By Nicole Gennarelli
Surrounded by screaming fans and country music celebrities, Jodee Hammond knew she was meant to be in Nashville and part of the country music scene for her career.
Hammond, originally from Moundsville, W.Va., won the “CMA Close up Award of Merit” program. The program is a writing and reporting competition, where the winner receives the opportunity to write from the red carpet for the Country Music Association award blogs this November.
“After being selected to participate in the competition, I was given assignments to cover throughout the duration of the festival,” she said. “Five journalists were chosen, and we were split up to make sure all aspects of the festival were covered. The winner was chosen based on writing skills, dedication and the willingness to go above and beyond what was expected.”
Hammond’s first responsibility was to cover LP Field, the Tennessee Titans stadium, on opening night. Many artists such as Alan Jackson, Tim McGraw, Jason Aldean, Lady Antebellum and Carrie Underwood performed that night.
“I had a media pass, so I was able to walk right in front of the stage and around the entire stadium,” she said. “It was amazing to be able to take in the concert from anywhere in the arena I wanted. I definitely felt the pressure to do a great job since it was the kick off of the headlining performances. CMA was relying on me to share the shows with fans around the world.”
Hammond was assigned to cover press conferences, where she had to take notes on what the artists said for USA Today. She also covered the 13– hour Taylor Swift autograph signing and more intimate shows at Acoustic Corner with new, upcoming artists.
“The competition was based on how well we each handled our responsibilities and adhered to deadlines,” she said. “We had to get quotes from fans, keep a record of factual information, especially from the sports competitions, and provide as many details about the atmosphere of the festival as possible.”
Hammond said she had many mixed emotions throughout the entire process. She felt nervous about covering such big events and getting good quotes, but excited to be writing about all her favorite country singers.
“I just remember thinking ‘Whoa, I’m really covering an event that sold out an entire stadium,’” she said. “I felt so privileged to be given the opportunity to do what I’ve dreamed of as a 23-year-old student. Out of all the students in the country, I was chosen to be there.”
Winning the competition felt unbelievable for Hammond. She was surprised because the other women competing were just as dedicated and hard-working.
“I thought they were definitely going to win, so it was an honor to think CMA thought I stood out from them,” she said. “We took it all on as a learning experience rather than a competition. It was really just so amazing to be a part of the competition; winning was a bonus.”
In November, Hammond will write for a blog that fans can read. The purpose of the blog is to inform fans who could not make it to the CMA awards of what is going on- and make them feel as if they are a part of the show. She will be on the sides of the red carpet observing what is going on and listening to artists interviews.
“I can listen in on what the artists are saying to try to get a few quotes from them, but I cannot personally interview them,” Hammond said. “I can, however, interview fans crowding the streets around the red carpet. I think I’ll pretty much just be taking notes about the atmosphere along the red carpet and describing everything that happens. Let’s pray something exciting happens!”
Hammond is looking forward to the actual CMA awards, but cherished every second of the competition.
“I was writing about all my favorite country artists,” she said. “It was one of the best feelings I’ve ever had; it just all felt so right. I loved it and didn’t want it to ever end.”
Nicole Gennarelli is a junior public relations major and marketing assistant in the Dean’s Office of the College of Communication and Information.