First MNPS Bonus Tracks Music Industry Program Wraps Up a Successful Year

This year, a select group of Pearl-Cohn Entertainment Magnet High School students received a real-world look into the music industry business as a part of the inaugural Bonus Tracks Program with Capitol CMG. Nashville is only the second city to be invited to implement this unique program. The class recruited 20 dedicated 10th through 12th graders, teacher Dr. MarQo Patton, and music executive EJ Gaines, who serves as co-executive director and Motown Gospel/Vice President of Marketing with Capitol CMG.

Bonus Tracks blog 5.jpg

“As we prepared to expand the Bonus Tracks program from Los Angeles to Nashville, I had a profound sense that we were embarking on something that would be impactful for the students and for the music community,” Gaines said. “But I had no idea how personally impacted I would be.”

The primary goal of the cutting-edge program is to show high school students the many career options available in the industry including creative, marketing, commercial partnerships and promotion. Students learned first-hand the role of a modern record label in today’s new age of music and met weekly with executives from all areas of the industry. Above those experiences, students were able to connect with successful industry leaders who mentored students and shared their own personal stories of success and failure.

“These kids got access to the best of the best; it was very personal,” Patton said. “They loved every bit of it and only wished they had more time.”

 Thanks to Gaines, one of the students, even received a call from GRAMMY®-nominated recording artist Johnathan McReynolds who encouraged the student before he sang McReynolds’s song “Lovin’ Me” at graduation - an experience the student best described as “life-changing.” The group also met recording artist Major. Who shared meaningful time and conversation with the Bonus Tracks students at the Capitol CMG offices.

The core part of the class was a curriculum built on record label introductory basics. However, because of the foundational industry knowledge that Pearl-Cohn students already brought to the table, the course objectives were modified —an impressive surprise for Capitol executives.

“On several occasions, I had to tweak assignments simply because the students demonstrated a heightened ability to process the information and draw meaningful connections,” Gaines said. “The students didn’t simply ask questions about the 9-to-5 work of the music industry—they asked questions about how a career in the music industry might affect their lives and their future families. It was as if they were actually seeing themselves in these careers, not just hearing about hypothetical job positions.”

As the year comes to a close, students will present an exit presentation. Many are hoping for internship opportunities this summer and plan to pursue music industry careers. In the future, Capitol and MNPS hope to offer the program again next year at Pearl-Cohn and replicate it at another school in the district.

“It was amazing seeing these business partners engage so passionately with our kids,” Patton said. “I know how much of a family this industry can be, but I also know how hard it can be to be heard. So seeing them [students] maximize this experience was remarkable to watch.”