LAS VEGAS — As the clock ticked to showtime for the 53rd annual Academy of Country Music Awards on Sunday, April 15, Pete Fisher reflected on his journey from Middle Tennessee State University student to CEO of one of music’s biggest events.
“I recall having big dreams about where a career in the music industry could take me,” said Fisher, who became ACM’s top executive after working 17 years at the Grand Ole Opry, most recently as its general manager and vice president.
“Those lofty dreams have definitely been exceeded.”
Fisher earned a bachelor’s degree in recording industry management from MTSU in 1987 and was recognized as a distinguished alumnus in 2004. He also serves on the Board of Trust for MTSU’s College of Media and Entertainment.
After three decades of work in Nashville, Fisher and his wife, Hope, moved to the Los Angeles area in early 2017 so he could take the reins of the ACM.
This weekend, Fisher welcomed MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee, as well as students and faculty from his alma mater to get a behind-the-scenes look at the preparations for Sunday’s awards telecast, honoring the biggest names and emerging talent in country music.
“We are grateful and thrilled five of our students have been given an opportunity to experience the ACM Awards from an inside point of view,” said Billy Pittard, Media Arts department chair. “Magic happens when serious students see how their studies relate to the real world.”
Bob Gordon, an assistant professor in Media Arts, mentored a five-student team sent to Las Vegas, thanks to a grant from Brentwood-based American Addiction Centers. Joining Gordon was students Kyra Black, Zac Leonard, Laura Morgan, Isaac Shaw and Caroline Steele.
“Oh, wow, beyond my wildest dreams,” Morgan said, as MTSU alumna and country music star Hillary Scott rehearsed. “I never thought I would be standing this close to Lady Antebellum. It’s been absolutely incredible.”
Added Steele, “It’s been eye opening. I’ve been introduced to so much new equipment and so many new experiences.”
Fisher, who was already familiar with the impact of the college’s five previous trips to the Grammy Awards, said he was glad to see True Blue in Las Vegas.
“It’s great to see MTSU represented at the ACM Awards,” he said. “As they have done over the years at the Grammys, MTSU realizes the value of being present at these marquee events.”
Fisher said the university’s presence at high-profile events such as the ACMs, Grammys and Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival “are ripe to present future opportunities,” since they are well attended not only by artists but by recording and media industry leaders.
Media and Entertainment Dean Ken Paulson agreed, calling the opportunity “another great example of extending our classroom to the country’s biggest entertainment capitals.”
Gordon said events like these allow students to “see the link between the campus world they are in, or getting ready to leave, and the professional world they are about to enter.”
Said Gordon, “This opportunity for students to attend a professional awards special and talk with the director, the producer and the crew and to watch them work really ties things together for them.”
For Fisher, hosting the students and faculty members was yet another opportunity for him to pay forward what he received as a student at MTSU.
“None of this would have been possible if it weren’t for the education and experiences I had at MTSU,” he said of his career.
“MTSU has given me, and consequently, my family, a gift I will never be able to repay. So, I’ll keep on giving, in hopes I can get close.”
— Andrew Oppmann (firstname.lastname@example.org)