From the Editor: Six Degrees of Separation

LesPaul_illustration9053007A recent survey commissioned by the Vanderbilt Office of Alumni Relations and the Vanderbilt Alumni Association Board of Directors ranks this magazine as one of the university’s most effective communication vehicles—you can read more about the survey here. Also in shameless self-promotion news, for the past two years Vanderbilt Magazine has been judged first overall among university magazines in the annual awards competition sponsored by the Council for Advancement and Support of Education District III, which comprises nine Southeastern states.

Full disclosure: The secret sauce in our magazine is location. Nashville attracts creative talent by the tour-bus load.

Three of my favorite pieces in this issue were written by Vanderbilt alumni who are songwriters. Randy Brooks, BA’70, reveals how he came to write the twisted Christmas classic “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer” here. Rocker and Tall Girl Marshall Chapman, BA’71, shares an up-close look at Women’s Basketball Head Coach Melanie Balcomb here. And frequent contributor Frye Gaillard, BA’68, who wrote one of the essays in our tribute to Alexander Heard, is making music these days, too—recently he dropped by my office while in town for the recording of a bunch of songs he co-wrote with singer Kathryn Scheldt.

Our Chancellor Heard tribute also includes a memoir by his daughter, Cornelia Heard, a gifted violinist who is chair of the string department at the Blair School of Music. And don’t miss the spotlight on one of Vanderbilt’s most famous alumnae, singer and television star Dinah Shore, BA’38, here.

Vanderbilt Magazine’s office is in a building that’s part of the Loews Vanderbilt Hotel—which means we can get breakfast/lunch/dinner, a deluxe suite, a haircut, and a mojito at the piano bar without ever stepping outside. Today on my lunch hour, when I slipped downstairs to have my roots colored, the radio in the hair salon was playing “I Wanna Make You Close Your Eyes” by Dierks Bentley, BA’97. This week it’s No. 14 on Billboard’s country chart.

I checked my e-mail while the dye was settling in, and there in my inbox was a message from former Vanderbilt Magazine editor Mary Tom Bass telling me she’d just seen The Lost Trailers perform in North Carolina. “They were terrific. They’ve had three songs in the top 20,” Mary Tom enthused. “Ryder is really good-looking and has loads of charisma on stage.”

We told you about Ryder Lee, BA’00—The Lost Trailers’ lead singer—and fellow Trailers Manny Medina, BA’98, and Stokes Nielson, BS’00, in our Spring 2009 issue.

I couldn’t begin to count the number of graphic artists and advertising copywriters and other creative types I know who wound up in Music City USA because their significant others are singers/songwriters. Some have made it big; most haven’t. Nashville’s record labels may be struggling to stay in the black these days, but the creative vibe is alive and well in Music City. And your university magazine is the richer for it.

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