With four months still to go before graduation, Troy University student Leah Hudson found herself working for the biggest not-for-profit songwriting organization in the world.
It was quite a unique situation for a college student, particularly one majoring in anthropology.
Hudson’s unlikely journey began as an undergrad when she developed an interest in the cultural side of anthropology.
Though she enjoyed her chosen major, she felt a calling to things beyond the classroom.
She began independent study work with some of her anthropology and sociology professors, focusing on protest music, world music, media and culture.
Around that time, Hudson heard about TROY’s music industry program and met the program coordinator, Robert W. Smith.
For a young student, it was like a gateway opening to previously unimagined possibilities.
“I met Robert and decided to take the introductory class, survey of music industry,” Hudson said. “I really quickly found my niche there. I got heavily involved pretty early on and picked it up as my minor.”
Through her involvement with POPulus, the University’s pop music ensemble, she fell in love with the behind-the-scenes aspects of the music industry, which, along with Smith’s guidance, led her on the path to her future employer.
“Through the minor, there’s an option to intern. In my case, it would require me to stay an extra semester and graduate in December (2017),” Hudson said. “Mr. Smith and a few other mentors told me the best way to land a career in the industry was to intern and build your network. With that, I made the decision to stay enrolled for an extra semester.”
A few semesters beforehand, she began taking more personalized classes designed to prepare her for an internship. From there, it was time to pick a potential landing spot, and the Nashville Songwriters Association International landed at the top of her list.
“Nashville is like New York and Los Angeles combined — the music is here, and it’s not just one genre,” Hudson said. “I decided that’s where I wanted to be.”
To her surprise, her initial sample portfolio got the attention of the NSAI, and after a phone interview, she received an internship offer from the prestigious songwriting organization.
“I was over the moon,” she said. “I was so excited to learn about different aspects of the industry from so many different professionals.”
She quickly made an impression as an intern, and within three weeks the NSAI offered her a fulltime job that would become official upon graduation.
“The timing worked out, which was great, and they were impressed by my hard work,” Hudson said. “It was an amazing experience to have that waiting for me beyond graduation.”
After graduating in December, Hudson moved into her new role as executive assistant at NSAI.
In her role, and in her internship before that, she’s overseen events and mingled with some of music’s biggest stars, including Kris Kristofferson, Trisha Yearwood and Garth Brooks, along with prominent songwriters like Stephanie Smith and Danny Wells.
“My role has definitely evolved, but I’ve also been really fortunate that this organization allows me to learn and grow in different areas rather than confining me to one,” Hudson said. “As an intern, I got to be the shepherd for those stars who came in, which opened my eyes. It was the everyday stuff too, workshops every Thursday for our members. I even booked and scheduled two different events.”
Today, she spends much of her time on advocacy along with logistics.
“I’m definitely in my element with the chaos,” she said. “I help with advocacy in (Washington) D.C., I schedule events for our executive director and senior director of operations, and I fill a kind of catch-all position where I can help in a variety of areas.”
She learned to deal with that chaos through her experiences as a college student.
“The music industry program helped me in ways that I couldn’t even explain,” Hudson said. “It helped me, obviously, with the skillsets and abilities I needed and sometimes didn’t know that I needed. That program goes above and beyond to make sure you get the education that’s not only going to expose you to the truth of what your industry will look like, but it over-prepares you. You are ahead of your competition.”
Her tenure at TROY left an impression on her fellow students as well as her teachers, none moreso than her mentor.
“Leah is not only a high achiever with a strong work ethic, she has a gift to connect both personally and artistically with musicians from all genres,” Smith said. “She earned the friendship, respect and admiration of all in our music industry program. Those skills, combined with her amazing sense of leadership through service, make her a model for the contemporary music industry professional. We look forward to her continued success as she impacts the music industry through her work with the greatest songwriters in the world.”
As for her future, she’s still not sure exactly the role she wants to play in her field, but she knows she’s on the right track.
“I’m definitely closer to finding that (destiny), and I’m still in the process of getting it,” she said. “I’m also at the point now where I don’t feel rushed or like I have to know all the answers right now. I can just be thankful and enjoy my career here at NSAI.”