KENNESAW, Ga. | Jul 9, 2018
Billboard – one of the world’s most influential entertainment media companies – recently included Kennesaw State University in its list of the top 15 music business schools in the country. The list highlights the university’s Joel A. Katz Music and Entertainment Business Program (MEBUS) for its inclusiveness and its relationship with Atlanta-area entertainment brands such as Live Nation, Coca-Cola Studios, and the Zac Brown Band.
Part of the Michael J. Coles College of Business, MEBUS is a 24-credit certificate program offering three capstone courses in music & entertainment business as well as marketing, management, production, communication, and entrepreneurship courses that prepare students for successful careers in the entertainment industry. MEBUS is open to all KSU undergraduate majors with a desire to work in the entertainment industry in areas such as film and television production, audio and video technology, venue and artist management, and concert and event production.
Kennesaw State’s inclusion in the Billboard top 15 places it in impressive company. Prestigious schools such as Belmont University, Berklee College of Music, New York University, and Syracuse University all made the list.
“It’s a huge honor to be mentioned in conjunction with prominent schools like Belmont or Berklee that have been in existence longer than we have,” says MEBUS Director Keith Perissi. “It’s all validation of what we’ve been working very hard to achieve.”
Perissi helped launch the MEBUS program in 2010 with legendary entertainment attorney Joel A. Katz. Katz, who represents a variety of high-profile artists such as Justin Timberlake, Jimmy Buffett, the Jackson family, Kenny Chesney and many others, helps connect the MEBUS program with major entertainment companies around the world. In addition, Perissi and MEBUS Associate Director Daniel Howes are both entertainment industry veterans and experienced professional musicians who have built strong relationships of their own with local and national entertainers and businesses.
These relationships translate into real world opportunities for MEBUS students.
All students in the upper-level capstone courses must complete three externship opportunities to earn their certificates. Perissi and Howes evaluate each student’s skills and career goals before placing them in positions with major entertainment companies such as Sony Music, Live Nation, EUE Screen Gems Studios, and Coca-Cola Studios.
“We are all about getting our students on the front lines,” Perissi says. “By the time they leave our program – and if they’ve done the hard work – their resumes look like a million bucks.”
The externships can be transformative experiences for the students, including alumna Olivia McGill, who currently works as operations coordinator for UPTV, a television network focusing on family-friendly content.
“There are a handful of students like myself who come into the program with no clear direction other than wanting to work in entertainment,” she says. “Keith has curated an amazing variety of relationships and externships here in Atlanta that allow students to explore different fields in the entertainment industry. My externship helped me transition into a business environment.”
Alumna Teresa Samaras also says she owes much of her success to her experience with MEBUS.
“Through my externship, I met and networked with industry professionals and attended industry events, which gave me the platform to transfer contacts into job opportunities,” she says. “Since my experience at MEBUS, I've had full time jobs at Greenberg Traurig and now Carnival Cruise Line.”
MEBUS students also get to work with industry professionals in the classroom. Among the faculty are veteran talent-buyer Tanner Smith, screenwriter Rhonda Baraka, film and television producer Dale Goldberg, and actor Beth Keener, who has appeared in multiple television series including The Vampire Diaries and The Walking Dead.
“The MEBUS program offers what I never had the opportunity of receiving: an education from professionals actually working in the entertainment field,” Keener says. “My hope is to help these students succeed by teaching them through my lessons, my hardships, and my triumphs so that they can excel more quickly than I did.”
Coy Bowles, guitarist for the Grammy Award-winning Zac Brown Band, is an artist-in-residence along with bandmate John Driskell Hopkins. Bowles appreciates that MEBUS inspires students to think through what it takes to succeed in entertainment from a business perspective.
“[Perissi and Howes] are very supportive of me pushing the students past what I think most people expect,” he says. “I love getting into a room of young faces and inspiring them to really dig deep to find out how bad they want success and to think outside the box to carve out a solid place for their success.”
Not only does MEBUS expose students to the inner workings of the U.S. entertainment industry, but the program also offers an international perspective through the annual London education abroad experience. Now in its sixth year, the trip provides students with direct access to UK entertainment companies and industry entrepreneurs including a full-day visit to the world headquarters of Sony Entertainment. Students work with Sony executives to create a mock digital marketing strategy for emerging Sony UK artists.
Alumna Samantha Zieber, who currently works with Live Nation, was so inspired by the experience that she created a yearly scholarship for the MEBUS London education abroad program.
"The study abroad program MEBUS offered absolutely changed my life," she says. "Both Keith and Danny provided so many chances to develop my passion in the industry during our time in London. I came back more motivated than ever and ready to start my career path.”
Despite its glamorous appearance, MEBUS is a rigorous program that teaches students that success in entertainment requires business acumen, entertainment industry protocol, and skills in addition to creativity and talent. Resume building, interview practice, and networking are all important parts of the coursework.
“There’s a stigma that this industry is all about who you know,” says Howes. “In reality, it’s not necessarily who you know, but what you know, who knows you, and what they think of you. The whole idea is to learn how to enter a room and confidently position yourself as the right candidate for the job.”
The results of this approach speak for themselves. Organizations like Katz’s law firm Greenberg Traurig, Live Nation, Turner Sports, Sixthman, Red Light Management, and many others have all hired MEBUS alumni.
Perissi and Howes say that Billboard recognizing the MEBUS program could not have come at a better time. The Atlanta film and television industry currently brings in more than $9 billion a year, and the Kennesaw State School of Communication and Media now incorporates MEBUS courses into its recommended curriculum for the Media and Entertainment degree.
The MEBUS program is experiencing significant growth, and plans to build a state-of-the-art audio and video production studio to give students hands-on experience working on professional equipment in real-world environments. The goal is to better prepare students for rewarding careers in entertainment.
“We are really passionate about helping hard-working students find their positions in the industry,” Perissi says. “I’ve never won a Grammy, but I feel like I’ve won a Grammy every time I get one of our students hired into their dream job.”
See the full Billboard 2018 Top Music Business Schools.
– Patrick Harbin
Photos provided by MEBUS Program
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A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its more than 43,000 students. Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia with 11 academic colleges. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the country and the world. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 7 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status. For more information, visit kennesaw.edu.