Delta Music Institute
Originally from Marietta, Georgia, DMI Director Richard Tremmel earned the Education Specialist degree in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of West Florida, the Master of Science degree in Entertainment Business from Full Sail University, the Master of Music Education degree from UNC Greensboro, and Bachelor of Music with Business Emphasis degree from East Carolina University.
He also earned a certificate in Composing and Producing Music for Film and Games from Berklee College of Music and is certified by Avid as a Pro Tools Instructor.
In addition to a teaching career that spans twenty-plus years, Tremmel has been involved in the entertainment industry as a retail record store manager, performer on bass guitar and synthesizer, live sound engineer, recording engineer, and composer. His original music has been played on Discovery, History, DIY, NBC Sports, and Tennis channels.
Prior to arriving at Delta State, Richard helped to create the curriculum for Guilford Technical Community College’s Entertainment Technology program in High Point, NC where he was Associate Professor of Entertainment Technology from 2001-2015. He also spent several years in Hollywood, CA as a freelance bassist and keyboardist and has been in bands that have performed throughout the United States, including a three-year stint in a house band at the legendary Sturgis Motorcycle Rally.
Tremmel is a member of AES, BMI, MEIEA, and Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia.
Charles (Charly) Abraham is a Mississippi Delta native. He spent the first eighteen years of his life in Leland, Mississippi, soaking up the culture and the music of the region. He spent the next eleven years at the University of Mississippi, where he earned a Bachelor’s degree in Music Education and a Master’s degree in Music Theory. While at Ole Miss, Charly served as director of the university’s pop music song and dance group, taught music theory and music appreciation, and was a university recruiter. He moved to Los Angeles, where he studied film scoring at UCLA, and provided original compositions and orchestrations for several television shows. During his nine years in L.A., he also worked as a bartender, a bodyguard, a limousine driver, and a private investigator.
Upon his return to Mississippi, Charly settled in Jackson, where he became part owner and general manager of Hal & Mal’s Restaurant, one of Mississippi’s most well known entertainment venues and restaurant, with four active music stages. In addition to his role as general manager, he also worked as a festival promoter, talent buyer, event planner, and producer of Mal’s St. Paddy’s Parade, the state’s largest single day event. He has spent his entire adult life as a music arranger, with many professional performers as clients. He is currently the staff arranger and orchestrator for two of the states largest churches, and composes for several high school show choirs. He also owns and operates Choirtunes, a music publishing service specializing in choral and vocal works. He is now revisiting his Delta roots as a member of the Delta State University faculty, teaching entertainment industry studies at the DMI.
Barry Bays, Professor of Practice of Entertainment Industry Studies/Director of DMI Bands, has performed and recorded with some of the top musicians in the world, including Shawn Lane, Roger Fisher (Heart), Derek St. Holmes (Ted Nugent), Hubert Sumlin, W.S. “Fluke” Holland (Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley), Steve Azar, Charlie Worsham, The Beat Daddys, Charlie Musslewhite, Big George Brock, Dorothy Moore, Jimbo Mathus, Johnny Neel, John Mohead, Willie King, Tricia Walker, Kristian Dambrino, and many others. Barry has appeared in the internationally recognized music magazines Guitar Player, Guitar World, and Living Blues; he has also appeared in Delta Magazine and The Delta Business Journal. He is a voting member of The Recording Academy and a board member of the Follow Your Heart Arts Program. Barry also appeared in the special double issue of Living Blues Magazine entitled “Mississippi Blues Today!” For more information on Barry Bays visit his website
Clarksdale, Mississippi native Travis Calvin earned a Bachelor of Science in Music Industry Studies degree in 2013 from Delta State University. While at DSU, he was a member of GRAMMY U, AES (Audio Engineering Society), and Omicron Delta Kappa (ODK), serving as a vice-president of the leadership organization. Calvin also earned a degree from Coahoma Community College and a certification from Berklee College of Music. He began his musical career in the after school program at the Delta Blues Museum, where he quickly developed as an accomplished guitar player. In 2000, as a member of the band “Blues Prodigy,” Travis received the W.C. Handy Kids Foundation Award (now Blues Music Award) and appeared in a special broadcast of the Blues on Nick News the following year. He has accompanied and performed with multiple bands and artists, including the International Church of God and Christ Orchestra, Marvin Sapp, Rance Allen, Steve Azar, and the Nighthawks. As a member of the DMI All Stars, Travis performed for Mississippi GRAMMY night in Los Angeles during GRAMMY week.
In addition to his role as a musician, Travis has served in the classroom as a music and music technology instructor through the Delta Blues Museum, Delta Arts Alliance, and the DMI Mobile Music Lab. He was awarded a unique opportunity in 2013 to meet the First Lady, Michelle Obama, during a ceremony at the White House honoring the work of the Delta Blues Museum. Calvin joined the staff of the DMI at Delta State in 2013 as Project Coordinator of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation Young Men of Color grant titled, “Hip Hop to Rock: Healing with a Groove” which is administered through the DMI. He served as an adjunct instructor in entertainment industry studies before joining the DMI faculty full time in the fall of 2017 where he serves as Assistant Professor of Practice.
