murphy Center as his music career ascended and remains generous with his time and talent, even donating some of his touring audio equipment and accessories a few years ago.”

Young, who just released his first holiday-themed album, “It Must Be Christmas,” continues to give back to communities along his remaining 2016 “I’m Comin’ Over Tour” stops. Through Dec. 10, he’s encouraging fans to bring a new, unwrapped toy or book to his concerts; the gifts will then be donated to local Toys For Tots campaigns.

With five albums to his credit, Young has amassed eight No. 1 singles and 15 gold/platinum certifications. His hits include “Gettin’ You Home,” “Voices,” “Tomorrow,” the platinum-certified “I’m Comin’ Over” and “Think of You,” a duet with Cassadee Pope.

Formal RIM logoThe former MTSU student, who attended in 2005, has performed several times at the university. In 2008, Young was the special guest of MTSU’s Invention Convention — the same event he attended as a child — where he sang several songs to an excited crowd of 300 middle-school youngsters.

The Department of Recording Industry in MTSU’s College of Media and Entertainment has been consistently recognized by international publications and organizations as one of the top programs in the world.

Recording industry undergrad majors at MTSU can focus on audio production, commercial songwriting or music business. A Master of Fine Arts degree in recording arts and technologies prepares MTSU graduate students for advanced work in audio production, recording and integrated electronic media.

The department also collaborates with MTSU’s School of Music on a “music industry” minor concentration that allows students to minor in music-industry entrepreneurship or recording industry.

MTSU students who are interested in applying for the scholarship may contact the Department of Recording Industry office at 615-898-2578.

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