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CMA Teams With Discovery Education for Series Highlighting STEAM Careers in Country Music

Music industry professionals known for work with artists including Thomas Rhett & Florida Georgia Line help introduce students to various music industry careers.

The Country Music Association (CMA) has teamed with Discovery Education to help students explore various STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) career paths within the country music industry.

The program, titled Working in Harmony: Every Voice Is Instrumental, targets students in grades 3-12 and offers several free resources to help students learn about STEAM-based careers in the country music industry. The CMA marks the first music organization to partner with Discovery Education, with the Working in Harmony content being accessible online to 30 million students and 1.3 million educators across the country.

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“We have been looking at how to engage the next generation of fans with what we are doing in education,” CMA CEO Sarah Trahern tells Billboard. “This program seemed perfect to help us create a dialogue about what the music industry does, and to show that there are jobs for those on a college path, but also for kids straight out of high school and onto the road.”

The first three (of 10 total) digital video pieces launch Wednesday (Oct. 12), titled “This Is STEAM Country.” The videos delve into country music’s live performance sector, as well as experiential marketing, and feature the work of music industry professionals Aaron Farmer (who has worked as music director for Florida Georgia Line), Alec Takahashi (creative director/lighting designer, Thomas Rhett) and Lindsay Bertelli (owner/president of full-service marketing firm Reach LLC), as each demonstrates how their technological and creative skills help elevate live music, including at the annual CMA Fest.

The educational series’ initial focus on the live sector was partly informed by the devastating impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on live entertainment professionals.

“We identified that during the pandemic we were going to lose at least 25% of our touring personnel,” says CMA Foundation executive director Tiffany Kerns. “We knew that was going to happen and we needed to start preparing and having conversations with touring folks to find out what are the jobs that are going to be available? We also look toward making sure there is more diversity among all professionals in our business. So we’re able to help students not only think about a job pipeline, but they can also start to see themselves in country music.”

Next month, Discovery Education will produce a virtual field trip during the 56th annual CMA Awards, offering students an in-depth, behind-the-scenes look at the work that goes into creating the annual awards show. The content and curriculum created during the CMA Awards will launch in early 2023.

The CMA/Discovery Education partnership aims to help raise awareness of opportunities within the country music industry, and to develop a pipeline for diverse youth to potentially become country music consumers as well as future employees and leaders within the industry.

“In the pandemic, we became laser-focused on what our professionals needed, what they aspired to be and then the challenges they were facing at the moment, but also post-pandemic, because that is our role as a trade organization,” Trahern says. “The Women’s Leadership Academy came out of that. We look at what CMA EDU does with young people, so they see a path they can join our business and get all the necessary tools to excel once they get into the business, because inclusion is making sure we’re setting you up for success, not just inviting you to the table.”

Kerns says that highlighting careers that do not necessarily require a two-year or four-year college degree also exposes students to a range of possible career paths.

“Looking at data, we know that college is not for many students anymore. If we are thinking about growing our consumers and our next generation of professionals, we have to go where they are,” Kerns says. “For us, it’s leaning in and making sure they will be just as successful with the right resources.”

Each of the videos is approximately five minutes long, with the virtual field trip video slated to be around 20 minutes long. To enhance students’ knowledge, each video is paired with curriculum, appropriately suited to each grade range, that reinforces the concepts.

“We are a large-scale education partner and this is the first music industry partner we’ve had and I think that speaks volumes for the country music industry,” said Amy Nakamoto, Discovery Education’s general manager of social impact. “For them to say, ‘It’s so important for us to show students the connection between country music and STEAM, and to show our commitment to diversity and community and I think that can’t be amplified enough.”

“All of the work we’ve done with the [CMA] Foundation, the teachers and the curriculum development, and then what we do on the trade association side to grow country music and make sure we’re thinking about the [talent] pipeline, the next generation of members, this project really ties both of them together,” Trahern says.