Audrianna is the Studio & Production manager for the DMI and is a native of Grenada, MS, She graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Entertainment Industry Studies from Delta State University in the Fall of 2018. As a student at Delta State, Audrianna was a member of GRAMMY U and the DMI All-Star band. She worked with DMI’s Mobile Music Lab and Healing With a Groove 2.0 as a songwriter, producer, and engineer, and was an active volunteer for DMI and GRAMMY Museum Mississippi ® workshops and other events. She was the Fighting Okra Records’ artist for 2015-16 and continues to pursue her music career under the name Audri.
Libby Switzer is the Administrative Assistant for the DMI and is originally from Gulfport, MS. She came to Delta State in the fall of 2017 to pursue a career in the entertainment industry and will be graduating in Fall of 2020 with her Bachelor of Science degree in Entertainment Industry Studies. Libby is a singer/songwriter and a founding member of the genre-blending band, Jimi’s People. She was a member of the 2019-2020 DMI Allstars and a coordinating member of the 2020 DMI Recruitment Tour.
Aside from her love of songwriting and performing, she has developed a passion for Music Education while working as a Programming Assistant at GRAMMY Museum Mississippi where she designs and teaches music industry based programs and workshops.
As an educator, James Thiele (pka James Tealy) has taught Commercial Songwriting in the Curb College of Entertainment and Music Business at Belmont University, as well as music industry, songwriting and worship ministry leadership courses as an adjunct faculty member and curriculum design consultant at Lipscomb University, Trevecca Nazarene University, and Truett McConnell University and is a creative director for Kingdom Songs. Tealy is also a regularly featured keynote for worship and songwriting workshops and conferences like Centric Worship, GMA Immerse, the Canadian Christian Songwriters Summit, and others.
James earned his undergraduate degree in Music Business from Belmont University in Nashville, TN and a Master’s degree from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary in New Orleans, LA. In over 25 years of local church ministry, James has served on church staff’s in Texas, Tennessee, and Louisiana.
As a professional songwriter, James’ deep list of cuts across several genres includes a BMI award winner, three #1’s at Christian radio and songs on several Dove Award and Grammy Award winning gold and platinum albums. His songs have been recorded by Lauren Daigle, Kari Jobe, Josh Wilson, Unspoken, Gold City, and more than 100 others. James’ songs have been featured in both film and TV globally including networks NBC, CBS, Fox Sports, ABC Family, UPN and more. Tealy continues writing for a diverse group of country, pop and gospel artists and joined the DMI as Assistant Professor of Practice in January of 2021.
More about James can be found on his website
Laeitta Wade graduated from Delta State University with a B.S. degree in Music Industry Studies (primary concentration in Audio Engineering Technology) and a B.S. degree in Interdisciplinary Studies with concentrations in Media Arts, Songwriting, and Entrepreneurship. During her undergraduate program, the Greenville native was President of the student AES (Audio Engineering Society) chapter, General Manager for Fighting Okra Records, and a member of GRAMMY U. In 2013, Laeitta and a Business Administration major were selected as winners of the Steve Azar St. Cecelia Foundation Business Competition.
Laeitta has worked with both the DMI Mobile Music Lab and the Delta Arts Alliance in teaching youth in the Mississippi Delta the basics of creating original music and audio/video production. She interned with the Communications & Marketing Department at Delta State University, using her audio engineering and videography skills to film and edit President LaForge’s weekly video series. Laeitta also founded Eittabug Productions, a videography production company that serves to meet the vision and creativity needs of the Mississippi Delta.
While working as a freelance videographer, Laeitta began working for the DMI Mobile Lab as the Project Assistant for the Healing With A Groove 2.0 program. In July 2017, Laeitta was hired as the Project Coordinator for HWG 2.0.
Shawnassey Howell Brooks manages the Mobile, Alabama office of Frascogna Courtney, PLLC. She practices in the areas of intellectual property and corporate law, with a heavy concentration in entertainment industry work. Over the course of her career, she has represented multi-platinum recording artists, GRAMMY award winning recording studios and songwriters, multi-million dollar independent record labels, reality television producers and cast members, independent book publishers, authors and screenwriters, film production companies, magazines, advertising agencies, and more.
