When one thinks of careers obtained by individuals with Communication Studies degrees, certain professions come to mind. These include public relations, marketing, and corporate communication to name a few. Still, our majors have found themselves in a number of novel career opportunities and it is difficult to find a more unique and personally fulfilling career choice than that of alum Rhett Cromwell (B.A., 2006).
As a stage, production, and tour manager, Rhett is able to combine his passions of music and travel to truly achieve an exciting profession. Over the past 10 years, Cromwell has coordinated tours and performances with several internationally renowned musical artists including metal and hard rock bands like Flyleaf, Stars in Stereo, Bullet for My Valentine, Nothing More, and Sleepmakeswaves, and country stars Wade Bowen, Hudson Moore, and Bart Crow. At the same time, Cromwell has been able to travel the world, visiting at least 14 countries as part of his job!
Cromwell's travels across the globe have given him a new appreciation of the sights and sounds of diverse cultures. "Last winter 2015, I was able to travel to Europe, United Kingdom, and Japan; I literally traveled the entire latitude of Earth. The United Kingdom was so special for me personally because it's my ancestors' homeland and put a different twist on my perception.
However, without a doubt, Osaka, Japan is my favorite place I have ever visited. Their culture, architecture, the food! It just absorbs you; how welcoming and genuine everybody was, such an inspiring disposition. In addition, and maybe my favorite aspect, the Japanese crowds were absolutely nuts, so loud and energetic."
Pictures from Osaka, Japan
Cromwell's journey across the globe began in Denton in 2002. While at UNT, he found the charm of Denton appealing whether walking around campus and the surrounding areas like Fry Street or visiting a favorite restaurant, Mr. Chopsticks. He has many fond memories of UNT; "I met so many unique, amazing, beautiful souls at this university, several of which are still my best friends to this day. … Also, I walked everywhere. I'd throw on my backpack and some tunes in the headphones and just hoof it."
Cromwell, like many college students, found it difficult to choose a major when first coming to college. After realizing that a degree in music would not work, he considered other majors until finding the Communication Studies Department. "I walked into the COMM department, read the curriculum, and felt instant positive vibes and excitement," he said. Cromwell enjoyed many of his courses, but his favorites were interpersonal communication and visual rhetoric. "The classes sharpened my critical thinking skills, which made me a better decision maker and problem solver, which comes in handy every single day on the road."
In the music industry, communication skills are absolutely vital. Cromwell stressed that communication is necessary in every dimension from day-to-day job activities to networking oneself. "Most importantly, it's how you keep yourself and everyone involved happy and safe. Without advancing the show via email or phone calls with venue production staff or show promoters, you are going into [situations] blind which is for sure going to cause problems." Cromwell uses several forms of communication in his field like interpersonal, organizational, nonverbal, and public speaking.
Understanding these forms of communication helps Cromwell navigate various situations in his career with different individuals. From working with less than hospitable venues and promoters to dealing with contracts and settlements, Cromwell uses his interpersonal and organizational skills to effectively navigate conversations. "The best example of vast communication skills I can think of are the interactions with the stage hands," he said. "At each show I'm given a different and large group of individuals I must effectively train, instruct, and direct to make the load ins/outs and stage setups efficient and safe as possible."
Cromwell also discussed how he used his public speaking skills to change the microphone check before shows. Instead of the "boring and mundane 'check, check 1...2' my preference is to use that time to pump up the crowd. My goal is to either get a hearty laugh out of them or to make them simultaneously roar." Using these communication skills, Cromwell ramps up the excitement of the audience for the show, which gets the band curious about how to energize the crowd in a similar fashion.
Cromwell leaves this advice for current communication studies majors: "Remember different definitions of success exist. I didn't land that six-figure job right out of college. In fact, I struggled for a couple years because I was so stubborn with what I wanted to become. I grinded away working fairs and festivals whilst still working in the service industry to pay my bills. Will I ever retire at a young age with a bank account full of money from touring with bands? Absolutely not. But I'm happy. I have toured in so far 14 countries, 46 states, and put hundreds of thousands of miles laughing, smiling, and storytelling in my memories. I have friends on four continents and a positive reputation that precedes me. That, my friends, is my definition of wealth."
Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us, Rhett!