Not many students land internships that put them in a position to work among celebrities, but that’s what Grant Thompson, senior in strategic communications, did last summer at an internship with the Country Music Association in Nashville. This sparked an interest in an aspect of public relations he didn’t know existed.
“In the past two years, I’ve discovered that I have a huge passion for working in the music industry,” Thompson said. “I’ve loved music my entire life. I grew up playing it, so when I found out I could combine my major with my love of music, I knew that’s exactly what I wanted to do.”
CMA is composed of around 70 staff members and puts on several events a year, including Songwriter Series shows, Country Christmas, CMA Awards and CMA Fest — the longest running country music festival in the country, and included nearly 300 performers in the span of four days last summer.
Thompson spent the first month and a half of his internship focusing on the festival. He put together publicist lists for performers and media to arrange interviews.
“We had hundreds of media outlets covering the festival,” Thompson said. ”It was great for me because I got to learn each publicist’s name and which artist they represented especially since that’s what I want to do. … After that, I wrote a few press releases here and there about CMA Songwriter Series shows and other CMA related news, as well as helped with some media and influencer pitching.”
Thompson’s internship concluded before the fall 2019 semester. Despite the internship coming to an end, Thompson received an invitation for country music’s biggest night: the CMA Awards on Nov. 13.
Thompson said one of the greatest parts of the event was meeting and mingling with the publicists he spent all summer organizing interview appearances with.
“It was really interesting because I actually got to meet some of the publicists and introduce myself and get to know them a little bit because that’s my dream,” Thompson said. “That’s what I want to do, so the coolest part for me was getting to see what they actually get to do in their job.”
Tasked with numerous responsibilities, Thompson escorted country duo Maddie and Tae through the red carpet frenzy and assisted country music industry photographer Katie Kauss with the CMA portrait studio on the red carpet. After the red carpet, Thompson floated backstage, assisting with the press conference and other media interviews.
“We had to make sure everything was moving because it’s on live television,” Thompson said. “There was a whole show going on, and they might need to get back to their seat for an award they’re nominated for or something.”
After graduation, Thompson plans to move to New York City and work as a publicist’s assistant, with hopes of eventually becoming a publicist.