words: John Post
images: courtesy UAFS
Rural areas and country music commonly go hand in hand, but a Country Music Television initiative takes the equation one step further to include education.
In an effort to increase educational accessibility among residents in rural areas, the University of Arkansas – Fort Smith and Rich Mountain Community College have partnered with CMT to bring rising star Courtney Cole to the UAFS campus for a concert at 6pm September 8 as part of the network’s Empowering Education initiative.
The concert will take place in the Stubblefield Center on the UAFS campus, with doors opening at 6pm and a tailgate taking place outside at 4:30pm. The concert is free, but tickets are required for admission.
The featured artist is one of the top up-and-coming country music artists in the nation. Courtney’s recent single hit number one on Taste of Country’s Top 10 Countdown, and she opened for Miranda Lambert on the 2015 “Roadside Bars and Pink Guitars Tour.”
A part of CMT’s Empowering Education Initiative, the concert aims to inspire viewers to further their education. “I’m excited to partner with CMT on their Empowering Education initiative,” Courtney said. “Music and education are a powerful combination. Having the opportunity to meet students and hear their stories is something I am looking forward to.”
Before the concert, several UAFS students and alumni will share stories of the power of education via filmed testimonials followed by an in-person panel discussion. Their stories are different but unified by a common theme: how education improved their lives.
It’s fitting, then, that the opening act is also a testament to the importance of education. Country musician Jillia Jackson, a former UAFS student and winner of Miss UAFS in 2004, went on to secure a recording deal in Nashville after UAFS professor Don Bailey produced her first demo and sent it to a friend of his in Nashville. “That demo that Don produced is what got my connection and led to my publishing deal,” she said. “A lot of people debate whether experience or education is more important, but I think going to a university also gave me experience, not just education. I wouldn’t have met the people that I met and had the opportunities I had if it hadn’t been for UAFS.”
After spending several years in Nashville and recording an album with a Grammy Award-winning producer, Jillia returned to Fort Smith, but not before having her music featured on television shows such as The Good Guys and Parenthood. Recently, her musical group performed at the 2016 Peacemaker Music and Arts Festival.
I wouldn’t have met the people that I met and had the opportunities I had if it hadn’t been for UAFS.
UAFS was one of five on-site partners in the country to be selected for the partnership, which will help the university further serve the rural areas of the greater Fort Smith region. “As a premier regional institution, it’s the university’s duty to ensure the rural parts of our service area have accessibility to the quality education UAFS has to offer, and CMT’s Empowering Education initiative will help us further that goal,” said Dr. Ken Warden, dean of the College of Applied Science and Technology who has co-led the partnership with CMT. “This event will strengthen our ties to local schools and cause more first-generation students to realize that college is a viable option and can lead to increased quality of life and well-being.”
Prior to the concert, the Be Pro Be Proud trailer will be set up outside of the Stubblefield Center for students to tour from 4-6pm. The trailer, which is sponsored by the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce, seeks to raise awareness of the importance and need for skilled technical professionals in Arkansas and the opportunities available for students.
Those interested in attending the concert can pick up tickets in-person or online. To print tickets online, visit uafs.universitytickets.com and click “Community Events.” To pick up tickets in person, visit the UAFS Box Office in the Smith-Pendergraft Campus Center.
For more information about the concert, contact the Box Office at 479.788.7300. For more information on the CMT initiative, visit cmtempoweringeducation.com or follow along on social media using #CMTEmpoweringEducation.