The Essence and Evolution of Segue 61,
a Music Industry Immersion Program in Nashville
intr.v. seÂ·gued, seÂ·gueÂ·ing, seÂ·gues
- Music – To make a transition directly from one section or theme to another. 2. Standard – To move smoothly and unhesitatingly from one state, condition, situation, or element to another: “Daylight segued into dusk.” (Susan Dworski). 3. Urban – Get on with it. NEXT. Show me the money.
I’ve been asked in grocery stores, elevators, high school gyms, and on street corners. I’ve been asked on airplanes, bathrooms, backstage, and in mosh pits. Which was exactly the point: “What IS Segue 61? What does that mean? What does it do?” Well . . . glad you asked.
In fall, 2014, I came to Catawba College in Salisbury, NC, to work as a consultant on a sports-related project. I was diverted by School President Brien Lewis to help with a project that had great possibilities but had reached a creative stalemate after months of diligent work from Dr. David Fish, head of the school’s Music Department, and many others. The premise centered on connectivity, something I have valued throughout a rewarding career as a sports/entertainment consultant . . . relationship equity, my most cherished currency. Did students, either trained within music curricula or aspiring out of public school programs, know enough of the soft-skills, interpersonal elements, and essential knowledge from behind the tightly-guarded side-doors of the music industry to find a better way into the business?
To that point, it appeared few if any had tried to create a proper process to deliver real-time information to music industry aspirants, one delivered not through academic channels but by those experts working in the business today. And yesterday. And tomorrow. That was the vision the Catawba group had been trying to bring into focus. Its initial destination was Southern California, a logical but distant outpost to manage such a hybrid concept, three time zones away. Why not Nashville, a metro growing exponentially both behind its core musical expansion into every lyrical niche but also culturally. Music City had become an “IT” town, 2,000 miles closer than SoCal.
A shift to the mid-South was made with the project, and instincts about a Middle Tennessee-based location were born out with an avalanche of supporting metrics about the music industry’s saturation levels in Nashville, not just compared to American hubs like New York and LA, but also to London. It was the right move, at the right time, to the right zip code. A location to apply tiny-house thinking for versatility and functionality was found to up-fit in the Berry Hill creative colony within south central Nashville, where 50+ studios co-exist within a three-mile radius.
NOW . . . a name. Something that fits the sentiment of providing prospective music industry hopefuls a better on-ramp to their future in a very difficult business.
Many names had been considered in the project’s previous iterations, some absurdly organic but intentionally none reflecting a clinical feel (“Institute of fill in blank”) that would betray the ultimate real-world engagement and soul of the idea. Highway 61 immediately entered my thinking: America’s Music Highway. Officially, it bisects the US parallel in most ways to the Mississippi River for 1,406.86 miles from New Orleans to Wyoming, MN, 166 miles due south of Hibbing, MN, where Bob Dylan first made a chord. Highway 61 passes thru most of the essential blues destinations that forged an original American art form. It was a perfect metaphor for musical connectivity.
The search then continued on to what word would best bookend the highway number and represent the true intent of the program. It took almost a week of thought and research until an alphabetical scroll through a glossary of music terms landed on . . . segue. Both the alliteration and the attitude of the word were correct. To connect smoothly, either in music or in life. Or in both.
I’ve been asked at least 500 times since the name was born 23 months ago about the origin and meaning of Segue 61. That was my hope . . . to be allowed to begin a dialogue about an idea that had never really been attempted before, with real-world folks delivering real-time information to elite music industry aspirants to be used as real tools in their journey into a real tough business. It IS an atypical approach, and it’s working better than advertised, to this point. There was a void. It’s being filled with knowledge that has been mostly hidden behind a very thick curtain of secrecy until this program began.
About Segue 61
SEGUE 61 is a unique preparatory program in Nashville, Tennessee, that offers promising musicians, songwriters, producers/engineers, and music business hopefuls from all genres an advantage in launching their careers. The inaugural class of 10 elite students from six states began their real-world, hands-on training in early January with a roster of esteemed mentors currently active in all areas of the music industry, at Segue 61’s workshop/studio location in the creative Berry Hill community. The instructors range from Grammy-winning songwriters and producers to first-call musicians and career-crafting music business executives, as well as members of both the Songwriters and Rock & Roll Halls of Fame. Segue 61, a certificate program of Catawba College (NC), is currently accepting applications for its third class (starting January 9) now.
Nashville was chosen as the home for Segue 61 for definitive reasons: the city’s density of music industry activity is currently 20 to 30 times as great as that in New York and Los Angeles and the core employment in Nashville’s music industry [per 1,000 population/1,000 total employment] (4.19) and earning quotient (4.30) exceeds all other U.S cities including Los Angeles [1.61] and New York [1.13] by 2.5 to 4 times. Two years of focus group interviews with a myriad of Nashville influencers—as well as with young graduates struggling to establish themselves in the field—produced a consensus calling for a new form of practical career preparation:
- Many of those trying to enter the music industry lack the essential soft skills of communication, teamwork, problem-solving, professionalism, and tenacity.
- Gaining “street smarts” can take a heavy toll as individuals make costly mistakes that could have been avoided through proper mentoring.
- Gaps in job preparation are often found among university graduates who have studied popular music, engineering/production, and music business.
Segue 61 is distinct from, but complementary to, other higher education programs when it comes to addressing this instructional void. “Segue 61 is exactly the kind of program that I used to dream about experiencing when I was growing up studying music,” said Warner Brothers recording artist and Segue 61 mentor Charlie Worsham. “It doesn’t just rattle off a bunch of tips and facts for you to figure out on your own as you are launched into real-world business. Segue 61 integrates the same kind of true-to-form scenarios in which you find yourself when you move to Nashville. It also happens to be perfectly and uniquely crafted for the music industry of Nashville, centering its focus on the men and women who make the wheels go ’round every corner of the business here. You won’t find this opportunity anywhere else.”
Bill Armour is a member of the Give a Note Foundation Board.
Bill currently serves as Special Assistant to the President at Catawba College, a small private school in Salisbury, North Carolina, with an aggressive popular & traditional music curriculum. He also serves as Executive Director for Segue 61, a unique preparatory program based in Nashville, Tennessee, that offers promising musicians, songwriters, producers/engineers, and music business hopefuls from all music genres an advantage in accelerating their careers through a mentor-driven eight-month curricular structure. The program launched in January 2017 in its studio/workshop complex in the Berry Hill area of Nashville.