Grammy-winning co-writer and MTSU alumnus Torrance Esmond had a few words of advice for students crowding into a mass communications classroom.
"You will save a WHOLE lot of money if you really pay attention at MTSU," the 2003 music business graduate said during a daylong visit to campus spent mostly with College of Mass Communication and Department of Recording Industry students and faculty.
"I know. I sat in class sometimes like you and thought, 'I ain't gonna use any of this stuff!' But all of my peers, I'm light years ahead of them in setting up music publishing, administrative work, things like that. Picking out a good attorney and a good manager? How will you know what's good or not if you didn't listen?"
Esmond and fellow former MTSU student Lecrae Moore co-wrote "Messengers," winner of the Grammy for Best Contemporary Christian Music Performance/Song during last month's 57th annual ceremonies in Los Angeles, for Moore's newest release, "Anomaly."
Esmond, who's known professionally as "Street Symphony," also was a co-writer on a second album cut on "Anomaly" and co-wrote nearly half the songs on "Gravity," Moore's Best Gospel Album winner at the 2013 Grammys. Esmond also served as executive producer on Moore's 2013 "Church Clothes, Vol. 2″ release, was a co-writer on albums by Andy Mineo and Derek Minor and contributed to Keyshia Cole's 2008 Best Contemporary R&B Album Grammy nominee, "Just Like You."
Formerly vice president of A&R for Moore's Reach Records label, Esmond started his own production company, Track or Die, in 2014 and has been working with fellow Memphis natives Yo Gotti and Don Trip as well as producing a track with Grammy-nominated rapper 2 Chainz.
After providing a brief history of his work from MTSU to the present --including the revelation that he bought some of his first production equipment on credit cards he was pitched outside the university's Keathley University Center -- Esmond also explained to the student audience how he's learned to listen to artists, recalling an encounter in which he and an artist had a brief studio standoff as each claimed they knew better than the other what the recording needed.
"I was saying, 'Well, I'VE got a Grammy nomination, so I know what I'M doing,'" he recalled with a laugh. "You shouldn't get so caught up in your production that you don't listen to the artist. You should allow the artist to be creative, too."
Reminding the students about the importance of community ties, Esmond also announced that he has established the "Street Symphony Scholarship" for MTSU recording industry students. The $750-per-semester award "hopefully should cover your books," he said.
"I want y'all to make me one promise, though. Y'all stay away from those credit cards over at the KUC," he added to laughter and applause from the students.
Almost 20 MTSU alumni or former students and faculty from around the university have been nominated for Grammy Awards in the last five years. Nine have won Grammys so far, including some repeat recipients, in categories from classical to gospel to bluegrass.