MmX VI – April 15, 2023
Music Industries Coordinator
Martin Atkins is the definition of entrepreneurial activity in cultural arts endeavors, his 35+ years in the music business spans across genres and borders and industries. He was a member of Public Image Ltd and Killing Joke. He founded industrial supergroup Pigface, The Damage Manual, and Murder Inc., and has contributed to Nine Inch Nails (for which he has a Grammy) and Ministry. He is the owner of Invisible Records and Mattress Factory Recording Studios (est. 1988). He is the author of “Tour:Smart, Welcome to the Music Business…You’re F*cked!”, “Band:Smart”, and is the Music Industries Coordinator at Millikin University in Decatur, Illinois. Martin is a producer, drummer, documentary filmmaker, DJ, and father of four. Whatever the future of entrepreneurial music business education is, you can pretty much bet that he’ll be in the middle of it.
Mollie Krueger is a singer and songwriter of the band The Hangovers, a yoga teacher, a vocal coach, and a health and wellness consultant. She is a Millikin University 2021 Alum, majoring in Commercial Music and Music Business. She has experience in touring and as a recording artist. Mollie considers herself a strong advocate for holistic health and helps to guide others on a path of finding more physical, spiritual, and energetic alignment!
Leigh Mackenzie, “She Seems So Normal”
Author, Speaker, Podcaster, Trauma Survivor
The ISH Group
Hey, I’m Leigh—rhymes w “bee.” I’m a Colorado farm girl, military veteran, and married 30 years to my punk rock-lovin husband. What you might not expect to hear about me is I am a CSA/SA Trauma Survivor. My grooming and abuse began at age three.
But like all bada** punk rock girls, we fight hard to survive our crazy circumstances, dysfunctional family/friend circles, and ourselves.
After years of therapy, I’m now passionate to teach tried and true cognitive behavioral therapy coping mechanisms I’ve learned myself. I’ve authored a book/podcast endorsed by mental health professionals, trauma healing leaders, therapists, and survivors called “She Seems So Normal: Shatter the Plastic Princess, Embrace Authentic Faith” which has been an Amazon Top 10 New Release for Abuse Self Help and Spiritual Biography.
The “B4 You Lose Your ISH: Build Your Anxiety Toolkit” offers a simple, practical, hands-on methodology for deescalating emotional, physical, spiritual, and psychological meltdowns.
Protect & Collect, LLC
Eddie Sanders is the founder and lead attorney at Protect & Collect, LLC. As an experienced intellectual property attorney and artist manager, this combination of practices allows him to provide effective and creative solutions for his entertainment clients. Some of Eddie’s clients include platinum selling artists and music producers as well as creative companies. His main mission as a lawyer is the protection and education of his clients in this ever changing landscape. He works with a passion for creativity and a joy of turning ideas into legitimate businesses. Additionally, Eddie is an adjunct professor at Columbia College Chicago.
Dr. Dave Burdick
Chair, Music Industry Studies MU
Third Stone Productions (Rec. Studio)
After a few years of playing on the road in a band, Dr. Dave attended graduate school at the University of Texas at Austin, receiving his MM and DMA degrees in composition. A member of Millikin University’s faculty for 34 years, he has served as the chair of music industry studies for 20 of those years ushering in a new curriculum that includes many of the creative musicianship courses such as songwriting, studio pressure night, commercial arranging, desktop production, and film scoring. He has also owned and operated his own recording studio – Third Stone Productions – successfully for the last 27 years, recording and producing original bands, singer/songwriters, and composing music for advertising and industrial videos.
Braun Sheets has been a gigging musician for over two decades and a guitar instructor for a vast majority of that. He currently runs a recording studio in Downtown Decatur called Zo Audio and right next door is a space that occasionally becomes a pop-up DIY venue called The Loft. Community arts and engagement has become a main focus in recent years while working with the Decatur Area Arts Council and Millikin Community Arts Academy. Braun also writes and performs in local original band Said Echo.
Bennie Smith, Jr.
Bennie Smith Jr. is the founder of Suite 704, a multimedia production studio and creative agency located in Decatur IL. Suite 704 is a physical space and community designed and dedicated to providing its members with the resources, education and opportunities to build sustainable and scalable businesses around their talent. Its facilities and team support many kinds of creative endeavors including podcasts, studio recording, photography, video production and brand development.
Bennie’s nearly 20 year career in the entertainment industry includes radio, DJing, concert promotion, live and televised production, and tour management. Locally, he has worked with NBC affiliate WAND News, WJMU 89.5, and Hot 105.5. His knowledge of strategic marketing and media production led to opportunities of working with artists spanning multiple genres from Young Money Cash Money’s Lil Wayne and Drake to Sesame Street Live. He has also assisted in production of Real Housewives of Atlanta, Love and Hip Hop Atlanta, and America’s Got Talent. Bennie is driven by his passion to amplify the talent and creativity of his hometown of Decatur, IL and the mid-west region.
