Photo Credit: Barbette Houser
In a fun mix of town and gown, Dave Schools, bass player for Widespread Panic, was the keynote speaker at the University of Georgia Music Business Program Graduation Celebration held at the Georgia Theatre on the evening of May 8.
With dimmed lights and opened bars, the Georgia Theatre welcomed the family and friends of this year’s Music Business Program Certificate recipients. The air of anticipation and the atmosphere inside the club before the program commenced were much like that before a rock show at the venue, as the director of the program, David Barbe, noted in his opening remarks. His introduction also included mention of his high regard for Dave Schools as a musician and as a person. The friends first met in 1983 as undergraduates at UGA and Barbe said that, while the two of them have diverged stylistically—Schools primarily working the jam band circuit and Barbe playing in punk rock bands—the two have remained close friends because of their mutual, deep love of music.
Schools, in his engaging keynote address, humorously referred to himself as “a benevolent obstacle—maybe the last one between your diploma and…the parties you want to hit this weekend”.
He went on to describe researching the qualities of a good commencement speech. The results he found stressed two qualities, one of them being brevity. He then told his audience that his speech would be “longer than the average Miley Cyrus song and shorter than the average Widespread Panic song.”
A second quality mentioned in his search was that the speech should not just be about the speaker. Schools jokingly said, “As a performer, I am required to tell you it’s all about me.”
He then went on to talk about the music business, the future of these young graduates and Athens’ continued and growing relevance in the music world. Stating that “Athens is such a right place… the right time to be in Athens is always,” he applauded the many music-related things happening in Athens today, including the health and counseling services offered to musicians by Nuci’s Space.
When Schools approached Dave Marsh about what advice to give the graduates, the noted music writer and co founder of rock magazine Creem told him to “Tell ‘em somethin’ that’ll haunt them every time they cut somebody’s throat for a buck.” Schools inspired camaraderie when he reminded the music business students that “we have all had that epiphany when we realized that music would save us.” He then urged them, “Don’t burn bridges; build more of them.”
After the keynote address, recipients of the Terry Honors Day Award for Excellence in Music Business were acknowledged. These awards went to students Brittany Clarke, Michelle Juda, Stephen Lam, Kate Unger and Shelby Woolf.
Kate Unger was also given the George Fontaine Award for Leadership by Example. Barbe lauded her efforts and accomplishments, particularly her management of Americana band Judah and the Lion. While a student, Unger founded Shiny Eyes Entertainment, her own booking and promotion company. She has booked several sold-out shows at the 40 Watt in the past year, in spite of various obstacles, including freezing temperatures on the Monday night one show was booked.
Over 35 students were then awarded their Music Business Program Certificates. Barbe was assisted in the presentation of these by Tom Lewis, Associate Director of the Music Business Program; Ansley Lewis, Advisor and Office Manager of the program; David Lowery, Program Lecturer; and Dave Schools.
In his concluding remarks, Barbe lovingly joked with his students that “MBUS is like the mafia. You can only join. You can never quit.”
The evening ended with a party at the Georgia Theatre with catering by The Branded Butcher. Attendees then naturally gravitated to the roof of the venue, to enjoy the view of Athens, mingle with friends and family and celebrate accomplishments.
Schools will remain in his former hometown for a little while to work on a solo record by Daniel Hutchens of Bloodkin. The record, which Schools is producing, is being recorded at Chase Park Transduction, Barbe’s studio. Duane Trucks and Thayer Sarrano will play on it, in addition to Hutchens, Barbe, Schools and other guests. Schools is excited about the project, stating, “I want to REALLY surprise people with this record… so does Danny.” How appropriate for this veteran of the road to fit an extra gig like the MBUS keynote address into his schedule while visiting Athens.