Delta Music Institute
A native of Mississippi, Tricia Walker 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 and now serves as the Director of the DMI Entertainment Industry Studies program. More information about Tricia Walker may be found at www.bigfrontporch.com.
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, Instructor of Entertainment Industry Studies, has performed and recorded with some of the top musicians in the world, including Jimbo Mathus, Johnny Neel, multi-GRAMMY® nominee Dorothy Moore, Handy Award nominee Willie King, St. Louis Blues artist Big George Brock, Terry “Big T.” Williams, Blind Mississippi Morris, Albert King Award winner Daniel “Rev. Slick” Ballinger, Kristian Dambrino (Miss Mississippi 2005), Boston’s Blues Poet/saxophonist Dick Lourie, John Horton & Mississippi Slim, and the Bluff City Backsliders.
Guitar Player Magazine featured a lengthy interview with Barry and Swede bassist Jonas Hellborg detailing their personal and musical relationships with the late keyboard/guitar virtuoso Shawn Lane. 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 at www.barrybays.com.
Shawnassey Howell Brooks
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”).
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 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.
Victoria Jackson, a native of Clarksdale, Mississippi, earned a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Information Systems in 1986 from Delta State University and began a 20+ year career in Information Technology. She spent 13 years in Memphis, TN as a technical specialist supporting Fortune 500 clients and the Memphis area school district. In 2000, she joined a consulting firm in New Orleans, LA where she served as a technical director, project manager and a director of business development managing efforts in St. Louis, New Orleans, and Houston. Jackson decided to follow her passion for audio recording by returning to DSU, where she earned her B.S. in Interdisciplinary Studies degree with concentrations in audio engineering technology and media arts. Upon graduation, she returned to Memphis and worked as a live sound engineer supporting multiple events that included performers such as CeCe Winans, Jagged Edge, and Tamela and David Mann from Meet the Browns. In fall of 2010, Jackson returned to DSU as Project Coordinator for the DMI Mobile Music Lab. She earned an MBA degree in fall 2012 with a 4.0 GPA and joined the DMI faculty as an Instructor in Entertainment Industry Studies in the fall of 2017.
Originally from Marietta, Georgia, Richard Tremmel holds an undergraduate degree in Music with Business emphasis from East Carolina University, a Masters degree in Music Education from UNC Greensboro, and a Master of Science degree in Entertainment Business from Full Sail University. He also earned a certificate in Composing and Producing Music for Film and Games from Berklee College of Music. Richard has been involved in the entertainment industry in many facets; as retail record store manager, performer, bandleader, composer, as an educator, Hollywood extra, and certified Pro Tools Operator. Prior to teaching at the collegiate level, he was also a high school band director for 6 years. Richard helped to create the curriculum for Guilford Technical Community College’s Entertainment Technology program in High Point, NC where he taught music industry and music technology courses from 2001-2015.
Tremmel also spent three years in Hollywood, CA as a freelance bassist and keyboardist and has been in bands that have performed throughout the United States, including several years at the legendary Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. He recently left his position as keyboardist for a North Carolina based Pink Floyd tribute band. Tremmel’s original music was most recently used in an episode of Discovey Channel’s “Auction Kings”, in “Catering Wars” on Lifetime Channel, on History Channel’s “American Restoration”, and as bumper music on CMT’s Hot 20 Countdown.
Award-winning songwriter and performer Steve Azar serves artist-in-residence at Delta State University, his alma mater. Azar, who penned the hit song, “I Don’t Have To Be Me ‘Til Monday,’ works with the DMI Entertainment Industry Studies program and with the Entrepreneurship in Business Technology center in the College of Business. A Greenville native, Azar graduated from Delta State University with a degree in Business Administration and 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 www.steveazar.com.
A native of Eupora, MS, Justin Boatman graduated summa cum laude with a Bachelor of Science in Entertainment Industry Studies degree from Delta State University in the Spring of 2016.
As a student at Delta State, Justin was a member of GRAMMY U, AES, and Phi Kappa Phi. In addition, Justin had the opportunity to work with multiple clients as a studio engineer and live sound engineer for the DMI and was a DMI student studio manager.
Upon graduation from DSU, Justin began working with the DMI as a graduate assistant before being hired as the full time DMI Studio/Production Manager.
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.