Nazareth to Nashville: Landing a Dream Internship with CMT

Hailing from a panhandle farming community, population 300, Kenley Kleman had big dreams when she left her hometown of Nazareth to attend Texas A&M.  She had developed a strong interest in television and communications in high school and worked to pursue those callings in college, majoring in Agricultural Communications and interning in the summers with a major event planning company in College Station and Channel 10 News in Amarillo.  During her senior year, Kenley took the reins on her PR dreams and steered them away from Texas, momentarily, to take advantage of a major opportunity: the internship of a lifetime with Country Music Television.  Kenley talked to us about her stint in Nashville, the perks of a job with CMT, and what she learned working with a major television network.

TB&B: What spurred your interest in working for CMT?  Is it something you've always wanted to do?

KK: From the time I was little, I've been fascinated by all things entertainment, show-biz and live events. I've also grown up on country music while listening to both my dad and brother sing and play guitar my entire life.  What better way to combine the two than working for CMT?!  It had always been a dream of mine, but I don't know if I ever truly believed it would happen.  Not because I didn't think I was capable, but it almost seemed too far-fetched for a small-town girl from Texas.  What would they want to do with me?  Little did I know God had greater plans (like He always does) and I wound up in Nashville in January 2014!

TB&B: What was the interview process like?

KK: I actually completed my interview via Skype.  Oddly enough, I think I was even more nervous than I would have been had it been in person!  When I applied, I listed the five departments that I was most interested in working with and crossed my fingers and prayed that someone would call.  I'll never forget the day I saw a Nashville number come up on my phone.  My stomach dropped as I answered it and I think I said YES! before they even officially asked me to interview.  Soon after we Skyped, I received the email I had been waiting for all along.  I had gotten the internship with the consumer marketing/social media team!  It's still hard to believe.

TB&B: Run us through a typical day at CMT.

KK: My work days would start at 10:00 A.M. and honestly, it was always something different, especially since I did two different internships - one with consumer marketing/social media and the other with corporate communications (press/public relations). With marketing and social media, some days I would go right into meetings going over marketing campaigns, social media strategies, and new initiatives.  Then, I would get busy writing tweets and Facebook posts for my assigned content.  When I first joined the press team, I was super busy helping plan and coordinate the CMT Music Awards Red Carpet.  After that, my days consisted of monitoring media for mentions and writing press releases and pitches to send to media.  At least once a week, a big star or up-and-coming singer would visit CMT to perform or do a taping and we would get to watch.  I loved that part.  We also had a lot of parties!  Whether it was good ratings, a successful premiere or just the end of a good week, CMT was always ready to celebrate.  As you can imagine, it was the most FUN job I've ever had!

TB&B: What were a few of your most exciting intern moments?

KK: Oh gosh - I don't even know where to begin!  From the first day I walked into the CMT office to hanging out at all the hot spots around Music City, ever single minute of it was exciting.  I'll never forget working the red carpet at the CMT Music Awards and getting to hang out with all the big stars back stage.  It was a surreal moment for sure.  When Alan Jackson walked through the door, I immediately got chills.  He's been one of my all-time favorites since I was little, so that was definitely an unforgettable moment.  But honestly, some of my favorite moments were making crazy memories with my roommates, who are now some of my very best friends.

TB&B: What aspect of your internship made you feel most accomplished?

KK:  CMT's internship program is absolutely fantastic.  Interns are valued.  And that is HUGE.  I learned more than I ever imagined I would and that is because I got to offer ideas and my opinions were heard and sometimes implemented!  I think I felt most accomplished when I got to write my first press release and pitch and send to media to coordinate interviews.  That's the moment I knew I wanted to do PR for a living!

TB&B:  You had several visitors while you lived in Nashville - where did you love to take them?

KK: Yes, I was very blessed that my whole family and several close friends made it to Nashville at some point while I was there.  I'm not sure if it was because I was living there, or because Nashville is just that great of a place ;)  I enjoyed taking them to the classic spots like the Country Music Hall of Fame, Grand Ole Opry and Ryman Auditorium.  I loved giving them a tour of the CMT building and introducing them to the people I worked with too.  But hands down, our favorite place was Robert's. It's one of the honkytonks on lower Broadway and they play the old stuff (like really, really old stuff) that my family loves.  We practically lived there!

TB&B: What made this the dream internship?

KK: Well, it was literally something I had been dreaming about doing for a long, long time.  And the fact that I actually got to write messages and design strategies that affected the success of the company was so rewarding.  I also met some of my very best friends (two are in my wedding) and grew up in ways that I never would have had I not taken the leap and moved to Nashville.  There are no words to express how grateful I am for the experience.

Since completing her internship, Kenley has returned to Texas to take a PR job in Dallas, refining her skills while working with clients from around the world.  She hopes to one day open her own firm focusing on entertainment public relations.  Best of luck to this Texas girl with big aspirations and a bright future!