Shawnassey is a graduate of University of South Alabama (BA, Magna Cum Laude-1990) and the Mississippi College School of Law (JD, Summa Cum Laude-1999). She is licensed to practice in Florida, Alabama and Mississippi. From 2004 to 2014, Shawnassey was an adjunct Professor of Law at the Mississippi College School of Law, where she taught counseling and negotiation and entertainment law. She is the co-author of Entertainment Law for the General Practitioner (with X. M. Frascogna, Jr. and H. Lee Hetherington), published by ABA Publishing, and This Business of Internet Law, (with X. M. Frascogna, Jr. and H. Lee Hetherington), published Billboard Publications, Inc. In addition, she is a frequent lecturer on entertainment law matters, including appearances at the Oxford Film Festival (2012-“Financing Your Independent Film”), the Crossroads Film Festival (2008-“Legal and Business Issues for Independent Filmmakers”), the Mississippi Film Summit (2011-“Developing and Funding Your Film”), the Women’s Business Center (2012-“Art as Business”).
Alexis Armstrong, J.D. is an attorney and legal strategist that specializes in entertainment law, business development, and intellectual property. She is an attorney at Frascogna Courtney, PLLC and has experience in drafting contracts and assisting clients with filing federal trademarks and copyrights. Alexis has also assisted clients with completion of movie projects, music sale and distribution agreements, securing financial grants and loans, and the development of strategic marketing plans and branding. Additionally, her work focuses of the development and protection of intellectual property.
During law school, Alexis served as a teaching assistant for Negotiations Seminar, Sports Law, and Entertainment Law at Mississippi College School of Law. While preparing teaching and learning materials for these courses, she developed a two-part textbook comprised of entertainment and music industry agreements to be used by students to assist them in navigating the legal landscape of the entertainment industry. Alexis is a graduate of Germantown High School in Madison, MS and completed her undergraduate degree in Political Science at Jackson State University in Jackson, MS.
Award-winning songwriter and performer Steve Azar serves as Artist-in-Residence at the Delta Music Institute. Azar, who penned the hit song, “I Don’t Have To Be Me ‘Til Monday,’ is a Greenville, MS native, and graduated from Delta State University with a degree in Business Administration. He went on to develop a successful career in the music industry as a singer, songwriter, producer, and publisher.
As a writer, his hits include, “Waitin’ On Joe,” “Sunshine,” and “Big Blue Sky.” His biggest hit, “I Don’t Have To Be Me ‘Til Monday,” was honored by BMI with the “Million- Air” Award. It has received almost 3 million spins on the radio since release, and has a total audience of almost two billion. Azar was personally chosen by Bob Seger to open his 2007 U.S. tour, which was ranked by Pollstar Magazine the #1 tour in America that year. Steve also narrated and provided soundtrack music for Second Crossing: Mississippi’s Landmark Bridge, a Mississippi PBS documentary about a key rebuilding effort for the Mississippi Delta region following Hurricane Katrina. Azar’s contributions to his Delta State residency include master classes, student mentoring, recruiting efforts, performances, and promotional appearances. For more information on Steve Azar, visit his website
Chelsea will be serving as a “Publisher/Manager in Residence” for the DMI during the 2020-2021 academic year. She is the founder of Worktape Junkie Management LLC in Nashville where she works as a manager of songwriters and producers for clients such as Tommy Lee James, Jintae Ko, and Thomas Daniel. She also serves as a Creative Consultant for Rap Plug, assisting artists, record labels, and industry professionals in collaborating with each other. She has worked for Stefan Dabruck Management, a Frankfurt and Nashville based music company which includes recording, production arms, songwriting, publishing and artist development. She has experience in negotiating publishing splits, artist royalty splits, and contractual agreements on behalf of her clients. She also developed artist management and publishing rosters by scouting for and signing new talent and supported the A&R team in finding songs for Robin Schulz, Alle Farben, Kyd the Band, among others. Ms. Kent has a Bachelor of Arts in Songwriting from Belmont University where she currently serves as an adjunct Professor.
Tricia is Director Emeritus, Delta Music Institute and Professor of Practice Emeritus, Entertainment Industry Studies. She is a native of Mississippi, and earned a bachelor’s degree from Delta State University and a Master’s degree from Mississippi College before moving to Nashville in 1980 to pursue a music career. As a staff writer, Ms. Walker wrote for Word Music and PolyGram music, where she had songs recorded by Faith Hill, Patty Loveless, Kathy Troccoli and Allison Krauss, who won a GRAMMY® for her version of the song, “Looking In The Eyes Of Love,” co-written by Ms. Walker. She worked as a vocalist and instrumentalist with award-winning artists Shania Twain and Paul Overstreet, along with Grand Ole Opry star Connie Smith.
Ms. Walker served as Creative Director for Crossfield Music Publishing where she developed a staff of five writers and produced company demos and masters. She was the founder of the Bluebird Café’s legendary Women in the Round, a writer’s show featuring award-winning singer/songwriters Ashley Cleveland, Karen Staley, Pam Tillis and Ms. Walker. As proprietor of Big Front Porch Productions, Ms. Walker has produced eight of her own CD projects and continues to perform her one-woman show, “The Heart of Dixie,” throughout the region. She returned to Mississippi in August of 2006 to serve as the Director of the DMI Entertainment Industry Studies program and retired from DSU in 2019. More information about Tricia Walker may be found at www.bigfrontporch.com.