There’s something special about watching a 15-year-old girl who grew up in a town of 200 get to perform for Jennifer Hudson. Or about seeing a 39-year-old singer-songwriter from Nashville who has just not gotten a break perform for Blake Shelton. These contestants come from all parts of the world, with all different backgrounds and experiences, and finally get the opportunity they have waited their whole lives for. Yes, I’m talking about “The Voice,” and it’s one of the best reality competitions ever created, in my (expert) opinion. The show just picked up its fourth “Outstanding Reality Competition” Emmy Award, so I sat down with Executive Producer and Colgate Alumna Audrey Morrissey ’89 to get the scoop.
At Colgate, Morrissey majored in English literature and minored in music, in addition to being a member of Gamma Phi Beta sorority and the Swinging Gates a cappella group. After Colgate, Morrissey landed her first job at MTV through her friend, a fellow Swinging Gates member. Although Morrissey did not come from a film or communications school like some of her colleagues, it was the soft-skills that Morrissey acquired through a Colgate education that provided a real advantage.
“Knowing how to think and problem solve and maintain relationships, be a good communicator, all of those people skills are huge and I think that’s what you learn at Colgate,” Morrissey said.
Morrissey stayed at MTV for nine years, working on the Video Music Awards and other big music event specials. She then moved on to Interscope Records, a new type of record label that involved internet and television, and shortly thereafter launched her own production company. All of this work led up to eventually being asked by Executive Producer Mark Burnett to work on a new music show, “The Voice,” which was being brought from Holland to the United States.
Since Morrissey began her career, the media industry has changed tremendously.
“When I started out there was only network television and cable. There were barely pagers, cell phones and email. Nothing called YouTube or Vevo or Spotify. That’s a big difference,” Morrissey said.
When asked about whether being a woman in the media industry has provided any challenges, Morrissey explained how blessed she was to start her career at a place with strong female role models.
“Looking back at it I was so lucky to end up there [at MTV] and be surrounded by smart, intelligent women in leadership positions because you didn’t know any better or that that was something hard to achieve,” Morrissey said.
The biggest surprise, Morrissey has learned, is that even goals that appear far-off and unimaginable are achievable if you keep going.
“If you have a goal and you just keep putting one foot in front of the other, generally walking in the direction of that goal, even if you may take side trips on your way, it’s crazy that you wake up and one day you are there,” Morrissey said.
As far as advice for young graduates, Morrissey recommends having a strong idea of what you want to do and not settling for the first job.
“If you have a strong idea of what you want to do and deep in your bones you want to go in a certain direction, I would hold out on taking a quick job that might not be in that area.”
Morrissey also shared an exciting new project that she is working on with fellow Executive Producer Dave Stewart and Maroon 5 lead singer and “The Voice” judge Adam Levine.
“I have a new show that I’m working on with NBC that is called ‘Songland.’ The show is going to provide the opportunity for young unsigned songwriters to come to show and demo their songs in hopes that they will be coached and work with some of the top producers in the industry.”
It is clear that no matter what Morrissey taps into, she has the vision and the creativity to make it a success. It’s crazy to imagine that not long ago, Morrissey was a Colgate student studying in Case after attending Swinging Gates practices. Now she is on the Emmy stage accepting awards and working on projects with Adam Levine.
Stars – they’re just like us.
Contact Danielle Klieger