music reporter

CMA helps keep music in Music City's schools

The annual CMA Music Festival officially kicks off today, as more than 400 celebrities will be hitting Nashville for 30 hours of organized autograph signings, family activities, celebrity sports competitions. There also will be 100 hours of live music from artists including Trace Adkins, Reba McEntire, Carrie Underwood, LeAnn Rimes, Josh Turner, Taylor Swift and Gretchen Wilson, to name a few.

None of the artists is getting paid for their time. CMA will contribute half the net proceeds on behalf of the artists to benefit music education for the Davidson County public school students through the charity program Keep the Music Playing.

"I think giving back makes us all just be more excited about the job we are doing because we know we are making a difference in a child's life at the end of the day," says Tammy Genovese, COO of the Country Music Assn. "There are 74,000 kids in the Davidson County school system. Whenever there are education cutbacks, arts and entertainment are the first things to go. (Nashville) is Music City, and having this issue with our kids is not acceptable."

CMA already has contributed more than $1.1 million to charity this year, including $368,500 through a partnership with the Nashville Alliance for Public Education to support music education as well as purchase instruments and other necessities.

"We have built a couple of piano labs, a couple of guitar labs, and we have bought instruments for over nine different public schools within the program," Genovese says. "We are really becoming more ingrained into the fabric of Nashville."

CMA Fest, which runs through Sunday, is expected to contribute about $19 million to the local Nashville economy.

You heard about Esmee Denters here first (HR 3/8). Yes, Billy Mann — manager, founder of Stealth Entertainment and songwriter, who has written hits for Pink and Jessica Simpson — trekked to the Dutch village of Oosterbeek to sign the teenage YouTube phenomenon. Now he has found her a sweet record deal.

Denters is the first signing to Justin Timberlake's label Tennman Records, a joint venture with Interscope Records. "Esmee is the real deal, and I cannot wait for the world to hear her," Timberlake says. "But all of her fans on YouTube should not worry; we will keep you in the loop every step of the way."

In fact, the 18-year-old will be joining Timberlake on the European leg of his FutureSex/LoveShow Tour. She is writing and recording her debut album, which is slated for release this year.