CMA Award of Merit

Some may think that it can’t get better than media passes to CMA Fest, up close and personal access to some of Nashville’s biggest stars and the opportunity to step onstage and capture the festival as it unfolds at LP Field.

Every year, the Country Music Association picks three talented, student photographers from colleges across middle Tennessee to capture CMA Fest from the best seats in the house. This year, with fierce competition coming from Nossi College of Art’s photography department, CMA decided to include four student photographers, three of those four students are earning their photography degree at Nossi College of Art.

To be considered, Caitlin Harris, Kelly Williams and Kayla Schoen submitted portfolios of their event photography to the student activities office at Nossi College. Based on these submissions, all three were selected to serve as official photographers during the festival. Being onstage capturing Carrie Underwood and Taylor Swift became a reality for these ladies.

“All three of Nossi’s photographers were exceptional, professional-level event photographers, and all of them were great,” Christian Bottorf said, Manager of Creative Services at CMA. “They had such a high level of professionalism, and I feel really good about what’s being taught over at Nossi College of Art.”

After every Festival, CMA announces the winner of their Award of Merit program. The Award of Merit is open to all student photographers and journalists who are part of the Festival Crew. At the end of the concert series, based on performance, one photographer and one journalist are selected to receive the award. This year Caitlin Harris received the Award of Merit honor for photography. Harris is a photo student in Nossi’s bachelor degree program.

“When choosing a winner, it’s not really just about the big bang shot,” Bottorf said. “It’s having an eye for the entire festival, and we look at how an event photographer captured the event as a whole.”

In addition to her excellent shots from the festival, Harris was available to help out in several ways during the week. One night, Harris sacrificed going into LP Field to capture the concert and instead agreed to stay behind to shoot a press conference for one of the stars.

“One of the big things we talked to the photographers about was looking for not just the big performance shots, but things that we could use to show how our partners and fans participate in the festival,” Bottorf said.

As part of the Award, Harris will be honored at the 46th Annual CMA Awards Show in November. This Award Show honors all the country music greats and is known as the longest running, annual music awards program on network television. The Award of Merit will be presented to Harris on stage, and, as an extra perk, Harris will have the opportunity to serve as a professional photographer during the CMA Award Show.

“For the (CMA) Awards, Caitlin will get to see what it’s like as a red carpet photographer. She will get to be with media from all over the world,” said Bottorf.

Opportunities to work with events like CMA Fest pop up all the time at Nossi College of Art.

“I always try to get students involved outside the classroom,” said Libby Funke, Student Activities and Communications coordinator at Nossi. “Whether they are shooting a concert at War Memorial, getting backstage access to Nashville Fashion Week or capturing an intense basketball game at Vandy, students at Nossi have the opportunity to gain a lot of experience in various fields of photography. CMA Fest is just one of the many events covered by Nossi students each year.”

The first step is to engage and take advantage of the events offered.  Building a portfolio isn’t difficult with the amount of events and opportunities available. Who knows? Maybe you could end up on the red carpet, taking photos at the 2014 CMA Awards!

“CMA Fest 2013 was the absolute best experience I have ever been a part of as a young photographer, because it gave me real experience in the area of photography that I love the most,” Harris said. “I am thankful I was able to be apart of it and work alongside Kayla and Kelly.”

Check out Caitlin, Kelly and Kayla’s photos from this year’s CMA Fest on our Facebook page.



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