Sydney Peters, a sophomore emerging media arts student in the Johnny Carson Center for Emerging Media Arts, is organizing an online music event called CitrusFest from 7 to 9 p.m. Jan. 26.
CitrusFest is a live, online experience event that will showcase undiscovered musical talent from across the country, in front of an online audience of fans, record labels, producers and leaders in the entertainment industry, to help kickstart an artist’s career.
“I came up with the idea about a year ago,” Peters said. “It was originally supposed to be in-person, but then Covid hit, so we had to change it up a little. I’ve always loved watching singing shows and competitions, so I thought what if there was a festival for these unsigned artists to be directly in front of these music executives and fans that can help further their career?”
The event will be hosted by Jenna Ushkowitz, an actress known for her role as Tina Cohen-Chang on six seasons of the Fox series, “Glee.”
Following the performances on Jan. 26, the artists and fans will have the chance to hear from participating recording executives, including Bruce Waynne, Business Development and A&R (Artists and Repertoire) at ACME; Dahlia Ambach Caplin, Senior Vice President of A&R at Verve Label Group; Teresa LaBarbera, former head of Music Operations and A&R for Beyoncé’s Parkwood Entertainment; Neil Levine, Founder and CEO of Penalty Entertainment, L.L.C.; and Lisa Laurecelli, Vice President of MTV Music Strategy and Artist Relations.
“I have a good team,” Peters said. “And my dad has a lot of connections in the political and entertainment and all of that side, so we just reached out to different people and got different names to see who wants to participate.”
Peters’ CitrusFest organizing team includes an event coordinator, technical coordinator, an A&R rep to get all the music executives, as well as Arabian Prince, a rapper and producer and one of the founders of N.W.A, to help with the judging.
She has also sought advice from Carson Center Founding Director Megan Elliott.
“Megan has played a huge part in helping me put it together,” Peters said. “I set up meetings with her just to get her input or advice on what I should do and how I should keep pushing forward to make this event actually happen.”
“I’m really proud of Sydney and her ability to organize this CitrusFest Music Festival,” Elliott said. “This has been no small undertaking, and she has done the work to pull it off. She is talented, dedicated and entrepreneurial, and I have no doubt the festival will be a huge success. She is fulfilling what we imagined emerging media arts students would be capable of doing. I can’t wait to watch the festival online on Jan. 26.”
Peters received a good response from those she reached out to participate in the event.
“Most people were like I really like this idea, I think it could go very far, and they’re into it,” she said.
More than 200 artists submitted applications to participate in CitrusFest. Peters and her team reviewed the submissions and selected 12 artists (to be announced) to perform at the event on Jan. 26.
“At the event, we’ll have 12 artists perform with Jenna Ushkowitz as the host introducing the artists, and the artists will also introduce their work,” Peters said. “And then we’ll also have the music executives speak after a performance, if they would like to give them advice.”
Peters hopes aspiring talent will get signed by the executives.
“I mean, if one artist gets signed by one of the five executives, I think that’s success for me,” she said.
Peters is primarily advertising the event through digital ads on social media.
“We have a lot of digital ads going out on Instagram and Facebook,” she said. “I would say most of the promotion is on social media, and it’s also word of mouth.”
The biggest lesson she has learned from organizing the event is the importance of surrounding herself with a good team.
“Without my team, I don’t think I would be as far as I am today,” Peters said. “They’ve helped me put together a lot of different things, and it’s easier when you have specific people for specific jobs. I think that’s the best part about it.”
Peters, who is from Arlington, Virginia, said she realized she was interested in the entertainment industry in high school. Her dad contacted a few people and one person recommended to them the emerging media arts program at Nebraska.
“I came down to Lincoln and talked to Megan Elliott, and she sold me on it,” Peters said. “I really liked the program, so I was like this is where I should be.”
Her goal is to work in the entertainment industry, in some capacity.
“I would say right now, focusing on the music side,” she said. “But I’m also looking forward to learning about cinema production because that’s one of the classes we’re taking in the program. I took that last semester, and I’m going to take Cinema Production II this semester, which I’m looking forward to.”
One thing she has learned in the emerging media arts program that has helped her in organizing CitrusFest is networking.
“Definitely making connections and staying in touch with people,” Peters said. “A lot of the students are also on different paths of the entertainment industry, so it’s good to keep in touch with each of them.”
Peters hopes people will tune in for CitrusFest on Jan. 26.
“They should tune in to see these up and coming artists perform,” she said. “You never know. There could be the next Beyoncé on Citrusfest.”
Find more information on CitrusFest or to link to the livestream on Jan. 26 here.