Above: Emma Rose Isely speaks with students at Harbor Walk West.

Pop music seems to more a part of television and movies than ever before with the right track driving the narrative and the emotion of a scene. One of the Hollywood creatives responsible for contributing to that “synchronization” is Emma Rose Isely ’12, the senior director of film and TV synchronization at Universal Music Group, who visited the College of Charleston campus on Jan. 30, 2023, to speak with arts management students as part of the School of the Arts’ speaker series ARTM Exchange, which features conversations with artists and arts leaders.

emma rose isley speaks with a student

Isely speaks with arts management student Sav Griffin, who hosted the event. (Photos by Catie Cleveland)

About 50 students filled out a classroom at Harbor Walk West to hear – and, just as importantly, see – how Isely does her work. Her PowerPoint presentation included email exchanges with music supervisors seeking music for their projects, how she went about that task and clips of the synched scenes. She also shared tips on the most helpful CofC classes, résumés, breaking into the business, and salary and work-load expectations.

“Emma Rose’s talk was an inspiration for our students,” says Heather Lee McDonald, director of the music industry concentration within the arts management major. “It was so exciting to see them connect the dots and start to envision what their lives in the music industry could really look like. Over the years, Emma Rose has been a resource I have turned to her time and again to help our students with advice, and it has been a long-term goal to bring her back to campus for a more formal engagement. In addition to the valuable information Emma Rose shared, I was most struck by her willingness to be an ongoing support to our students. I know that connections have already been made, and she’s already standing by that promise!”

It was appropriate that Isely gave her talk in one of Harbor Walk’s theater-style classrooms because the students were riveted.

“I enjoyed how candid she was with us,” says Margot Preizler, a senior majoring in arts management with a concentration in the music industry. “She was very personable and wanted to be truthful about her own experiences. I love that she showed us real life examples of her day-to-day email exchanges; often, as outsiders we don’t truly know what a job will entail.”

Some of the classes that Isely found useful at the College were Introduction to the Music Industry, which she says “helped narrow down what I did and didn’t want to do,” and Getting Music Into the Marketplace, a class taught by McDonald where they ended up creating 1770 Records, the College’s record label. Through her experience with 1770 Records that included throwing an event at the Music Farm, she realized her interests were more in film and TV than live music.

Shortly after graduating with an arts management degree in 2012, Isely moved to Los Angeles, working her way up through hustle and dedication. She started as a two-day-a-week licensing assistant at All Media Music Group and ended up as music supervisor/senior manager by 2019 when she left to join Universal Music Group’s East Coast Label Group: Def Jam, Island, Republic and Verve. In her job promoting frontline artists across the four labels, Isely curates custom pitches for film, television, promos, trailers and sports. Fans of Ginny & Georgia (Netflix) and Grey’s Anatomy (ABC) have heard her work this season, as well as those who caught the season two promos of Bel-Air (Peacock).

“I learned about being confident and assertive when trying to go for what I want in this field,” Preizler says. “I also learned that essentially the music industry/entertainment field is all about networking and cultivating relationships and taking risks. Emma moved out to LA with no knowledge of where she would end up. However, she knew the music industry connections are booming in LA, so she took the risk of moving there with little funds to support herself to get her foot in the door in the industry.

“It’s a scary industry to put yourself out there, but it’s the only way to get what you are dreaming of,” she adds. “She inspired the crowd to go for what they are passionate about.”

Kate Keeney, director of the Arts Management Program, couldn’t have been more pleased with how the students benefited from Isely’s talk.

“It is essential that our students hear from industry professionals about what life is like in the music industry,” she says. “Professional opportunities are limited, often city specific, and rely on networking, determination and pure luck. We are so grateful for alumni, like Emma Rose, who are willing to share their experiences – the good and the bad – with our students.”

ARTM Exchange will feature Mena Mark Hanna, general director and CEO of Spoleto Festival USA, on Feb. 17 at 6 p.m. in Harbor Walk West. The event doubles as the opening talk for the Southeastern Arts Leadership Educators conference, also hosted by the Arts Management program.