Walking through campus, a Husker is rarely sure of their future. Most of the time, they’re trying to make decisions in the present — choosing how to study for upcoming exams, picking courses for next semester or realizing they need to declare their major soon — but the future of a University of Nebraska-Lincoln grad is vast, with nearly every field wide open for them to explore. Some choose to stay in college a few more years for medical or law school, some will find they won’t be using their majors in their careers and others will find themselves using their degrees as much as possible through marketing, capturing photographs and video clips or making music.
Among those students who are putting their UNL education to good use are four individuals connected to Omaha band The Fey — two musicians and two of the band’s marketing team members. Each of them are using what they studied during their days as Huskers to push the band forward.
Lead guitarist Michael Rogers studied music education and played tuba in the Cornhusker Marching Band during his time at UNL. He said the community the Glenn Korff School of Music creates is powerful, given that everyone genuinely wants to be there and learn together.
“When you’re in high school doing music, it’s you and your friends and then the kids who are there because they don’t want to be in a study hall, but when you get to music school, everybody’s there because they love the exact same thing that you do,” he said. “Everybody tries to help each other accomplish their projects. I really latch onto that kind of stuff, like, ‘Okay, this is my skill set. How can I use this to help you get to where you need to go?’”
The Fey’s frontman Zachary Watkins said Rogers is his go-to man for guidance within the band.
“He’s definitely the best leader musician I’ve worked with who knows how to be led and knows when to lead,” Watkins said. “He jumped into this not only knowing the sound we needed, but knowing what to add to enhance it.”
Bassist John Fucinaro graduated from the Korff School of Music with a degree in music education and played the trombone in the Cornhusker Marching Band. He said his professors encouraged him to find gigs and play in the community. During his search, he found that The Fey, at the time called AZP, needed a bassist. Watkins said Fucinaro caught on quickly thanks to his previous session work.
“He basically entered into the band when it was at the peak of getting more into touring and doing more studio recording,” Watkins said. “John’s first time he ever played bass for The Fey was three days after we said, ‘John, you’re in.’ He came and tracked four songs on our EP, and then, a week later, he came on tour. He just dove in fast and went in right away. It was such a natural transition.”
The Fey’s educational lineup goes beyond the School of Music. Two of the band’s marketers are also former UNL students.
The Fey’s photographer and videographer Jessie Addleman came to UNL undecided, but she enjoyed capturing photos and video as a hobby. Eventually, she decided to join the College of Journalism and Mass Communications and graduated with a major in broadcast production.
During her time as a Cornhusker, Addleman became a photographer for The Daily Nebraskan, where she jumped at opportunities to cover live concerts. This practice would serve her well when she joined The Fey to take pictures for their 2019 Lost in my Head tour.
“In March of 2019, I randomly met this guy named Mason that was going on their tour,” she said. “I don’t know how we started talking about it, but I was like, ‘My dream is to be a music photographer and go on tour and stuff,’ and he was like, ‘My friends in The Fey are going on a tour. They want me to come and do photo and video. I’ll see if they’ll let you come with.’ I met them a week before we left, and then we went out on that tour.”
Johnny Jiang, the booking agent and artist manager for The Fey, said the Lost in my Head tour was especially memorable for the content Addleman and co-photographer Mason Matthews created. Content was the name of the game for the tour, and Jiang was hoping the photos and videos Addleman and Matthews collected would serve as good PR.
“There were so many left-ballpark tosses thrown Jessie’s way, and she just rolled with the punches,” Jiang said. “There was enough content in there that Zach, being the creative powerhouse that he is, had stretched out exponentially longer than any PR strategist would tell you you should. It was in a lot of manner that was unique and creative.”
Though he’s now based in Denver, Jiang came to UNL as a marketing major. In the College of Business, he got connected with the University Program Council, which encouraged him to work in music marketing — something he never imagined he’d do.
“The University Program Council was a really good way to network, connect and be heard on campus and really make an impact at the time,” he said. “It was actually during a very fortuitous introduction with Ishma, who is a close friend of Zach and former frontman … where I really started to figure out that music is where I wanted to be. It was right around that time I really started to pay more attention to and focus into UPC.”
During Jiang’s time in the College of Business, he learned how to be competitive and professional when working with talent, traits he feels have brought him far in his career.
“One thing that UPC has taught me is, when it comes to the business side of things, I try to keep an astute level of professionalism,” he said. “At this level of music, it’s extremely competitive, and I know the talent is incredible.”
Jiang also credits UPC with instilling in him the belief that a strong team helps push progress.
“When we started, we were kind of just figuring things out, but as of right now, I love the team we work with,” he said.
Though Jiang left UNL before graduating in favor of a greater opportunity, he feels the education he and the other former Huskers received has been helpful in getting where they are today and credits the College of Business, especially UPC, for getting him to his current success.
“[UPC] had a really strong influence as to how I do business with the band,” he said. “I’ve toured with these guys for a number of years. I’ve had the opportunity to tour to a little over 20 states. I’ve produced shows in 15 different states with bands all over the country, but Zach and this entity are my day one.”