Congratulations to this year’s Commencement Speaker, Maddi Jones!

Maddi Jones is graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in Music Business and a concentration in Recorded Music and Publishing. Jones’ passion for the music industry comes from being an independent rock artist and guitarist since she was 14. After touring around the U.S. and playing major venues and festivals, Jones became interested in the music business and found Columbia College Chicago to be the perfect school to help her pursue her career ambitions. Columbia has provided Jones with incredible hands-on industry experience, from putting together showcases at the SXSW Music Festival in Austin, TX, to operating a student-run record label and facilitating licensing representation deals with some of her favorite artists. She is eager to utilize the experiences and skills she has honed as she follows her dream of pursuing a creative career in the music industry, supporting and connecting artists with amazing opportunities as she continues to perform as an artist herself.

Looking back on your time at Columbia College Chicago, how do you think your experience has prepared you for your future career goals? Can you tell us more about your major and any extracurricular activities or internships that helped shape your academic journey?

I feel so lucky to be a Music Business student, I think it’s one of the most interesting and unique majors. My experiences touring around the country in high school as a lead guitarist in various bands are what led me to pursue this degree at Columbia College Chicago. I remember thinking tour management seemed so glamorous, and then when I began my studies at Columbia, I realized touring is just one of many exciting industries in the music business, and I started diving into other industries to determine what is the best fit for me. Music Business is such an electric major because students have the opportunity to take SXSW Practicum courses – I’ve taken Artist Management, Record Label, and Music Publishing. The practicums give you a realistic idea of what it is like to be an artist manager, music publisher, music supervisor, record label operations, etc. because they have you do real & hands-on work. In March, the SXSW practicums go to Austin to network, negotiate deals, and/or manage showcases. Other extracurriculars that have shaped my academic journey include gigging with my band and releasing my first EP “Beg For Me”, managing a battle of the bands festival called Bitterjester, and working at School of Rock as a band director, tour coordinator, and guitar teacher  – all of which have helped me stay active in various music scenes and also helped me develop my management skills.

Are there any particular skills or knowledge areas you gained at Columbia College Chicago that you feel will be especially valuable in your future career?

One of the most valuable skills I developed at Columbia College Chicago is learning how to analyze contracts. Loren Wells’ courses taught me how to negotiate contemporary music industry contract agreements, from the viewpoint of the attorney, artist & manager, media company, and more. My Record Label Practicum and Music Publishing Practicum provided me with hands-on experience operating student-run music industry organizations. I also participated in an intensive Music Industry Immersion course in which I acted as a CEO operating a record label, building relationships, and negotiating with shareholders, artist managers, and sponsors; it provided valuable insight into what goes into running a music venture. Attending the SXSW Music Conference/Festival in 2022 and 2023 was also an incredible networking experience – I attended many shows, corresponded with artist managers, and explained the terms of a licensing representation deal I presented to them. These experiences have deepened my understanding of the intricacies of music company operations in a music company.

How have your academic interests evolved over time, and are there any new areas of study or skills you’ve developed that you’re excited to apply in your future career?

I started at Columbia with a concentration in Tour Management. Right before college, I did a few tours around the U.S. and played the venues and festivals of my dreams. It ignited a passion in me for the touring aspect of the music industry, and I decided that’s where I would start my studies at Columbia. I ended up changing my concentration to Artist Management, and then to Recorded Music & Publishing. Loren Wells’ Music Industry Deals course inspired me to explore the law industry as well. I am still exploring different avenues in the music industry, but I know I want to be doing something where I can utilize my creativity, work with artists and make exciting opportunities happen. Administrative work is not for me!

Congratulations on your upcoming graduation! What are your plans after completing your degree? Are there any particular industries or companies you’re interested in pursuing, or do you have other goals in mind?

This summer, I’m very excited to be participating in Columbia’s Semester in L.A. program! I believe I am the only Music Business student in the program, so I’m looking forward to carving my own path and embarking on my own unique journey in the heart of the entertainment industry. My dream is to find a very creative role in the music industry, preferably in a record label environment or specializing in music supervision. I’m waiting to hear back on my internship applications, but my fingers are crossed that I will be able to intern for Warner or BMG! I also might be interning for Justin Sinkovich’s awesome record label, “Solid Brass Records.” In addition to my studies and internship pursuits, my band “Maddi Jones” is going to perform in the area over the summer, which will help me expand my network within the local music scene.

Being chosen as the graduation speaker is a huge honor.  How do you feel about this opportunity, and what inspired you to apply for this role? Can you give us a sneak peek into the message or themes you plan to explore in your speech?

I am absolutely thrilled – jumping out of my seat and dancing – to be the graduation speaker! It has been my dream to speak at my graduation since I was a little girl. I’ve always felt like it was something I was meant to do. I love this school with all my heart, and I want to tell the world. I’d be delighted to give you a sneak peek at one of the messages I explore in my speech. I’m going to be talking about what makes Columbia College Chicago completely different from any other school, and why each of us students should feel proud for pursuing a degree at this school. Remember how so many people in high school would wear the same shoes, the same shirts, and the same brands? Columbia is a school for people who didn’t dress like anyone else. There are so many societal pressures in life to follow cookie-cutter paths; to pursue a conventional degree at a “normal” school. It takes courage and conviction to stand out, to follow a creative dream and stray from the cookie-cutter path. It takes a person who trusts themselves and their unique journey. My speech is about celebrating that.

What advice would you give to current students who are nearing graduation and preparing to embark on their own career journeys?

Believe in your potential and embrace the unknown that lies ahead of us. The unknown is one of the most exciting parts of life! It’s where you find some of the best opportunities for growth and self-discovery. Set audacious goals, but also be open to unexpected paths. Sometimes, the most transformative and valuable experiences come from taking a leap of faith and exploring unfamiliar territories. Be curious and never be afraid to challenge the status quo. Don’t let failure dishearten you. Become comfortable with pivoting. We are about to enter an era of trying things out, figuring out what works for us and what doesn’t. We aren’t going to like everything we try, and that’s okay. Just keep moving, follow your momentum. Above all, don’t forget that success is not merely measured by our external achievements, our job title, or how loaded our LinkedIn profile looks; it’s about the positive impact we make in the lives of others and the world around us.