Brian Abbott lives in Decatur, Illinois. He graduated from Millikin University in 1993 with a Masters in Pre Law. He is a former legal advisor for the State of Illinois. Now, he is a record store owner and on the Board of the Decatur Area Arts Council. The owner of Speakeasy Records & Oddities in Decatur is a self-proclaimed supporter of young people in music and the arts.
Associate Director, Innovation & Partnership Development
De La Vega Innovation Lab – Northern Illinois University, College of Business
Becca Husar is a 2020 graduate of the B.M. Commercial Music program of Millikin University. Since graduating, Becca has worked as a private studio owner, teaching music lessons and gigging as a studio musician (commercial cellist). She has also worked in the nonprofit industry in marketing and event planning. Following the completion of her MBA degree in 2022, Becca now serves Northern Illinois University as the Associate Director of Innovation & Partnership Development, where she directs the De La Vega Innovation Lab, creating co-curricular entrepreneurship programs, and helping students from across the university tap into the entrepreneurial mindset.
Danville Area Community College
Guido Esteves has been a working professional musician/producer for over 25 years. Along with producing music in the studio and for live productions, Guido has been involved in teaching both privately and at First Gig Rock Camp where he serves as a Director and co-creator. Recently he has taken a position at Danville Area Community College working in the music, production, recruitment, eSports and marketing departments. Besides performing, Guido has had a very active career on the business side of the music industry booking shows and producing events with Portal Entertainment and Red Hot Productions as well as serving on the board of the Danville Symphony. He can be seen playing bass with several bands including local favorites, 90’s Daughter.
Portal Entertainment Group
Peter Blackmon has been in the entertainment industry for 30 years; involved in everything from Production and Stage Management to Event and Festival Planning to Talent Management and Buying. For Twenty years, Mr. Blackmon managed the David S. Palmer Arena until 2019 when he left to pursue other endeavors; not the least of which is creating Vermilion River Beer Company, in Danville, IL where he is the managing partner, event coordinator and talent buyer.
In addition, as one of the four Principals at Portal Entertainment Group, Blackmon spearheaded the creating of First Gig Rock N Roll Camp for Kids which celebrates its 12th year, here in Central, IL.
Peter J. Balsara (Peter Jaysin)
Entertainment Manager and Administrator
Peter J. Balsara is a forward-thinking creative strategist and project manager based in Chicago, with 15 years of experience in the entertainment industry. As an early adopter of web3 technology, he has been making strides in the music business by integrating blockchain solutions and NFTs for artists’ revenue generation and innovative promotional campaigns. Excelling in business development and leadership, Peter has an extensive background in television production, tour management, and artist management. Committed to revolutionizing the creator economy with cutting-edge web3 technology, he consistently fosters strong working relationships with clients and industry professionals to drive success and growth.
Joshua is award winning, weapons-grade innovation. He represents an extraordinary fusion of passion, creativity and technical know-how for community development and interaction. Outstanding team building and management skills – As co-founder of seven start-ups, assembled, nurtured and built teams of designers, engineers, product managers and sales account executives from the ground up. His record label SectionZ Records, was at the genesis of the modern EDM era and debuted many artists like Deadmau5, Virtual Riot, Savant, Mr. Bill, Soltan and many many more.
I’ve been involved in music most of my life as a performer, stage hand, and really, any coat I could wear, to most recently co-coordinating, booking, and stage manager at Oakwood Block Party. At present, I’m booking music for Centennial Lake Fest (Decatur, IL), and the recently announced North Street Music and Arts Festival (Downtown Decatur, IL). If that’s not enough irons in the fire, I’m also involved in logistics, booking, and sound production for the Loft at Decatur Area Arts Council, and no less than 3 working bands. I also like to warp young minds as the head of the drum department at First Gig Decatur, held at Millikin. I. Love. Music.
Co-Owner, Staff Engineer
Gremlen Recording Studios
Hunter Sphar (Millikin class of 2020) is a co-owner and staff engineer at Gremlen Studios in Aurora, IL. As an active student in the commercial music program at Millikin, Hunter landed an internship with Gremlen directly out of college. Since then, he has been promoted to staff engineer, studio bassist, producer, and now owns a stake in the studio.
Hunter’s main passion lies in directing the internship program at Gremlen. He works with burgeoning engineers and producers to help them develop a solid work ethic, learn foundational studio etiquette, and gives technical guidance in their art.
In addition to his role at Gremlen, Hunter is the bassist for the band Chocolate In Your Pocket (CIYP). CIYP is an alt rock band full of MU alumni that tour midwest cities, and will soon tour nationally. Stay tuned for an album release coming later this year!