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UNA students plan a concert as part of curriculum

For some students, college education brings to mind images of sitting in a classroom with a textbook, listening to a dusty old professor drone on endlessly. For Russellville-native Shelby Stephens and two of her University of North Alabama classmates, their college education has included coordinating with country music stars to line up a massive live concert on UNA’s campus this week – at least, that’s been the coursework this semester.

Stephens, Haley Webster and Ben McNeal are all entertainment business majors taking the “Singing River Records” course. “Basically what this class entails is that a student, or a group of students, makes a project proposal, presents it to the department chair and awaits approval for class credit,” Stephens explained. While on a university field trip, the three hatched the idea to put on at least two concerts in the Shoals-area – coordinating every detail themselves from the ground up.

“We thought that would be something super cool and fun to do,” Webster said.

They made a proposal, which was accepted by professor Dr. Robert Garfrerick, and they immediately began to move forward with concert plans. They had already begun laying the groundwork the moment they idea came to mind – well before that idea was given approval.

The concert will feature Jana Kramer with opener Jarred Pierce Aug. 25 at 8 p.m. at Norton Auditorium on UNA’s campus.

“We did this in a pretty quick turnaround. We really started working on this in early June,” McNeal said. The group has since had to work on every aspect of the project – setting the marketing plan, working ticket sales, pursuing venue acquisition, coordinating with artists, working around other local events and more.

“We’ve all gotten to have a hand in every part of it,” Webster said. “We all have different areas we’re most interested in.”

“We all have different skill sets,” McNeal added. “It worked out really well.” Stephens gravitates toward contracts and negotiations with the booking agency; Webster prefers all the organization aspects; and McNeal favors the business and marketing details.

The students said this has been “invaluable experience” as they complete their senior years and head into their internships.

The group has been working with Russellville-based Backwoods Entertainment Group to sponsor and promote this event. The company puts on concerts in Russellville and the Shoals area, and is owned by Stephens and her stepbrother and stepfather. “Backwoods has been extremely helpful with providing tremendous support and guiding us through this process,” Stephens said.

The students said they hope these concerts will be part of a focused effort to grow the live music scene in the Shoals area.

“We’re trying to bring more concerts here,” Stephens said.

“We don’t have a great live music scene,” Webster agreed. “We have a great history of recorded music here, but we’ve never really developed a live music scene and history here.”

As the concert looms large on the horizon, the students said they are stressed – but excited. The learning experience is one they treasure.

Tickets for the concert are $30 general admission and can be purchased on, UNA bookstore or at Stephenson Electric Services in Russellville. Jarred Pierce will open for Kramer with an acoustic set.