Written by John Jeter
Isaiah Caston ’25 plays regular gigs around Spartanburg and works at a local music store, so he knows his way around a microphone. But then the Converse University freshman learned what really goes into putting on a big-league concert.
“It’s way more than just picking up a guitar and performing on stage, that’s the fun part,” Isaiah told Megan Heidlberg, co-host of WSPA-TV’s “Your Carolina,” during a 3½-minute segment to promote a show at Twichell Auditorium. “But the business part is extremely important because without that you’re not going to be able to pick up a guitar and perform on stage.”
Isaiah, who is majoring in Contemporary Music (Media Application), picked up the guitar when he was 12. But last spring, he and fellow Class of 25ers’ Emma Brooke Alley ’25 and Jahliah Brown ’25 produced “An Evening of Stories & Songs” with veteran singer-songwriters Marshall Chapman, Will Kimbrough and Tommy Womack .
“If someone told me 10 years ago that I would be able to work with Nashville artists, I would have simply said, ‘Huh?’” Isaiah says.
Converse’s initiative, Creativity That Works, prepares passionate young artists for productive careers in the arts. Blending their crafts with inter-disciplinary skills gives Converse students an edge for job opportunities,
Through a practicum in the Petrie School of Music’s Music Business and Technology Program, the students began working on the event in February 2022. They worked alongside Converse’s Director of Special Events Debbi Thompson; sound engineer E.J. George and venue manager Mayes Hopkins.
Students met virtually with all three artists and learned everything from the details of sound and setup to musicians’ requests for food and drinks—and more.
“Soon after we got to Twichell,” Isaiah says, “Marshall, Tommy and Will arrived. It was a great feeling to meet them face-to-face after working together for months over email and Zoom. All three artists were very humble and kind people who genuinely love music and want to share it with others.”
“I learned how to promote myself as an artist and what ways are effective to reach one’s potential audience.”Jahliah Brown ’25
Jahliah, who is double-majoring in Music Education and Double Bass Performance, shares a similar experience:
“Firstly, I learned a lot about industry etiquette and the dos and don’ts of working with musicians and others who play an important role in putting together a show. Secondly, I learned how to promote myself as an artist and what ways are effective to reach one’s potential audience. Lastly and most importantly, I learned how to put on a show. It was so rewarding to see the audience in their seats enjoying Marshall, Will, and Tommy, and even better to watch artists do what they love.”
Jahliah and Emma, a Contemporary Music (Media Application) major, created the graphics that branded the event—you might have seen the banner they made. They also distributed flyers around schools and local businesses.
“We did our best to market in other ways, such as through radio, television, and news articles,” Jahliah says.
All three appeared in such publications as the Spartanburg Herald-Journal, the Greenville Journal and The Music Advocate.
“We have had a lot of tasks,” Emma told the Greenville Journal, “and this is all somewhat new to us, learning how the processes work, creating a show and all the small details that go into creating a show that some people wouldn’t even think of.”
On April 16, 2022, the big event arrived.
“We had officially put together a show in Twichell, with Nashville artists and sold a great amount of tickets.”Isaiah Caston ’25
“As I sat in the sound booth and watched the show,” Isaiah says, “a rush of relief came over me as we had officially put together a show in Twichell, with Nashville artists and sold a great amount of tickets. What came from the hard work was ‘An Evening of Stories and Songs.’ Lucky for us, that is exactly what the night was! Every piece fell into place, but the tricky part was getting those pieces lined up.”
When the stage lights went up and the artists took their seats behind their microphones, the students finally got a chance to relax—and watch their hard work come alive and experience what they had created for the audience.
“They were moved by their voices and very engaged,” Jahliah says. “So many of Marshall’s fans were so excited to see her after the concert and congratulate her on a great show. Marshall, Will, and Tommy were also really pleasant artists to work with. They made the entire practicum a breeze.”
To that, Isaiah adds, “Among everything that I learned from this experience, there was something in particular that I will remind myself often. Regardless of what you are doing in life, be it school, work, music, sports—anything at all—you must try and enjoy the ride, soak in the experience that you are in, try and learn or take something from it. My grandfather always says, ‘Don’t look over the hill … just keep your eyes on what’s in front of you. Just stay focused.’”