AEMMP Alumni Highlight: Dr. Tequila Kurth

This week, we caught up with one of AEMMP’s previous presidents, Dr. Tequila Kurth, who obtained a master’s in music business from Columbia College Chicago about two decades ago. Dr. Kurth is now the founder and principal of an independent public charter school for the Media Arts (film, television, radio, recording arts, and podcasting), titled “UpGrade Media Arts.”  They are excited to be partnering with Columbia College for dual credit courses for their junior and senior students, which began this school year.

We’re so honored to be able to speak with you! What year(s) were you a part of AEMMP?

So, I don’t remember the exact year because it was about two decades ago, so it’s been a little while. At that time, it was called Arts, Entertainment, and Media Management with a concentration in Music Business, so I studied Music Business at Columbia during my master’s program, and I became the president after applying.

What was that experience like for you, overseeing a label while being a student at Columbia? 

I committed all of my days and nights to Columbia, and I was working full time at the same time, but I felt so ready to commit to it. When I jump in, I jump in 110%, so it was a very busy time, but when you feel like your time is valuable and you’re doing something you love, it’s so easy to do and because of this, I felt no stress ever. I worked with great people, I had a great, supportive team at Columbia, and it was great to learn and develop those leadership skills in the industry because of that experience.

As the first-ever student-led record label, I would imagine that there might have been times when your expertise, especially early on, may have been doubted. Did you ever experience that during your time? How were you able to overcome that?

I did not! People were so open to having us work with them, and when you talk about artists in the community who are looking for that big break or looking to work with someone and get their feet wet, they’re happy to work with almost anybody. The fact that we had that organization at Columbia that supported us gave us the credentials we needed in order to get the respect we needed in the community. The nice thing is that our team was able to devote our time and attention to the artist we chose to market and promote, and we all wanted to be there and do that work so it was such a rich experience and so valuable. I think everyone wanted to be a part of it.

What do you do now in your professional life? Do you see any correlation with the experience you gained from being the president of AEMMP?

I actually started a club when I was in undergrad for the arts, which made me want to get into arts leadership. Eventually, I moved into education, but I always kept that artistic focus, so now I have opened a school for the arts. We are a media arts public charter school in Wisconsin and our focus is on film, television, radio, recording arts, and podcasting for grades 6-12. This was our first year open since last July and we have our lovely small group of kids who are studying all aspects of the arts. Columbia has really helped support my vision with that. Everything I learned there I’m using now and the things that are outdated I’m getting updated on. With social media and our ever-evolving technology, there’s a lot to learn but it’s so super exciting. Columbia is one of our partners and it’s great to be able to transfer that love of the arts and that passion that I feel to our school community. For something to be a project that I created myself is even more rewarding and a way to honor how Columbia has impacted my life.

What advice would you give to the current students in this class or students thinking about joining the record label?

I would say take all the support you can get, throw yourself in there 100%, and ask a lot of questions. There is no bad question as long as you’re learning. As we always say in education, when someone asks a question, chances are, someone else has that same question. Immerse yourself in everything that the program has to offer and walk away from it feeling like you just left it all on the table and you gave it everything you got because those experiences are really what shape the best leaders, especially for people who want to pursue that career moving forward.