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Former Charlotte/New Orleans Hornets owner George Shinn has announced plans to gift the Sound Emporium, one of Nashville’s vibrant recording studios for nearly 50 years, to Lipscomb University.
The gift was announced at a ceremony on Monday, May 15, at the Sound Emporium, located at 3100 Belmont Blvd, Nashville.
Bill Cody, morning show host of WSM’s “Coffee, Country & Cody” and a Grand Ole Opry announcer/host; Amy Grant, recording artist and recent Nashville Walk of Fame inductee; Randy Goodman, chairman and CEO of Sony Music Nashville and Lipscomb alumnus; Lipscomb University President L. Randolph Lowry; Mike Fernandez, dean of the George Shinn College of Entertainment & the Arts; Dave Pomeroy, president of the Nashville Musicians Union; and other university and music industry officials were on-hand to celebrate the announcement.
The Sound Emporium will provide valuable experiences and resources for students in Lipscomb’s George Shinn College of Entertainment & the Arts.
“This generous gift will provide an extremely valuable learning opportunity for our students in the contemporary music program, as well as those who are interested in a variety of aspects of the recording industry,” said Fernandez. “The Sound Emporium has played a key role in the development of the music industry in Nashville, and we are thrilled that Lipscomb will now get to play a role in preserving this icon in the industry. With the studio located just one mile from Lipscomb, the Sound Emporium will provide students the opportunity to learn from industry leaders and artists at one of the nation’s top recording studios through internships, hands-on experience and other initiatives.”
Lowry said the university wants to preserve the studio, which has been a vital part of the Nashville music industry for decades.
“We want to be stewards of its history…the reality is that that history is something that is ours to maintain, to protect and to honor. We want to be stewards, guardians of the facility and something that has had a tremendous reputation in the recording industry. We want to be good stewards of the clients – those who will come and go and entrust their careers to a few moments, or hours or weeks here. We want to be good stewards of the Sound Emporium’s place in Nashville,” said Lowry. “So we want to be good stewards of this asset and want to take the Sound Emporium into the future in a way that multiplies its impact and multiplies its opportunity.”
Shinn, who has owned the Sound Emporium since 2011, recently announced his plans to give ownership of the studio to Lipscomb while retaining Juanita Copeland, who is the current president and general manager and will continue to oversee the studio’s operations and manage its staff as she has done since 2005. Under Lipscomb’s ownership, Grammy Award-winning record producer Charlie Peacock, founding director of the university's Contemporary Music program, will oversee the day-to-day interactions between the studio and the university. His primary role will be to preserve the professional production capacity of the studio while looking for subtle ways for it to serve as a real-world learning lab for contemporary music students in the university’s George Shinn College of Entertainment & the Arts.
“I’m standing up here because I am such a fan of music,” Peacock told the crowd of more than 150 music industry and business leaders, elected officials and Lipscomb representatives. “When I came to Nashville 27 years ago as a producer I was such a fan of Sound Emporium. I am a fan of the history of this place. To step into the story of this place with all of you is a huge, big deal for me.”
Peacock and Copeland shared their vision for how they will help prepare students for work in the music industry using the Sound Emporium as a teaching tool.
“We are one of the busiest commercial recording studios in Nashville and we are going show Lipscomb students real-working studio etiquette. They will be given the skills they need to go out into our music community, which is very competitive. The fact that George has gifted this studio to such an amazing institution as Lipscomb, I think says a lot to the preservation and how they feel, and I think it’s going to take these students to the next level of greatness,” said Copeland, who has been part of the Sound Emporium team for 22 years.
The Sound Emporium has been a vital part of Nashville’s international claim to fame as Music City, U.S.A., and has been the place that numerous music legends have entrusted with their recording projects for nearly 50 years. In 1969, “Cowboy Jack” Clement, who produced artists such as Jerry Lee Lewis, Charlie Rich and Johnny Cash at Memphis’ famed Sun Records, built Jack Clement Recording Studios in Nashville, the first of its kind in the city. In 1979, Clement sold the studio and the name changed to the Sound Emporium. Producer Garth Fundis purchased the studio in 1992, and in 2011 sold it to George Shinn, former owner of the NBA franchise Charlotte/New Orleans Hornets.
