All Country artists are grateful for the support of their fans. But they might look to Dustin Lynch as a model for how to take their appreciation a step further: He wants to help those fans — and others too — finish their college careers.
A pre-med graduate from Nashville’s Lipscomb University, the singer/songwriter has partnered with CMT on the network’s Empowering Education initiative.
In 2012, CMT asked Lynch to play a show in Washington, D.C., where various members of Congress would discuss the opportunities Country Music offers to encourage members of its audience to further their education.
Nearly two years later, Natalie Kilgore, VP/Publicity for Lynch’s label, Broken Bow Records, happened to sit next to Lucia Folk, VP/Public Affairs, CMT, on a flight to Los Angeles. Folk had been working on turning Empowering Education into a company-wide mission. By the time they’d landed, the CMT exec had decided that Lynch’s love for education tied perfectly to her company’s mission to promote and educate nontraditional students.
“Dustin is so cerebral and so articulate,” said Jon Loba, Executive VP, Broken Bow Records. “The guy graduated with a 3.9 from Lipscomb! When you look to marry artists with initiatives and causes that draw upon who they are, it seemed like the perfect fit.”
“People who have a family or a real job don’t think they can pull off getting a college education while they’re doing all of that,” Lynch explained. “We’ve filmed numerous promo spots of me explaining they can do it.”
“We’re using our role as storytellers to tell the stories of those who have gone back to school in a way that can reach people,” Folk added. “There are four million jobs open in the United States, but there are skill gaps. Additional training is needed for some people to find the right jobs.”
Lynch’s inspiration for joining the campaign comes from a personal place. “At Lipscomb, they have a huge night course and weekend course program,” he recalled. “All four years I went to school there, I saw those people. You’ve got to want to do it. My mom and my dad encouraged me to get my education. I didn’t need a whole lot of pushing, though. I wanted to find a way to get to Nashville, so I could be around the music business.
“I was supposed to go to Middle Tennessee State University,” he continued. “I didn’t know what I wanted to study, though. One day, I got a call from my soon-to-be golf coach.
Lipscomb is very expensive, but they offered me a golf scholarship. Playing golf in college is what really allowed me to come to Nashville and sink my teeth into the Bluebird Cafe and to get into that circle.”
As part of the campaign, Lynch will appear at various events, including one for the American Association of Community Colleges in January. According to Folk, Empowering Education works currently with roughly 20 community colleges in Appalachia. Lynch will serve as the official spokesperson for the campaign and be featured in marketing materials provided to participating colleges. The goal is to increase enrollment by 2 percent in 2015 over the 2014 totals.
The timing couldn’t be better for Lynch, who releases his sophomore album, Where It’s At, on Tuesday, Sept. 9. “It’s another platform for audiences to learn who Dustin is,” Loba said. “When we did the first album rollout, we didn’t want to make him ‘that med student who happened to sing Country Music.’ We wanted him to be who he is: an artist who went to college to fulfill a promise he had made to his parents. Music was always in his heart, what he is about. We wanted to establish him as an artist, a writer, a musician first, and then reveal his academic background.”
Visit www.CMACloseUp.com for more on the making of Where It’s At.
On the Web: www.DustinLynchMusic.com
On Twitter: @DustinLynch
Photo Credit: Donn Jones/CMA