College of Business Student Revamps Campus Record Label, Creates Career
April 24, 2023
MISSOULA – Sometimes something as routine as a work-study job can alter the path of a student’s life.
For University of Montana graduate Jack Person that change in course started early, working in the College of Business' Entertainment Management office.
“I saw a flier for the UM Entertainment Management program, and I just went down to the office, even before I started school, and asked Mike Morelli (the former program director) if he might have a position available,” said Person, who wanted to stay in his beloved state while attending college. “And he said ‘Yeah, come on down, and we’ll interview you.’”
UM is one of only a handful of universities in the country offering an entertainment management curriculum. It counts as its alumni entertainment professionals working for companies such as William Morris Endeavor, the largest talent agency in the world, and for organizations such as Paramount’s “Yellowstone,” Live Nation and Logjam Presents.
While Person would go on to earn double majors in management information systems and anthropology with honors, he become a veritable maestro in all things entertainment management on campus. That included resurrecting UM’s student record label, Switchback Records, and the Entertainment Management Student Group – both laid dormant by the pandemic.
“Switchback was down to three students when Jack got involved,” said Morelli, now executive director of the Missoula Children’s Theater, “and he just kept doing what needed to be done and finding ways to make things better.”
For Person that meant tabling at events, producing marketing materials, booking shows and recruiting students looking for a stage – figuratively and literally – for their creative spirit. Often, he would be the first to arrive at an event to set up mics and speakers and one of the last to leave taking down sets.
“When I started, not many people knew Switchback was a thing,” said Person, who hails from Lolo and attended Sentinel High School in Missoula. “We’d do 10-minute gigs in the business building, not anything huge.”
With unflagging enthusiasm – “chutzpah and tenacity” as Morelli describes it – Person helped grow bookings and Switchback’s reputation not just on campus, but throughout the Montana music community.
Today, Switchback Records hosts shows at campus venues such as the Oval and Urey Lecture Hall. They will host the 2nd Annual Weary Travelers Music Festival on the Oval on April 29 – an event with five hours of live, local music and food trucks. They also offer free recording sessions for aspiring local musicians, produce a zine dedicated to the Missoula music scene called “Record Scratch” and partner with the Montana Area Music Association, where Person now serves on the board of directors.
MAMA’s mission, Person said, is to support the state’s artists through entertainment opportunities and promote fair wages.
“Switchback is essentially the on-campus version of MAMA,” Person said, “and we are very excited to be affiliated with such a successful nonprofit, especially with the momentum they are building in recent years.”
Like Switchback, the student entertainment management club was “little more than two students and a bank account” when Person took over, said Andrea Luoma, interim director of the entertainment management program. He would go on to reconnect the group with the campus-wide Associated Students of UM and find funding to support student activities, including trips to entertainment industry conferences.
“The club just blew up on Jack’s leadership,” Luoma said. “It’s one of the most attended student clubs on campus.“
That leadership, she adds, come to the fore when the club attended industry conferences in Los Angeles and Nashville.
“Some of the members had never traveled outside the state – never mind to a big city – and Jack made sure everyone was comfortable and had whatever help they needed,” she said.
This spring, 10 students went to L.A. for the Pollstar Live! conference, setting up lighting and LED signage and meeting industry leaders. Pollstar Live! is the world’s largest gathering of entertainment professionals.
“Our big thing as far as the club is to get students jobs in the industry, and we go to these conferences with professional resumes and business dress prepared to talk about who we are and what we do,” Person said. “And all of the students on that trip were offered employment.”
That included Person, who will start this summer working for Show Imaging, a national entertainment production company in San Diego.
“I will have to leave Montana,” Person said, “but I am excited.”
The University of Montana is the flagship university of the state. The College of Business at UM is nationally renowned and has been named the top business school in the Big Sky Conference by U.S. News and World Report for seven consecutive years.