CMA Announces Round Of Hirings, Promotions

Pictured (clockwise from top left): Catharine McNelly, Bobby Dirienzo, Alex Sharp, Katherine Wong, and Lisa Valentine.

The Country Music Association has announced a round of hirings in various positions, including the addition of Director of Communications Catharine McNelly, Digital Strategy Manager Bobby Dirienzo, Marketing and Communications Executive Assistant Alex Sharp, Communications Coordinator Lisa Valentine, and Marketing and Social Coordinator Katherine Wong.

Additionally, several promotions include Ben Balch to the role of Senior Manager of Budgets and Reporting; Emily Evans to Senior Director of Strategic Partnerships; Mary Overend to Senior Marketing Manager; Justin Randall to Network Manager; and Alina Thompson to Marketing and Partnerships Manager.

McNelly comes to CMA as Director of Communications from Columbia Records where she was Senior Publicist. She oversaw the campaigns of a diverse group of artists, including James Arthur, Leonard Cohen, Celine Dion, First Aid Kit, Calvin Harris, Rachel Platten, The Shins, and Pharrell Williams. Prior to that, McNelly worked at Atlantic Records, handling Death Cab for Cutie; Flo Rida; Paramore; Portugal, The Man; Straight No Chaser, and the Twilight series soundtracks. A native of Alton, Ill., she received a Communications and Media Studies degree from Fordham University. McNelly reports to CMA Vice President of Communications and Talent Relations Amber Williams.

Dirienzo comes to CMA from 12South Marketing where he spent five years as project manager for the Nashville-based digital marketing agency coordinating in-house and outsourced creative teams and overseeing planning and execution of digital projects and marketing campaigns. Dirienzo has a music production background and used to work for Lava Room Recording in Cleveland, Ohio. He was born in Stow, Ohio, and earned a Mass Communications degree from Ohio University. Dirienzo reports to Director of Digital Strategy Meryl Johnson.

Valentine joins the Communications Department full-time as Communications Coordinator. She previously worked on a number of projects for CMA, including media relations and CMA Close Up production. Prior to CMA, she worked in experiential marketing and event management roles, working on projects for brands including Cadillac, Chevrolet and Pepsi. A native of Plymouth, Michigan, Valentine graduated with a degree in Marketing and Public Relations from the Frederick M. Supper Honors Program at Palm Beach Atlantic University. Valentine reports to Williams.

Wong comes to her new job as Marketing and Social Coordinator from Universal Music Publishing Group where she worked in copyright and royalty administration. Previously, she was an intern for CMA’s marketing department. A native of Southborough, Massachusetts, Wong received a Bachelor’s of Business Administration with a specialization in marketing from the Stephen M. Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan. Wong reports to Overend.

Sharp comes to CMA with a fashion industry background working in New York City. She has experience as a fashion blogger and has worked as an executive assistant in several high-profile companies. She is from Lexington, Kentucky and graduated with a degree in Public Relations and Marketing from Western Kentucky University. Sharp reports to Damon Whiteside.

Evans moves to Senior Director of Strategic Partnerships from Director of Strategic Partnerships, a position she’s held for more than three years. Before joining CMA, Evans worked for 13 Management, first as day-to-day manager for Taylor Swift, and later as the point person for all branding, strategic partnerships, and marketing efforts. Her experience with Swift includes endorsement and licensing deals with Sony Electronics, COVERGIRL, American Greetings, Elizabeth Arden fragrance, Diet Coke and Keds. In addition, Evans managed creative direction and production for music videos, photo shoots, and marketing campaigns, such as the Speak Now and RED albums that launched with more than one million in sales in their first week of release. A Cleveland, Tenn. native, Evans graduated summa cum laude from Carson-Newman College with a degree in business management and marketing. She began her career in Nashville in concert and festival booking. Evans reports to Chief Marketing Officer Whiteside.

Balch moves from Manager of Accounting Services to Senior Manager of Budgets and Reporting. Balch led the organization in the implementation of new budgeting software and process. He will lead the continued growth in that area, as well as assuming responsibility for improvements to financial reporting. A native of Murfreesboro, Balch graduated from Middle Tennessee State University with a Master’s degree in Finance. Balch reports to Sr. VP of Finance and Administration Amy Smartt.

Overend served as Digital Marketing Manager for more than two years overseeing social media and email marketing before being named Senior Marketing Manager. She’ll be taking on employee oversight and project management roles in her new job. Overend worked in the nonprofit, healthcare and retail industries before joining CMA. A native of Atlanta, she graduated from the University of Tennessee with a degree in Communications. Overend reports to Senior Director of Marketing Catherine Frizzell.

Randall moves from Network Administrator to Network Manager. The 51st Annual CMA Awards marks the 12th show that Randall has supported the broadcast’s information technology needs. Randall has 22 years of experience in IT and independent consulting in the Nashville area before joining CMA as a full-time employee in 2014. Randall reports to Director of Information Technology Ken Sanderson.

Before rising to Marketing & Partnerships Manager, Thompson assisted with marketing plans for CMA events, worked on full-scale marketing campaigns via TV, radio, print, and digital platforms, and worked with local partners on promotion of events as Marketing Coordinator. Before that, she spent two years at CMT in the Music Strategy Department assisting with promotions, music research, programming, and various franchises such as “Next Women in Country” and Listen Up. A Virginia Beach, Virginia native, Thompson graduated from Belmont University with a Bachelor’s of Business Administration. Thompson reports to Frizzell.


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About the Author

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 [email protected]

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