Author Spotlight: Rebecca Crownover - Texas Farm Girl

Growing up in the panhandle town of Sunray, Texas, Rebecca Crownover spent summers working with her grandpa on the family farm, helping him plant and irrigate crops and learning what it takes to build a successful farming operation.  Years later, after graduating from Texas Tech and working for a large consulting firm in Dallas, she moved back and married Adam, another panhandle native who grew up in a farming family.  Together, they were both an integral part of her husband's family's business, Lone Star Family Farms.  Adam and Rebecca welcomed their daughter, Acie, in 2007.  However, when a tragic accident took Adam's life in 2009, Rebecca was faced with some hard challenges and choices ahead of her.  How do I move forward on the business side of things while also dealing with my personal grief?  How do my daughter and I stay involved with my husband's family business?  How do I even explain this tragedy to my daughter and answer her questions in terms she'll understand?

Well, if Rebecca had learned anything from those summers of working with her grandpa, it was to take initiative and not quit when things get tough.  When she couldn't find any resources to help her find the words to explain to then almost-3-year-old Acie what had happened to her dad and why he wasn't with them anymore, Rebecca took the initiative to create that resource herself.  She wrote a children's book from a little girl's point of view, called My Daddy Is In Heaven With Jesus.  The book has received an overwhelmingly positive response, and in the few short years that have passed since her first published work came out, Rebecca has returned to writing again, this time focusing on a passion she holds near and dear: farming.

Her Texas Farm Girl series includes fictional stories based on her own upbringing, mixed in with educational aspects that help teach the basics of agriculture and family farm operations to young readers.  The first book tells of the hard work that goes into farming, the risks involved, and what happens when bad weather wreaks havoc on the farm.  The second book in the series, titled Reap What You Sow, tells a story of humility and forgiveness based on a costly mistake Rebecca made as a young girl when helping her grandpa plant corn.  I loved having the opportunity to talk with Rebecca and was amazed by her resilience, positive attitude, and creativity.

TB&B:  What were a few of the most memorable lessons you learned from your grandpa while working with him throughout your childhood?

RC:  He really helped me understand that farming is a lifestyle.  It's not an 8 to 5 job, and it's not easy.  But you don't get anywhere from sitting around and expecting things to happen.  You have to make them happen.

TB&B:  After your first book, My Daddy Is In Heaven With Jesus, what inspired you to switch gears and write the Texas Farm Girl series?

RC:  When my first book came out, I did a book tour and several speaking engagements, and it was such a blessing to be able to do that.  But I wasn't an expert on grief, and I didn't want to try to become one.  I wanted to take my passion for writing and turn it into something happy.  I grew up around farming and I still AM a farmer, but these days kids are getting more and more disconnected from that way of life.  So I wanted to inspire people, young people especially, to reconnect and be engaged in something that's really important. 

TB&B:  What is Texas Farm Girl's target age group?

RC:  It's meant for Kindergarten and up, but I really wanted this series to be something that appeals to parents, too.  They're great for sitting down and reading together with your kids.

TB&B:  Can we expect another book?  Any plans for continuing the Texas Farm Girl series?

RC:  Absolutely.  It'll be a while, since Reap What You Sow just launched in January.  But I definitely have plans to keep writing, and it'll still be based around agriculture.

Rebecca's story of tragedy has, for her, been the catalyst to start a positive movement.  She made up her mind that she wouldn't dwell on the negatives and let the sadness take over.  Adam's legacy lives on through Acie, and though they have a home in Dallas, both Crownover girls are still involved with Lone Star Family Farms and travel back to Sunray often.  Rebecca loves that she's sometimes met with disbelief when she tells her Dallas friends that she's a farmer - it just means she's breaking stereotypes and connecting people to an industry that does so much "behind-the-scenes" work - hard work - to make our day-to-day lives possible.  

To purchase any of Rebecca's books, watch the book trailers, get outfitted in Farm Girl gear, and see the music video for the Texas Farm Girl song performed by singer/songwriter Billy Dawson, visit the Texas Farm Girl website.  The books are also available on Amazon.  

Images from Lone Star Family Farms and Specktacular Photos.

Lubbock Wineries

In September, I ventured up to Lubbock to visit a friend and we spent a Saturday afternoon touring a few of the wineries in the area.  Honestly, before this trip, Lubbock wasn't on my Texas wine radar.  Cotton fields, yes, but vineyards?  Quality ones at that?  I had no idea.  

Our first stop was Llano Estacado Winery.  I have to admit, I really underestimated this winery.  I think every Texan who's been on a college student's budget has bought a seven dollar bottle of Llano wine at some point, but this winery has so much more to offer.  Started in the '70s by a Texas Tech horticulturist and chemist doing simple grape-growing experiments, the winery has expanded over the years to become Texas' best-selling premium winery.  

Llano Estacado gives back to Texas Tech University through sales of their Raider collection of wines, and their premium Viviano Sangiovese is evidence of their true expertise when it comes to winemaking in Texas.  The Viviano was by far our favorite, but we were impressed with several of their varieties, and left with a much deeper appreciation of Llano's full line of wines - I guess you could say we learned not to judge a winery on their cheapest bottle.

We finished the afternoon with a trip out to CapRock Winery.  The facilities alone at CapRock are swoon-worthy.  The tasting and barrel rooms are housed in a beautiful mission-style building with a veranda that makes you feel as if you've been transported straight from Lubbock to Tuscany. The atmosphere at CapRock really enhances the whole experience, and the wines do not disappoint.  At just $5 for a tasting of five wines, the value was great, too.  We sat on the patio for a while just enjoying the view of the grounds and the vineyard in the distance.