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ADPR Students Go Behind the Scenes at Moon River Music Festival

Beth Foster (fourth from left in back row), was joined by students, alumni, and other professionals who produced the Moon River U event. Photo credit: Ryan Carey

Sometimes the only way to truly understand what goes into launching a successful project is to get behind the scenes and see how it’s done. That’s why the Tombras School of Advertising and Public Relations provides immersive learning experiences for students, such as the recent trip several students took to meet various producers and public relations professionals at the Moon River Music Festival in Chattanooga.

Dubbed “Moon River U,” the event was a joint effort between the school as well as those producing the event, including College of Communication & Information alumnus Brad Parker. Not only were students given an all-access pass to attend the festival and see what goes on behind the scenes, but panels were arranged just for them to hear all about what takes to produce and promote a music festival.

“We believe it is critically important to supplement classroom learning with applied experience,” said Tombras School Professor and Director Beth Foster. “And we have the most incredible alumni who welcome students and invest in this important form of professional development and continuing education.”

One of the ways the Tombras School does this is to create networking opportunities for  students with alumni, such as visits to advertising and PR agencies both local and abroad. Parker serves as director of the Moon River Music Festival and has held various music industry project management roles, including Bonnaroo, and has considerable knowledge and connections in the industry. Another University of Tennessee, Knoxville, alumnus, musician Drew Holcomb, also sat on a panel with his agent and fielded questions from the students about his perspective of working in the industry. Overall, it was a unique and customized experience for the students, and it definitely left an impression on PR graduate student Josh Shockley.

“I love how intentional the school is about giving us opportunities to explore what we like and to get right into the field,” he said.

Attending Moon River U was exactly the type of event Shockley said he needed to get a feel for what it would be like to work in the entertainment industry as a public relations professional. He graduated from a private university with a degree in Spanish education, but he made a big transition when he decided to get a master’s degree in public relations. This is his first semester at UT, and he’s still getting a grasp for the field of public relations and exploring what he wants to do. Shockley said the Moon River U event was a great way to learn about one of the paths he could take.

“The panelists gave us a lot of good advice on how to network and, if we wanted to get involved in the music industry in some capacity, they told us how to go about it. It was just good practical advice,” he said.

Shockley also walked away from the event with contact information from some of the professionals and with new friends amongst the other students who attended. Moon River U helped him build his community, professionally and personally, and it’s made him want to explore other experiential learning offerings at CCI. He’s since connected with the Public Relations Student Society of America chapter on campus, and he’s also planning on attending the Tombras School’s annual trip to New York City, where students get to tour various agencies and organizations and network with ADPR professionals.

“I’ve been really excited that there are a lot of these opportunities because it gives me a chance to jump in and explore,” he said.