Bruce Burch, a successful songwriter and publisher who founded the music business programs at the University of Georgia and at Kennesaw State University, joined the Brenau faculty this fall to develop an entertainment and events management curriculum and create ways for students to acquire practical experience in the field before they graduate.
As a Nashville songwriter, Gainesville, Ga., native Burch penned hits for such musicians as Reba McIntyre, Billy Joe Royal, Barbara Mandrell, George Jones, The Oak Ridge Boys and Dan Seals. He also ran music publishing companies and worked as creative director at EMI Music Publishing, which at the time was the world’s largest music publisher with over a million songs in its catalog.
Bill Lightfoot, dean of the College of Business & Mass Communication, said Burch as executive in residence at the college will develop an interdisciplinary minor in the field and tap into his vast network in the entertainment industry both to bring professionals to campus as guest lecturers and to open opportunities for practical experience for Brenau students in the field.
Burch also has been a driving force behind the John Jarrard Foundation, the Gainesville organization named for his late friend and fellow songwriter, which has raised more than $1 million for local charities. He recently hosted the foundation’s annual fall concert on the front lawn of the Brenau campus that featured performances by songwriters who collectively have written dozens of No. 1 hits and thousands of songs for a wide variety of performers.
“Bruce Burch is the real deal,” said Lightfoot. “Not only will he be able to deliver course content that will be relevant and practical for those considering a career in the entertainment industry, but also he will be able to help generate internships and other work opportunities for our students so they can gain much-needed real-word experience while they complete their studies.”
That began with the recent John Jarrard concert on campus when Burch recruited more than a dozen students to help set up and work in various aspects of managing the concert.
Lightfoot said the program will be housed in the business department but will also be available to non-business majors in music, broadcasting and communications, theater and dance.
Burch “wants the students to get an education they would never find in a textbook, or in a music magazine,” music critic Scott Freeman wrote in a 2008 article in Creative Loafing, the Atlanta entertainment publication. “For Burch, the program provides an opportunity to teach students the lessons he learned the hard way during his rise in Nashville.”
Freeman wrote about the first program Burch established at his alma mater just a few months earlier. He started with 70 students, and the program immediately attracted considerable grants funding. Burch had similar success at Kennesaw State, but after two years, moved to Brenau.
Burch grew up in Gainesville along with another who would become an extremely successful Nashville songwriter, the late John Jarrard. Although they knew each other in high school, they did not know about each other’s song-writing interests until they were in college.
In 1975 Burch graduated from the University of Georgia and moved to Nashville. In addition to his successes as a songwriter, he also developed other interests in the business. He has operated his own publishing companies of hit songs, worked for EMI, a major music publishing company, and has worked as an artist manager.
As a songwriter, Burch co-wrote two No. 1 singles for Reba McEntire, “Rumor Has It” and “It’s Your Call.” These two songs were also the album titles for two of
McEntire’s most successful albums. Burch, who specializes in writing lyrics, also co-wrote songs on two other McEntire albums, all of which have gone multiplatinum, selling well over 15 million records and CDs. He has also had Top 10 songs on albums by Billy Joe Royal (“Out Of Sight and On My Mind”) and T. Graham Brown (“The Last Resort”); a Top 20 song, “Train of Thought,” recorded by Barbara Mandrell; a Top 40 single, “You Can’t Keep A Good Memory Down,” recorded by John Anderson; and songs recorded on platinum and gold albums by George Jones, The Oak Ridge Boys, Collin Raye and Dan Seals.
As a music publisher, Burch operated two companies, Burch Brothers Music and Bruce Burch Music. These two catalogs contain songs co-written by Burch and recorded by Aaron Tippin (the Top 20 hit, “I Got It Honest”), T. Graham Brown (the Top 40 hit, “Wine Into Water), Faith Hill (the multiplatinum album recording, “I’ve Got This Friend”), and his second Collin Raye recording, “It Could Happen Again,” which appeared on Raye’s critically acclaimed Christmas album for which Johnny Cash provided narration.
Burch also authored a book, Songs That Changed Our Lives, two chapters which were included in the Chicken Soup for The Soul series of books.