Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Remembering Margaret E. Miller

Sitting in the student lounge of Full Sail University on this Thursday morning, I have so many things to be thankful for. But why does it all seem like a blur to me? I started my morning reading my youngest sister's blog about my granny and I am basically holding back my tears. It's weird, I spent so many days and hours sitting and laughing about absolutely nothing and today it's hard to grasp that she is gone. It has been just over a year since her passing and I'm facing one of the greatest accomplishments in my life because of her. 

Margaret E. Miller, I remember praying for her at a very young age. I prayed almost every night that God would save my mother's side of the family. Growing up in religious home, I learned the concept of "Heaven and Hell," well before my peers. I knew that the Miller side of my family never attended my church, so in my mind, it was the same as them not being saved. The year that my granny came to stay with my immediate family was the beginning of our unique closeness. That's when she had stopped smoking and started attending church. I remember her advising me to stay in school and reach my goals. She made me promise that no matter how sick she got, I would still move to Florida to pursue my Master's Degree.

I feel like I'm trying to summarize all that she meant to me, and I can't begin to explain. A part of me wants to spill all of my hurt and pain out into these paragraphs. I will forever remember our bond and conversations. I can turn the television on and be reminded of the different shows and seasons we would watch together. Even after being diagnosed with Pulmonary Fibrosis, she never stopped her life. She was content with the smallest things; her home, her rocking chair, sitting on her porch, and reading the Flint Journal. I'm still trying to get a hold of that concept of being content, but I feel like I have a long ways. 

After her death, I realized how close she was to God. Her spirituality wasn't this extravagant portrayal of running up and down the aisles or even screaming "Hallelujah" at the top of her lungs. There were letters written to God that were stuffed in her bible. That made me aware that she had prayed for family's needs and her personal struggles.

On November 14, 2010, at roughly 7:00am I remember standing over her feeling her hair. I kept rubbing her forehead and pushing the small hairs back in place. The only things that crossed my mind was to tell her how much I loved and appreciated her. I knew at that this would be the last time that I would see her. I wanted her to be confident in knowing that her grandson was about to grant her wishes and leave her dying side to travel onto his dreams. So now that my promise to her has been fulfilled, I am very proud to look back over the last year and know that I made her smile. 

I can only thank God for allowing her to be a part of my life. So that's all I can muster my heart to do right now... Thank God for Margaret E. Miller.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Full Sail University Reflections...

“Promise me that you’ll take the risk and JUMP,” my Granny asked. My response was, “I promise…” My grandmother had been diagnosed with a deathly lung disease, leaving her with only days to live. She wanted me to follow my dreams and obtain my Master’s Degree from Full Sail University. So upon my departure from Michigan on November 14, 2010, my grandmother, Margaret E. Miller, departed from this Earth and a promise was to be fulfilled.

Arriving to Full Sail University, my first class was Media Literacy and Research Methodologies. This online course taught me the importance of the many business media outlets, such as, Diigo, LinkedIN, and Twitter. I learned that these different outlets could lead to many business connections and keeps me informed of the leading news within my industry.

The importance of starting any business is good leadership skills. In my second class, Executive Leadership, we learned the different methods of becoming an effective leader. In this course we studied public speaking and how to present to our peers and superiors. I enjoyed reading the texts on Maxwell and Greene, which highlighted reputation, leadership, and influence. These skills have equipped me to manage or lead a team of people.

Project and Team Management was something I had never heard of until I began the course. This course taught me to plan, prioritize, and predict any problems that may arise. I now know the challenges a project manager may face and how to plan for failures. We formed groups to create a proposal for an event, where we focused on a SWOT analysis. The SWOT analysis focuses on strengths, weakness, opportunities, and threats, while offering solutions.

In my fourth month, I learned the importance of building a brand. Business Storytelling and Brand Development taught me the importance of not only a unique business name, but also it’s story. We designed our company logo and created a tagline. While building my business’ story and brand, I researched the industry market to create a buyer persona and identify my target market. This class helped create a foundation for an online presence for my business.

In Entertainment Business Finance, I was able to understand the importance of financial planning. Our professor taught us about investing funds, the stock market, and a business pro-forma. The pro-forma highlighted the financials for the first three years of my business plan. It required detailed numbers for expenses such as rent, utilities, travel, salaries, and equipment. I learned that potential investors want to see realistic projected numbers. That way, they could see my business prospering and obtaining a return on their investment.

