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Nashville Moment: Sarah Trahern

Trahern celebrates a big milestone, marking the 50th anniversary of the attention-grabbing CMA Awards.

Written By:  Chris Parton

Photographers:  Supplied

Photo by Donn Jones

>>> Nashville Moment with Dr. David Rosen


Sarah Trahern, CEO of the Country Music Association

As chief executive officer of the Country Music Association, Trahern helps make Nashville’s most famous export into a global commodity. This year is a big milestone in that effort, marking the 50th anniversary of the attention-grabbing CMA Awards. The historic show airs live from Music City November 2 at 7 p.m. on ABC.

Age: 52

All Shook Up: The CMA was founded in 1958 by country execs in response to Elvis Presley taking over radio with his newfangled “rock ‘n’ roll,” and, since then, industry leaders have put their personal interests aside for the good of the business as a whole—something Sarah Trahern says does not happen in other genres. The practice has paid off, as country is now the largest radio format in the U.S., and the CMA Awards are the longest-running award show on TV. Trahern joined as CEO in 2014, a Georgetown University graduate with a background in politics and television.

Golden Opportunity: Trahern has always counted herself as a country music fan, but arriving in Nashville in 1995 sparked a deep love for the city itself.

“It was a dream back then, and it still is a dream today,” she says.

She’s most proud of helping to raise more than $1 million a year for Metro Nashville Public Schools through the CMA Foundation, but this year’s awards show may be one for the history books. “To be in this chair while we’re celebrating the 50th is a humbling experience and a great honor,” she says.

History Repeating: The CMA Awards are designed with new audiences in mind, and, this year, country’s past, present, and future are set to collide.

“We really started working on the 50th two years ago, so it’s a culmination of a lot of work,” Trahern says. “You’re gonna see some legends that haven’t been on the stage in a while. A few weeks ago, I sent letters out to all of the past male, female, and entertainer of the year winners, and it’s been wonderful to get to read their responses, whether they had to change tour dates to come or if they’re bringing their grandchildren. At the 100th anniversary, when people are looking back to see what we did at the 50th, hopefully we set the bar high.”

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