Saturday, September 30, 2023

“Hands-on Experience”: MTSU students produce concerts on Bonnaroo stages


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Story by Kailee Shores | Assistant News Editor

Middle Tennessee State University College of Media and Entertainment students worked in association with Bonnaroo and the streaming service Hulu to produce 21 concerts on the Who Stage and the Other Stage at Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival from June 16 to June 19.

MTSU senior Kayla Bradshaw, right, films a performance Friday, June 17, at the 2022 Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival being held June 16-19 in Manchester, Tenn. Bradshaw and other students are working at the festival as part of the university’s ongoing partnership with the event to provide College of Media and Entertainment students with real-world experience. (MTSU photo by James Cessna)

The course, dubbed The Bonnaroo Class, has provided students the opportunity to get hands-on experience producing shows since 2014.

“I want to get hands-on live productions and concerts experience. New locations and trying to figure out what works best where — and I never thought I’d be able to do it here.” said Kayla Bradshaw, a senior video and film production major. “I knew we did Bonnaroo, but not at this level.”

This year, the class took a step up from years past. Students worked with professional producers for Hulu, streaming the concerts live.

Middle Tennessee News journalist Lily Manyara, left, a junior in music business from Richmond, Va., interviews Emmy-winning producer Tom Steel on Sunday, June 19, about his experience working with MTSU College of Media and Entertainment students.(MTSU photo by Rebekah McGuire)

Tom Steel, an Emmy-winning producer working for Fortress Productions in Los Angeles, worked closely with students during the festival.

“You guys are moving the needle, in my opinion, by giving students first-hand experience, in real life. This is where it happens. I mean, classrooms are amazing, where you build a foundation. But to be able put it into action, this is where it’s at,” Steel said.

Bob Gordon, an associate professor at MTSU, said experience like this is what gives students a leg up in the job market.

“We have greatly impressed the pros, with conversations beginning for more exciting projects in the future,” said Gordon.

“This crew of graduate and undergrad students met the challenge of producing network quality programming with confidence and steadiness that makes us proud,” said audio production professor Michael Fleming.

In addition to the students producing concerts, MTSU’s student social media team and several student journalists were on The Farm producing content for the MTSU Instagram page and for Middle Tennessee News, the broadcast news division of MTSU’s School of Journalism.

University Provost Mark Byrnes, Media and Entertainment Dean Beverly Keel and Director of the School of Journalism and Strategic Media Director Greg Pitts visited the students on the grounds on Friday, June 17.

“This sort of hands-on experience is incredibly valuable to our students, because it supplements what they learn in the classroom,” said Byrnes. “It also gives them a chance to figure out if they want to do this for a living.”

To contact News Editor Matthew Giffin, email

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