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Broadway to boardroom: CMA CEO shares leadership lessons with APSU students

Sarah Trahern, the CEO of the Country Music Association, speaks to students at Austin Peay State University.
Sarah Trahern, CEO of the Country Music Association, speaks at APSU.

(Posted Monday, April 3, 2023)

CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. – Country music isn’t always the topic of discussion in a global business course; but that’s exactly what happened when Sarah Trahern, the CEO of the Country Music Association, spoke to students at Austin Peay State University.

Trahern recently joined Austin Peay’s College of Business for their Legends of Business speaker series, hosted in partnership with Legends Bank. The event connected students with Trahern, who shared her ties to Clarksville and the lessons she learned long before she was named “Most Admired CEO” by the Nashville Business Journal.

During her presentation, Trahern spoke fondly of her connections to Austin Peay, from her parents’ roots on Madison Street to her grandmother, Margaret Fort Trahern, a former English and art history professor and the Trahern Theatre’s namesake.   

Trahern walked students through her professional experience, emphasizing two critical pieces of her pathway to business:

  1. Take time to find work you’re passionate about, even if you must pivot through pathways that teach you what you don’t enjoy.
  2. Relationships matter. The person who is your intern today could be your boss tomorrow.

Students asked Trahern questions ranging from her favorite country artist to work-life balance and flexibility. Although she wouldn’t name the most difficult artists to work with, she did share solid advice for a student who asked about priorities.

“A board member recently shared a sentiment from an artist about being where your shoes are,” Trahern said. “If you’re at home or work, where your shoes are, be there, be all in.”

In closing, Trahern said that while business instincts can be beneficial, it’s also important to ask questions to learn and understand who people are. The relationships you build throughout your career will depend on it.

The Legends Bank, Legends of Business speaker series takes place throughout the academic year bringing Middle Tennessee business leaders to Austin Peay.

The next presentation will feature Leo Millan, a U.S. Air Force veteran with a highly successful track record of startups, real estate investment, development and franchising. It is scheduled for 11:10 a.m. April 6 in the Kimbrough Building’s Gentry Auditorium.

For more information about the speaker series, contact Elaina Russell at russelle@apsu.edu.