One of Nashville’s most iconic recording studios, numerous artists have produced music within the Sound Emporium’s walls, including Kenny Rogers, Johnny Cash, John Denver, Keith Whitley, New Grass Revival, REM, Alan Jackson, Garth Brooks, Trisha Yearwood, Yo-Yo Ma, Robert Plant, Alison Krauss, Taylor Swift, Elvis Costello, Willie Nelson, Kenny Chesney, Cyndi Lauper, Keith Urban, Merle Haggard, Cole Swindell, Jimmy Buffett, St. Paul and the Broken Bones and numerous others. In addition, film soundtracks such as O’ Brother Where Art Thou, Cold Mountain and Walk the Line have been recorded at the Sound Emporium under the guidance of Grammy-winning producer T-Bone Burnett.
“The Sound Emporium is one of my favorite places in the whole world,” said Pomeroy. “This is where I learned to make records. There is an intangible magic to this place. I would like to express my personal gratitude to everyone who has helped keep it going over the years. Nashville is a music community like no other, and the Sound Emporium is more than a building. It is an iconic place that has taken on a life and a personality of its own. This generous gift to Lipscomb will help ensure that this important part of Nashville’s music history lives on. To have a world-class studio such as this as a resource and a learning environment is an exciting development.”
Other industry representatives shared their excitement about the new partnership with Lipscomb University and the benefit it will have to its students.
“The size of a class or program can be meaningless if the tools aren’t there to give students hands-on, real-world experience, which allows students to leave school prepared to immediately participate,” said Goodman. “That’s the big thing in our business. Just like any academic discipline where there is a mix of science and creativity, lab studies are core to the curriculum. And so it is with music. In this case, it is this studio that allows students to learn in real-time in a real-world way. George Shinn’s gift of the Sound Emporium will allow students not only that vital experimental creative process, but they’ll be doing so in hallways and mixing rooms where legends have worked, played and honed their craft.”
“I want my days to be filled with adventure,” said Grant. “That’s what creativity is about, showing up and being fully present. How exciting that our students can come be a part of that! We are a family. The fact that this building will be cared for by people of faith just makes the story bigger. We aren't here to clean up the Sound Emporium - Lipscomb is coming to serve the community with an endless reserve of love and dreams.”
Del Bryant, former president and CEO of Broadcast Music Inc. (BMI), called the gift a blessing.
“It is a blessing that this building will now be owned by a Christian university,” he said. “This will certainly be incredibly nurturing water for the studio and for Nashville music.”
The Sound Emporium gift is just part of a $15 million pledge Shinn has committed to Lipscomb University. Last month, Lipscomb officials announced the $15 million gift, the largest in university history, to fund a new events center among other initiatives. In recognition of this gift, the college was named the George Shinn College of Entertainment & the Arts. Lipscomb and Shinn expect that the gift of the Sound Emporium to Lipscomb will take effect before June 30, 2017.
“This is a significant moment in the history of Lipscomb University,” said John Lowry, Lipscomb University vice president for development and external affairs. “We are grateful to George Shinn and his commitment not only to this institution, but to our students and the music industry as a whole. We look forward to continuing the vision of the Sound Emporium to serve this community and the music industry for decades to come and to the many ways our students will thrive as they have a unique opportunity to learn from some of the industry’s leaders at Sound Emporium.”
Shinn, a resident of Franklin, Tennessee, is founder of the George Shinn Foundation, which is dedicated to helping people in need. It is committed to building God’s kingdom and reflecting its founder’s deep Christian faith by furthering the work of churches, ministries, missionaries and nonprofit organizations.
“I just think it’s time for us to move on and to turn the operation over – to keep and preserve the history of this great facility here and nobody better to do that than Lipscomb University. And so to me, it is just the next step in keeping the ball rolling so to speak, and I feel real confident that with Juanita and her team still here and with the university and what they’re trying to do – I just think it’s going to be all positive and am so excited,” said Shinn.
Want to know more? Visit cea.lipscomb.edu to learn more about the George Shinn College of Entertainment & the Arts at Lipscomb.
Lipscomb University’s George Shinn College of Entertainment & the Arts is the fastest growing college in the university, with undergraduate degrees in cinematic arts, fashion and design, contemporary and classical music, theater and dance, and visual arts. Graduate programs include Master of Arts degrees in film and creative media, Master of Fine Arts degrees in film and creative media with writer and director tracks and a Master of Fine Arts/Master of Business Administration blended degree. With training from artists-in-residence like Steve Taylor, Charlie Peacock and others, the CEA provides a real world experience where students are inspired to create what’s next for the marketplace. The mission of Lipscomb University's George Shinn College of Entertainment & the Arts is to be a Christ-centered, innovative, entrepreneurial arts community committed to rigorous artistic training, creative collaboration and professional growth that seeks to train the next generation of believer artists who seek to uplift, challenge and entertain culture through their art. For more information visit cea.lipscomb.edu.
—Photos by Kristi Jones