Interview With Tandy Rice Of George Jones University
Founder Of Educational Seminars For Aspiring Artists
Doak Turner interviews Tandy Rice, Dean of the newly established George Jones University, in Franklin, TN, which is named after Country Music legend George Jones. Rice, a former Belmont University adjunct professor in the school’s Mike Curb School of Music Business and former Country Music Association president, will moderate the opening sessions of the first class of students.
[Doak Turner] Tandy, please tell me a little about George Jones University.
Tandy Rice The idea came about while I was driving to Charleston, SC. As I was listening to an interview with Donald Trump and Larry King about his Donald Trump University, a car passed by me with a bumper sticker that said, “Proud graduate of Hamburger University.” That means the driver had gone to the McDonalds’ franchise school and that means fun! I thought, “If we could find the right hook for an approach to music and learning the business…”
On my way back to Nashville later that week, I was listening to the radio and Nancy Jones, wife of the legendary George Jones, was being interviewed on a Nashville radio station with Gerry House, the morning show host. The conversation had to do with the FCC and the number of radio stations that are dominating the airwaves.
(Right-Tandy Rice) Nancy was discussing how the small man has no voice after being taken over by the large radio groups, and that the listeners were the ones being punished -missing 95% of the talent out there. The conversation got testy. She called him a word that I will not repeat and Gerry hung up on Nancy.
At that moment, a light bulb went off over my head, and that idea was to create a platform for John Doe. That is the primary reason for George Jones University. I called Nancy Jones and told her I had an idea and business proposal to discuss with [her]. If I didn’t have a green light in 15 minutes, I would be out the door on the 16th minute.
On minute 8, I got the green light. I told them it wasn’t going to cost them anything and they liked that fact! I told them my story about the little man and it has succeeded all of our expectations.
[Doak Turner] How did the first semester work out of George Jones University, which was held in March 2007 at George Jones’s ranch.
Tandy Rice We held it at the ranch to kick off the George Jones University before moving to The Factory in Franklin, Tennessee, for the following sessions. We had almost 200 people total and everyone was thrilled – there were no negatives from the attendees. We had several showcases that were not originally planned. Every time we would take a break, somebody would get on stage and play for the group! We are going to organize showcases for future semesters.
[Doak Turner] What did the students learn at George Jones University?
Tandy Rice They learned from music professionals: a top entertainment attorney, a record label executive, a pro from the publishing industry in Nashville, a booking agent and manager, and an Internet expert in the music business. We asked the pros to talk about their business and to allocate about ½ of the time for questions and answers from the GJU students. At the end of each session the students got what they wanted: to learn from the pros.
[Doak Turner] What kind of feedback did you receive from the attendees?
Tandy Rice Very uplifting and happy. It is amazing what these people loved - everything that we did. At George Jones University, the company mission is: we intend to inform you – arming you with information that you do not know exists. We are going to empower you to use the information. We are going to motivate, excite, and support you! We gave them call-back lists – lists of 20 managers to call, 20 booking agents, entertainment attorneys, and other professionals to call. They came out empowered, prepared and ready to hit the streets.
Until George Jones University became a reality, it was a “roll of the dice” out there on Music Row, as I can sit in my office on 16th Avenue and see people today that do not have a clue as to what to do. [They] can have their billfolds emptied and their self-esteem broken, and they are going to cry and go home thinking Nashville is a bad place and wishing they had never came to town. Our goal at George Jones University is to be a strength and resource to them.
[Doak Turner] Is every semester at George Jones University going to be the same or will each semester change the curriculum?
Tandy Rice We will change some of the instructors and bring back a couple of them. We had such positive reviews on a couple of the instructors that we HAVE to have back! By the way, we had attendees from all over the country: Texas, New Mexico, Maine, California and inquires from Australia and Europe! The fewest number was from Tennessee. Everyone that left said they wanted to stay friends forever, have a reunion down the road. It was amazing!
[Doak Turner] Are you going to do something for bands? I know artists attend, but there are bands that probably could learn a lot about the business, too!
Tandy Rice (Left-George Jones) YES – because it was recommended for future events. We announce on our websites and the Nashville Muse as to what is happening for future semesters. We had six scholarships for the past semester from songwriters such as Byron Hill, Billy Yates, Kerry Kurt Phillips, and other songwriters that have written hits for George Jones and wanted to contribute sending students to George Jones University! Byron wrote “High Tech Redneck” that was a big George Jones song. He put together the group of writers to create the scholarship. Dave Parks from Kingston Springs, Tennessee, won Byron’s scholarship.
For future semesters, radio stations around the country will have scholarships given away as part of their promotions on the air. Nashville, Jackson and Chattanooga are giving away the scholarships. Matthew Wilkes is handling that part of the program. It is a great joy to watch the scholarship winners go through the course and be so excited. One of our winners, Tommy Tyson from North Carolina is donating a scholarship for a future George Jones University student.
[Doak Turner] Tell me a little bit about our Dean of George Jones University – Tandy Rice!
Tandy Rice I grew up in Williamson County, Tennessee. [I] am a 5th generation Williamson and grew up the son, grandson and nephew of doctors. When I grew up and served in the US Army, I came back to the Nashville area and the music industry [that] had started in town. I had never been in this “Music Row” - as we call it today- area of town. It was pretty run-down.
Minnie Pearl is a relative of mine, and she met me one day and asked what I was going to do with my life. I told her I was going into the banking business. She asked why and I told her I was offered $600.00 a month. She told me to never take a job for the money! I was married with two babies and that money was over twice what the military was paying me as an Air Force lieutenant. She said anytime you take a job for money you will end up quitting it! She said I need to take a look at the music industry, and I asked her what music industry!
[Doak Turner] What have you done over the years since joining the music industry in Nashville?
Tandy Rice I have been a talent manager and an agent in the biz. I managed Tom T. Hall, Waylon Jennings, Jim Ed Brown, Porter Wagoner, and Jerry Clower for thirty-two years on a handshake.
[Doak Turner] When are the sessions scheduled for 2007?
Tandy Rice Our next session is June 14t – 17, 2007. Go to www.georgejonesuniversity.com for the complete schedule and how to register.
[Doak Turner] The George Jones University semesters are well worth the investment, for sure, as I attend the first one in March 2007.
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