Budding songwriter pursues music business, credits campus mentors with inspiring persistence

by | Jul 12, 2016

Hard at work developing her songwriting business since graduating from UMSL this spring, Teresa Frank started composing when she was 11 years old.
Teresa Frank

Teresa Frank, BSBA 2016, started writing songs when she was 11 years old. Hard at work developing her songwriting business since graduating from UMSL this spring, she’s now applying much of what she learned last year through the UM System Entrepreneurial Scholars and Interns Program. (Photos by August Jennewein)

Early last summer, as Teresa Frank embarked on a unique, paid opportunity for three months, one of the first things she purchased was a simple bulletin board. Before long it was full of small rectangles.

“I started pinning up the business cards of people I met, and by the end of the summer I had over 300 cards of producers and recording engineers and others in the music scene,” says Frank, who had just finished her junior year at the University of Missouri–St. Louis at the time.

The business major’s in-depth networking and industry research were the result of her acceptance into the University of Missouri System’s Entrepreneurial Scholars and Interns Program last year. Enabling Frank to focus her time and energies on a specific entrepreneurial idea, the program provided her with $4,000 for the summer – plus a structure of accountability to help keep her on track toward her goals.

“You really couldn’t beat it,” Franks says. “I was being paid to pursue my dream.”

Broadly speaking, that dream involved music – Frank’s singing and songwriting on piano have been a fixture of her life since she was a child. For the purposes of the entrepreneurial program, and with her own rock band just getting going, she was eager to learn more about what it would really take to make it as a musician in the challenging music industry.

Teresa Frank

“You really couldn’t beat it. I was being paid to pursue my dream,” Teresa Frank says of the opportunities afforded to her last summer through the Entrepreneurial Scholars and Interns Program. She’s pictured here in the Blanche M. Touhill Performing Arts Center’s Lee Theater.

With that in mind, she reached out each day to musicians and other potential contacts, continued writing music and learned as much as she could about industry software and equipment. Sometimes the networking was the result of face-to-face connections, and other times it meant persistently reaching out through virtual means, such as Twitter, and asking for the chance to interview people. One meeting often led to another, Frank says, and the summer even included a busy weekend full of networking in Nashville, Tennessee.

“It was from there that the songwriting idea was kind of born,” she says. “So many people told me, ‘This is such a hard industry, and being a rock band, your chances are not that great. But you have some really great songs – you should consider selling these.’”

Getting that “more concrete” career plan, as Frank describes it, off the ground is her focus now. Since earning her bachelor’s degree from UMSL in May, she’s been connecting with companies and agencies as well as working on her website and recording some of her favorite compositions in a professional studio space on Cherokee Street.

“I was so possessive of my songs at first, because, you know, they all have a meaning,” Frank says. “But over the last year, I’ve thought, ‘OK, if I can’t be a rock star, then I would love to write songs for movies, commercials, artists and even video games.’”

In the meantime, she’s been meeting regularly with Dan Lauer, BSBA 1983, who is spearheading the UMSL Accelerate initiative on campus and serving as a mentor. Various faculty members within the College of Business Administration have helped her make strides along the self-employment path as well.

“My accounting professor, Dr. Marcia Countryman, was so helpful when it came to networking and finding contacts for me to talk to, as was Joel Miller, my finance professor from last semester,” Frank says. “Whenever I would mention it in class, I was always met with excitement and support. And Dean [Charles] Hoffman also introduced me to some friends of his in the business. Basically, I could not have found a more supportive group of professors and staff than I did at UMSL.”

She seems to have been born into the right family when it comes to the entrepreneurial spirit, too. Frank’s mother is a longtime freelance writer, her dad owns his own tool and die shop – and her older sister has her own photography and graphic design business.

“Just growing up seeing them be their own boss, make their own schedule, make their own hours – it was kind of what I was used to,” Franks says.

While songwriting is where she sees her bread-and-butter income stemming from in the future, the six-member band of which Frank and her boyfriend are founding members is gaining some momentum locally, too. They started Hymns of the Republic about three years ago and just recently have been landing a few gigs, including at Cicero’s in the Loop, where their first appearance drew more than 100 people to the restaurant.

“At the end we had people shouting, ‘Encore!’” says Frank. “It was really exhilarating.”

Even though it’s been two months since she officially finished her program of study on campus, Frank’s continued connection to the university is obvious. It’s almost as if her degree marks a beginning, not an end.

“I originally chose UMSL because it was close to home, and it was the cheapest, and I got a good transfer scholarship,” she says. “I had never been here, and I didn’t know anyone who had attended UMSL. I was picturing something much different and not as much of a community here as there actually was. I’ve been really pleasantly surprised.”

Listen to samples of Frank’s work on her SoundCloud page.

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