I’ve always had an interest in making deals and bargaining. But in Negotiation and Deal Making, I learned how to conduct negotiations and focus on coming to a mutual benefit. Our class conducted mock industry negotiations where we had to analyze both sides of an argument. A mediator was selected and we as a class had to act out the entire meeting until a solution was determined. These exercises related to real world situations and helped me learn about dirty tricks and tricky tactics.

Product and Artist Management was one of my favorite courses. This class taught the difference in roles between an artist and their management. A manager takes care of almost all of the worries that an artist may have in order to keep the artist in a creative mindset. I got the chance to review contracts, riders, and copyrights of actual industry leaders. I learned about non-compete agreements and release forms. This class really helped me in forming different services that my business would provide to artist.

In Advanced Entertainment Law, I felt overwhelmed with valuable information! I’ve never had an interest in law, but after this course I really had a change of heart. Learning about applying for copyrights, trademarks, and patents has helped me understand that my intellectual property can be protected. I reviewed cases from past litigations and presented the legal issues. I also learned about the different structures of a business. I understand what the different structures consist of and how they can benefit a business.

In Entertainment Media Publishing and Distribution, my eyes were opened to many personal business opportunities. This course went into further detail about publishing my creative works and how there is a traditional model and also a self-publishing model. In learning about the self-publishing model, I became aware of a higher percentage of royalties offered by choosing to be independent. Our class came up with strategy plans to self distribute our creative works by using social media outlets.

Digital Marketing was something that I thought I had a niche for. But after taking the course, I feel that I’ve learned more in one month about the opportunities the Internet can offer, that I was once blind to. I learned about Google Analytics and advertising using keywords. My professor taught me about different websites that could increase my online presence and connect subscribers back my company website. I learned about different marketing channels such as search engine optimization, mobile marketing, and how to set up a marketing campaign for my business. This course offered valuable information that will definitely remain with me for years to come.

Business Plan Development was the course where I took everything I had learned from the previous courses and applied them to my business plan. I constructed my company description, target market, and a marketing plan.  The development of my business plan required me to pull information from each previous class to form how I wanted my business to operate. This class taught me about creating a plan that would attract an investor to believe in my ideas and be willing to support a business opportunity.

In Final Project: Business Plan, I wrote my executive summary and put the final touches on my business plan. I constructed the financials and added an appendix. Our class presented our final business plan to our peers and other professors from the program. This taught me to be comfortable in presenting my ideas to potential investors. Also, the program instructors asked questions that investors may wonder about the business. This helped me prepare to be able to pitch my business plan in the future.

As I look back over the past year, I cannot believe the amount of information that I’ve learned. I not only will be obtaining a Master’s Degree, but I will leave Full Sail University with the ability to stand on my own in the world. I am grateful for all of the professors and their knowledge that they have imparted to me. I now have the strength and confidence to look to the heavens and simply say, “Granny, I jumped…”

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Kierra Sheard is... FREE!

On February 28, 2011, Kierra Sheard and Bold, Right, Life (BRL) recorded a LIVE CD at The Harold Washington Cultural Center. In a previous blog post, The Dunlap Digest highlighted the event (click here to read). Now the album has been released! On October 18, 2011, the album “FREE” was released in physical and digital copies.

Kierra has been under the EMI Gospel record label for her last 5 album releases. This is the first release from her on her family’s gospel label, Karew Records and produced by her younger brother J. Drew Sheard, Jr. (JDS). According to the Billboard Gospel Charts, the album “FREE” has kept the #1 chart listing since its release.

The powerful urban sound invites listeners to pause and really pay attention to the words of each song. Kierra’s past records have brought a mix of dance tracks, worship selections, and uplifting messages. The track list on this release takes her original message of God’s love and intensifies the call of worship. Each song is filled with scripture and attention to God’s grace.

In the Gospel recording industry, live recordings has dwindled, but after hearing “FREE,” it’s popularity may come back. I would love to suggest one song as being an album favorite, but each track flows into the next and highlights the spiritual freedom one can receive from a relationship with God. “Desire,” “You Are,” “Free,” & “Indescribable” are songs that will change the spiritual outlook on how one views their relationship with God. She has definitely earned her title as the Princess of Gospel Music. Her strengthened vocal ability is showcased and it sounds like all of her emotions have been expressed on each song.

Kierra Sheard and “Free” being the second release from the independent label makes a statement in the industry that the family label will be around a while. This is a MUST buy! The album “FREE” is available on iTunes, Amazon, and most retail stores. Check out Kierra Sheard’s Facebook, Twitter, and Website.