By Kelly Braun
For Denise Smith, growing up in Celina and having a passion for music meant playing saxophone in the high school band and singing with the church choir.
But that wasn't a fast enough tempo for a girl with big dreams.
Smith, now a senior at Bluffton College, is one of 33 students spending a semester at the Contemporary Music Center on the island of Martha's Vineyard, Mass. The program gives selected college students the opportunity to pursue life as a rock star or music business bigwig.
The artist community on a 21-acre wooded property includes housing for the students, four recording studios, music business offices, state-of-the-art equipment and a music company, Offshore Entertainment Group, where the students work. The students also take classes specific to their major.
Smith, an entertainment management and promotions major, has been taking classes such as inside the music industry, music marketing and arts and repertoire. And the best part has been working as a music manager at Offshore Entertainment Group. The 21-year-old has been managing two new singing artists, Ami Marshall (an R&B jazz singer) and Lisa Denault (country pop). Both singers are college students also selected to spend a semester at the Contemporary Music Center.
"I get them ready for concerts, help in the recording studio, organizing where they need to be," she says.
She also produced two concerts: a local concert for the music center's singers and a Christmas concert for the entire island.
With just two weeks left until her internship ends, Smith says the experience has shown her how many options she has when pursuing a career in the music industry.
"This is definitely a program based around music, but the education goes so much beyond music, just learning about yourself and your faith and who you are as a person," she says of the Christian-based program.
Smith, who has been hearing impaired since contracting a virus at the age of 3, now has definite goals of working in an industry where some may doubt her abilities.
Wearing a hearing aid and reading lips, Smith has only five percent hearing in her right ear and 60 percent in her left ear. She admits the impairment has hindered her in some aspects of the industry, such as being able to work in recording.
"But I'm not really interested in that any way," she says quickly. "I don't let it slow me down."
And she hasn't missed a beat yet.
She has dreams of working in artist or event management and feels her experience playing instruments and singing in high school, along with her recent work in the industry, makes her equipped for the job.
She talks about trying to get a job at Walt Disney World, organizing and scheduling the Magic Music Parade held at the park, or working in Nashville with a booking agency or event manager.
Smith, who graduates in May, says she's been influenced by the love of music her parents (Kevin and Carol Smith) have and knows for sure she is following one path in the near future.
"I have grown up with it (music) for so long, my mom and dad started me with music at such a young age, it has always been a part of me and always will."