Middle Tennessee State University has announced that a newly renovated live entertainment venue on the MTSU campus will be named the Chris Young Café to honor the multi-Platinum entertainer’s continued support of his alma mater.
The newly named Chris Young Café, located in a standalone dining building and surrounded by residence halls, will be a teaching and practice space for student performers and technicians during the day and a performance venue at night for music, radio broadcasts, comedy and other entertainment. At a celebratory event on Tuesday (July 9), MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee thankedYoung for lending his name for the venue—and for giving $50,000 for renovations.
“The Chris Young Café will encourage our students to dream bigger,” McPhee said. “Chris studied at MTSU and then launched a successful music industry career, so every time they see his name on the café, their aspirations will seem a little more obtainable if they follow in his footsteps and work as hard as he has.”
Young, who attended MTSU in 2005, is a member of the Grand Ole Opry and has earned 2 billion on-demand streams, 12 million singles sold and 11 career No. 1 singles. He has two Grammy nominations, as well as award nods from the Country Music Association and Academy of Country Music awards.
A global ambassador for country music, Young has maintained his ties to the Murfreesboro campus, funding an annual scholarship for recording industry students beginning in 2016 and donating a selection of his touring audio equipment in 2012.
“MTSU will always hold a special place in my heart,” said Young. “It helped me launch my music career and I’m glad for the opportunity to give back to the University.
“I’ve been in that building before when I was still on campus,” Young said with a smile. “The fact that it’s going to turn into an incredible space for students to learn and perform, I am jealous that that is going to exist and I’m also very honored to be a small part of it.”
Located in the Woodmore Building and formerly known as the Cyber Café, the facility has 3,200 square feet of community and dining space with two raised platform stages. The College of Media and Entertainment assumed management of the performance space last year, when faculty from the Department of Recording Industry began work to ready the café for shows.
Media and Entertainment Dean Ken Paulson said the college was “grateful to Chris for giving our students this hands-on opportunity to learn.
“When you’re teaching students how to manage, book and promote a concert hall, club or theater, having a working venue on campus is invaluable,” Paulson said.
Recording Industry Chair Beverly Keel said Young’s support “means so much to the university, faculty and students.
“His generosity will allow our students to gain real-world, hands-on experience in performing and live sound,” Keel said. “He is a wonderful role model for our students, not only because of his success, but because of his desire to continually give back and help others.”
In a conversation after the announcement, Keel and Young talked about his time at MTSU, and the potential of the Chris Young Café.
“The Chris Young Café means that our audio production students will get live sound experience, the students that want to be songwriters and artists will get performance experience, our music business students will get experience in booking and promoting shows and then also, it’s going to have that sense of community where everyone can come together in support. What would that have meant to you if you had had that during your day?” Keel asked.
“I mean, we did have a lot of that,” Young replied. “That’s what’s really cool about MTSU. [The Chris Young Café] is really focusing it and giving it a place to exist. It always existed in one form or another. We were always going to somebody, saying ‘Hey, I’ve got to play a show, do you know anyone that can run sound? Do you know anybody that’s an audio engineer?’ So a lot of those things already existed, this will hopefully just help students grow exponentially faster at whatever their craft is.”
“A lot of what was impressed upon me [at MTSU] is to know as much as you can about everything that’s involved in your career, because it’s never going to hurt. Just try everything out. By that I mean, even if it’s not going to be your focus, get a chance to see all facets of your career. Go ask somebody what they have to do to run lighting at a show, go ask somebody what they have to do to run front of house, if you’re a stage manager, what do you do, or a set carpenter. There’s so many different facets of a career.”
When asked about Young’s advice for current students, he said: “No matter what you want to do, not only should you work as hard as you can but also just understand as many of the facets of your industry as possible because you never know when that’s going to come in handy. Just knowing as much as possible about what you’re going into.”