NATD To Honor Rod Essig, Doc McGhee, Mike Smardak, Randy Travis

Pictured (clockwise, L-R): Scott Hamilton, Rod Essig, Leon Russell, Mike Smardak, Doc McGhee,  P.K. Subban, and Randy Travis.

Pictured (clockwise, from top left): Scott Hamilton, Rod Essig, Leon Russell, Mike Smardak, Doc McGhee, P.K. Subban, and Randy Travis.

The Nashville Association of Talent Directors will recognize seven Nashville leaders during its sixth annual NATD Honors Gala, slated for Nov. 9 at the Hermitage Hotel.

Those being recognized during this year’s Gala are: Rod Essig, Agent and Co-Head of the Nashville office of Creative Artists Agency (CAA); Scott Hamilton, Olympic Gold-medal figure skater, actor, and speaker; Doc McGhee, head of McGhee Entertainment; Leon Russell, veteran musician and member of both the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Songwriters Hall of Fame; Mike Smardak, promoter and President of Outback Concerts; P.K. Subban, Olympic Gold-medalist and one of the top defensemen in the NHL newly acquired by the Nashville Predators; and Randy Travis, the latest inductee into the Country Music Hall of Fame.

The Gala will begin with a reception at 6 p.m., followed by dinner and awards ceremony.For tickets and sponsorship information visit,

“NATD has been a Nashville music industry staple for nearly 60 years. Thanks to the support of our board and members, we have been able to continue the association’s traditions while beginning new initiatives to continue to bring together leaders in our collective industries,” said Steve Tolman, NATD President. “All seven of our honorees this year represent all that is good here in Nashville. They all are leaders in their fields whether it be music, sports or another entertainment form.”

Essig, a music agent at Creative Artists Agency (CAA), co-heads the Nashville office and represents artists including Heart, Joan Jett and The Blackhearts, Martina McBride, Ashley Monroe, Styx, KC and the Sunshine Band and Tim McGraw. Prior to joining CAA in 1993, Essig served as Vice President and co-owner of Minneapolis-based booking agency Variety Artists International. Essig currently serves on the board of the Country Music Hall of Fame, ACM Lifting Lives, Metropolitan Nashville Airport Authority, Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital, MusiCares, Tennessee Film Commission, and Tennessee Performing Arts Center Board. He is a 1997 graduate of Leadership Music.

Hamilton is an Olympic figure skater, author, television personality, and humanitarian. Hamilton became an Olympic gold medalist in 1984 and a pro figure skater. Following his mother’s passing and his own survival of cancer, Scott launched the Scott Hamilton CARES Foundation which supports cancer research. In 2014, he founded the Scott Hamilton Skating Academy in Antioch, Tennessee, in partnership with the NHL’s Nashville Predators. Hamilton currently serves on the Board of Directors for Special Olympics International, Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt, and Provision Center for Proton Therapy.

McGhee is CEO of McGhee Entertainment, artist manager, and a pioneer of the entertainment industry. McGhee has managed the careers of artists including James Brown, Bon Jovi, Motley Crüe, Scorpions, Diana Ross, and Hootie & the Blowfish, and now manages KISS, Vintage Trouble, A Thousand Horses and others. McGhee is co-owner of the LA KISS Football team and has produced events such as the Moscow Music Peace Festival, the FOX TV’s live New Year’s Eve program America’s Party, and Rockin’ The Corps, a free concert for soldiers and their families held on the beach of Marine Corps base Camp Pendleton.

Russell is a Grammy-nominated recording artist, music business entrepreneur, and songwriter. As a central figure of the rock scene in the seventies, Russell composed “A Song For You”, covered by Ray Charles, Willie Nelson, Whitney Houston, and others. He was inducted into the Songwriter’s Hall of Fame and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2011.

Smardak is president and founder of Outback Concerts of Tennessee, Inc., an independent, full-service concert and comedy promoter located in Nashville. Outback Concerts also produces the Wild West Comedy Festival in Nashville, Tennessee, and the Blue Ridge Music Festival in Salem, Virginia. Smardak played an integral role in the inaugural Southern Ground Music and Food Festivals in both Charleston, South Carolina and Nashville, Tennessee, and is involved with the upcoming Charlie Daniels’ 80th Birthday Volunteer Jam. Smardak’s honors include ACM Promoter of the Year, IEBA’s Concert Promoter of the Year, Talent Buyer of the Year, Entertainment Buyer of the Year, and Festival Buyer of the Year. He is a 2011 inductee to the IEBA Hall of Fame.

Subban won the 2013 Norris Trophy as the NHL’s top defenseman, and has been named an NHL First-Team All-Star on two occasions. He acquired by the Nashville Predators on June 29, 2016. Internationally, he has represented Canada four times, winning a pair of gold medals at the World Junior Championships, and most notably, Olympic Gold at the 2014 Sochi Games. In August 2014, he established his own marketing company, P.K.S.S. Management, to facilitate business relationships which include Bridgestone, Gatorade, Samsung and his own clothing line with Canadian company RW&CO.

Travis, a recent inductee into the Country Music Hall of Fame class of 2016, counts lifetime recording sales of over 20 million. He has two double platinum albums, eight platinum albums, and 10 gold records. Three of his songs have earned CMA Song of the Year honors, including 1986’s “On The Other Hand,” 1987’s “Forever and Ever Amen,” and 2003’s “Three Wooden Crosses.” Today, with the help of his wife Mary, Randy continues to make improvements in his speaking, singing and walking by going to rehab daily since his stroke in 2013.


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Jessica Nicholson serves as the Managing Editor for MusicRow magazine. Her previous music journalism experience includes work with Country Weekly magazine and Contemporary Christian Music (CCM) magazine. She holds a BBA degree in Music Business and Marketing from Belmont University. She welcomes your feedback at

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