Belmont’s ‘Best of the Best’ to Perform, Record at Ryman April 26

Belmont University will take over Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium on Wednesday, April 26, to showcase its top musical talent and, in the process, raise scholarship money for the university’s Curb School of Music Business. Headlining the show will be Capitol Records’ country artist, Susan Ashton.

Dubbed “Best of the Best,” the concert will spotlight five Belmont student acts, each representing a different genre or aspect of commercial music. They are Angela Graham, gospel; Stoik Oak (a seven-member band), pop/rock; Rebekah Thornton, country; Johnny On The Spot (a four-member band), Christian punk; and Brandy Clark, songwriting.

The event, which starts at 7 p.m., will be taped for a live album to be issued in midsummer on Acklen Records, Belmont’s in-house label.

To achieve “best of the best” status, the acts had to survive three screenings by separate committees of music industry professionals. A spokeswoman for Belmont says that “50 to 100” acts submitted tapes for the first round of consideration. After that, all the screenings were of live performances.

Perching at the very top of Nashville’s Music Row, Belmont University has become a major source of talent for the entertainment business. In addition to training musicians, recording engineers, producers, publicists and music publishing specialists, the institution has also been the academic home of some major-league performers including Trisha Yearwood, Lee Ann Womack and Brad Paisley.

Jill Phillips and Ginny Owens, who performed in earlier Belmont showcases, have both secured contracts with Christian labels. Phillips’ first album, Jill Phillips, was released last year on Word Records. Rocketown Records issued Owens’ debut disc, Without Condition, also last year.

There are approximately 500 students enrolled in Belmont’s Curb School of Music Business. It is headed by Dr. Pam Brown.

This is the second year for the showcase to be held at the Ryman. Tickets are available through Ticketmaster.

Edward Morris is a veteran of country music journalism. He lives in Nashville, Tennessee, and is a frequent contributor to