CMT and management services company mtheory have revealed the six new candidates selected to take part in the Equal Access Development Program, its yearlong artist and management training program designed to support underrepresented voices and communities in country music, including Black, Native and Indigenous, Latino, LGBTQ+ and women.
This year’s participants are artists Angie K, Camille Parker and Denitia, as well as music industry executives Ahsaki LaFrance-Chachere, Alex Evelyn and Roberto Martinez.
The Equal Access Program launched in April 2022, spearheaded by mtheory CEO Cameo Carlson and Tiffany Provenzano, as well as CMT senior vp of music & talent Leslie Fram. The program provides funding and training, as well as access to industry leaders, with the goal of creating a multifaceted pipeline of diverse talent in country music.
Angie K previously competed with Team Blake on NBC’s The Voice and is part of CMT’s Next Women of Country Class of 2023. Her music often blends country with her Latin roots, such as her bilingual release “Real Talk,” which made her a Highway Find on SiriusXM. Parker, a member of CMT’s Next Women of Country Class of 2022, also recently competed on AppleTV+’s My Kind of Country. Parker is also currently recording her debut EP with producers Chris McClenny and David Phelps. Texas native Denitia is a multi-instrumentalist who has played saxophone, trumpet and guitar and has roots in a myriad of musical genres, including gospel, folk and alternative rock.
LaFrance-Chachere is a Diné (Navajo) tribal member and African-American woman, who aims to demonstrate that Native Americans/Indigenous people are diverse despite stereotypical depictions. Her LaChachere Management & Publishing represents country music artists Dzaki Sukarno, C’ing Jerome and Jay Brown. Evelyn is CEO/founder of management and development company Big Al Management, which includes clients YSA and Khrys Hatch. Evelyn also serves as radio/TV producer/show host at YoCo 96.7 FM in Nashville. Martinez has worked as a songwriter, producer and recording engineer. After a five-year stint at Warner Music Group, Martinez manages artists in multiple genres as CEO of The Exos Group and is partner in Coco’s Backstage.
Carlson, CEO of mtheory, said via a statement, “Research continues to show the enduring racial and gendered hierarchy within the industry, and its ripple effect throughout every facet of the business: radio airplay, songwriting, publishing, streaming, record label signings, artist development, touring and more. Only through deliberate, consistent efforts like Equal Access, will we begin to see stronger representation of underserved groups in the format, and we’re committed to helping this new group of exceptionally talented individuals successfully prepare for careers in country music, particularly in this current legislative environment that has become an increasingly prohibitive place for creativity to grow and flourish. Thank you to all of our supporters for making this program possible, particularly our title sponsors at CMT and across the Paramount companies.”
Fram added, “CMT, along with Paramount Global and its Content for Change initiative, is proud to partner with mtheory once again and is committed to leading the industry in igniting systemic change. Equal Access accentuates our roster of groundbreaking initiatives including CMT Equal Play and CMT Next Women of Country, and contributes significantly towards leveling the playing field in country music. We look forward to collaborating with this amazing new group of artists and managers to amplify their work to CMT audiences and beyond.”
The inaugural 2022-23 Equal Access cohort included artists Madeline Edwards, Miko Marks and Valerie Ponzio and music management professionals Charlene Bryant, Kadeem Phillips and Marques Vance.
Over the past year, the 2022-23 Equal Access class members have reached numerous goals. Edwards signed a publishing deal with Sony Music Publishing, a recording deal with Warner Music Nashville and has toured with Chris Stapleton and Ingrid Andress. Marks released the album Feel Like Going Home with music reaching the top five on the Americana Radio Albums chart, while her single “One More Night” reached the top 20. Ponzio released her EP Frontera and had her music featured on the Times Square billboard and on CMT. Marks and Edwards both made their Grand Ole Opry debut performances.
Bryant now manages artist Harper Grae and is a consultant for Universal Music Nashville. Vance began a full-time job with a major label and launched a website to feature his work as a manager and marketing consultant. Phillips launched the Empower the Block website to showcase his work as a manager, publisher, distributor and studio owner, and launched a monthly showcase, Spirit of Country, to highlight country artists of color.