As a school located in the heart of Music City, Lipscomb University started its own contemporary music program in the Fall of 2015, and the program is having its first graduate this year, Jacalyn Thompson.
Previously headed by Grammy-award-winning music producer Charlie Peacock, the four-year major takes students down one of two paths: songwriting or producing. Now, another decorated production veteran Brown Bannister has taken the reigns in leading the department. Many students have continued with the program despite the changes, and they are currently finishing up their third year.
Senior Jacalyn Thompson stands out among the songwriting students. She came into Lipscomb with some credits, making her Lipscomb’s first graduate in contemporary music, completing the major requirements in three years.
“It feels good; it really does,” Thompson said. “I’m excited to blaze this trail.”
The idea of graduating before her peers is bittersweet to Thompson. As excited as she is for her future, she said she can’t help but feel nostalgic.
“I will have graduated early, but I count myself as the class of 2019,” she said. “It’s a family. If I won a Grammy, I’d totally give them a shoutout.”
Thompson will be following in the footsteps of most Lipscomb graduates in the performing arts by hosting a recital in Shamblin Theater on Wednesday, May 2 at 6 p.m. All of the songs will be originals by Thompson. Some will be performed by her friends, most of whom currently attend Lipscomb or have attended at some point in their careers.
Thompson noted that her peers in the department are all supportive of each others’ musical endeavors. The original class in the program started a record label under Lipscomb. It’s entirely student-led, with minimal faculty oversight to give the students the hands-on experience of producing a record.
Thompson said she had little trouble deciding which of her friends she wanted to help her perform.
“I just wanted to pick people I’m really close to,” she said. “And they’re really talented, so that was really easy.”
As the first graduate of the contemporary music program, Thompson is setting a precedent for how these contemporary recitals will go for future graduates. Most music majors’ recitals are held in Ward Hall and have a more formal feel, but since this is more casual music, Thompson said she felt more comfortable hosting it in Shamblin Theater.
Thompson’s music is heavily influenced both lyrically and musically by that of Paul Simon, Randy Newman, Joni Mitchell and Brandon Flowers, frontman of The Killers. Her favorite genres are 70s Americana and pop, and she hopes to reflect elements of both in her work.
Thompson credits Peacock for being a mentor when she first was discovering how to be a musician. She also noted how grateful she to Bannister for helping guide her and the rest of the program.
“I hope they both feel appreciated.”
Her post-graduation plans? Thompson wants to put out a full album after graduation.
“I’m gonna write for a year,” Thompson said. “I’m giving myself that deadline because that feels right. I wanna write songs that great players love to play,” she said.
Thompson said she hopes to return to Lipscomb one day and see students admiring the work of the class of 2019.
“I hope to see talented kids looking up to the original class, so I can say, ‘I have a friend just like you, and he’s playing at The Ryman.'”
Thompson’s concert will be held in Shamblin Theater on May 2 at 6 p.m. All songs performed will be written by her and performed by her and/or her friends.