Music students gear up for spring 2024 Nashville study-away program

Picture this: you’re spending your spring in Nashville, Tenn., nearly a thousand miles from the chilly confines of West Haven. You’re currently in the garage-turned-office of an established music executive, with gold and platinum plaques encircling the walls around you. Your job? Getting songs into strip clubs.

That was the experience of Ben Robinson, a senior music industry major and bassist for local band “Bob The Weather Cat” who traveled to Nashville in the spring 2022 semester for the university’s study-away program. And while his internship may sound a bit unconventional, he is one of many students who received a great educational experience in Tennessee.

“We would listen to hundreds and hundreds of songs that had been released,” he said. “And we would have to put them into a spreadsheet so it really helped me with organization.”

The uber-competitive experiential learning opportunity is a highly sought-after experience for many music industry and music and sound recording majors at New Haven. Nearly every hand in the room went up when Michele Rhoades, coordinator for the study-away program, asked how many students came to the University of New Haven explicitly for the opportunity to study in Nashville at an information session last Wednesday.

Among all the rising juniors and seniors who will apply, only 18 students will be accepted to spend the spring 2024 semester in the Music City to learn from industry giants and veterans in the music business.

At the info session, students learned about the program’s coursework, eligibility requirements, costs, and details about the application process including important dates.

Mark Tavern, director of the study-away program, said participating record labels and companies include Blackbird Studio, Big Machine Label Group, Red Light Management and Sound Stage Studios, among others.

Deanna Fielding, a senior music and sound recording major, is a solo artist known as“smudgeout” on streaming services. Fielding also went to Nashville in spring 2022 and said that she was primarily motivated to come to New Haven for the study-away program.

“I wanted to see what it’s like in a real studio,” she said. “I wanted to see what being an engineer is actually like… Obviously we’re in school and we’re learning how to do it, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that that’s what the career is like.”

In Nashville, there are no food plans or university housing; students must enroll in an internship, secure their own housing, and find their own food–– the level of independence is an uptick from the experiences at New Haven.

Fielding suggested that living with roommates will make the experience much easier to bear.

“They take care of you and you take care of them,” she said. “That’s kind of like your family for a little bit. And it’s important to leave the nest… to get outside your comfort zone. Because it’s painful for a second but once you rip the Band-Aid off, you’ll feel so much better… like ‘Oh wow, I did get my own groceries [today].’”

Fielding said she enjoyed her time in Nashville so much that she stayed past the spring semester into the summer as she worked for companies and made connections, and she said she plans to return for spring break this semester.

Fielding and Robinson said that two of the greatest features of studying in Nashville are the local restaurants and opportunities to meet celebrities. Fielding lauded locations such as Baja Burrito, Sunflower Cafe and Edley’s Bar-B-Que as “delectable,” while Robinson touted Caliber Coffee Co. as carrying “the best cold brew [he’s] ever had.” Fielding also said she had the pleasure of working in a studio session with country music superstar Dolly Parton.

With his parting words, Robinson issued some motivation to students who are considering the study-away program.

“If you’re on the fence about doing it, just do it,” Robinson said. “You can always rescind your application, but you can’t submit an application late, so definitely go for it if you’re on the fence.”

The deadline to apply is March 26, and the spring 2024 group will be selected by the end of the semester.

For any questions, email Tavern at [email protected] or Rhoades at [email protected], and stay up-to-date with the current Nashville students on Instagram @musiccitychargers.