NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Middle Tennessee State University turned to a Nashville distillery on Friday, Jan. 15, to provide personal-sized bottles of hand sanitizer for students returning to its on-campus residence halls when classes resume in late January.
Big Machine Distillery, which has locations in Nashville and Lynnville, Tennessee, produces premium handcrafted spirits led by a signature vodka and hand sanitizer that is sold nationwide. The company provided MTSU with 6,000 50-milliliter bottles at a reduced rate, each branded with a special label featuring the university’s Lightning mascot.
Friday’s brief outdoor ceremony at the Big Machine Tavern on Third Avenue South in Nashville was hailed as the start of a partnership in which the distillery’s affiliated independent music label could provide opportunities for students in the university’s College of Media and Entertainment.
A video recap of the event is available above.
The spirits maker is associated with Nashville-based Big Machine Label Group, which has been called the No. 1 independent record label in the world, according to Billboard magazine.
It is home to such top artists as Academy of Country Music Entertainer of the Year Thomas Rhett, ACM Decade Award winners Florida Georgia Line and Grammy-winning chart-toppers Tim McGraw, Lady A, Sugarland, Sheryl Crow and more.
“We’re thankful to develop this partnership with Big Machine Distillery, which is providing needed sanitizer for use by our students as the university continues navigating the challenges of this pandemic,” said media and entertainment Dean Beverly Keel. “And the possibilities for expanded hands-on learning and networking opportunities through the Big Machine Label Group can only deepen our ties within Music City.”
Keel’s college includes the Department of Recording Industry, which in 2020 was included for the seventh straight year in Billboard’s list of the country’s top music programs.
Keel, who previously chaired the department, said connecting with companies such as Big Machine is critical in exposing MTSU students to real-world professionals who can share expertise in an industry that can’t be replicated solely in a classroom setting.
“Beverly and I share the same interests and goals when it comes to education and making sure educational institutions provide a safe arena for students to do their best work,” said Scott Borchetta, president and CEO of Big Machine Label Group. “Partnering with MTSU is a natural fit for our brand and our label’s relationship with the college.”
Discussions between MTSU and Big Machine began in earnest late last year, after Keel connected Borchetta and his team with MTSU administrators seeking a supply of hand sanitizer for about 1,600 students returning to campus for the spring 2021 semester.
Any additional bottles, as well as thousands of MT STRONG face masks, will be made available to additional students after classes resume Jan. 25.
“I was so impressed at how quickly the company pivoted to meet the needs of our country during the pandemic,” Keel said. “And if 2020 has taught us anything, it is the importance of friends and family.
“It was vital to me that we partner with a Middle Tennessee company because we need to support local businesses, nonprofits and universities as much as possible during this time.”
Mark Borchetta, brother to Scott and executive vice president of Big Machine Distillery, added, “It has been humbling for sure, during these unprecedented times, to have been able to provide hundreds of thousands of bottles of sanitizer to people across the country,.
“So many have told us our product has helped them feel more protected and confident as they try to go about their lives with some sense of normalcy. We are also grateful to be in a position to partner with MTSU to help allow students back on campus.”
Labels on the bottles of hand sanitizer feature co-branded graphics from the distillery and MTSU, including a masked version of the MTSU mascot Lightning that is featured on COVID-19-related signage throughout the campus.
The distillery, which pivoted to sanitizer production as the global COVID-19 pandemic emerged, has provided thousands of free or reduced-cost bottles to organizations throughout Tennessee.
— Andrew Oppmann (Andrew.Oppmann@mtsu.edu) and Jimmy Hart (Jimmy.Hart@mtsu.edu)