Senior organizational communication student planned festivals for Academy of Country Music

Katelyn Larson grew her knowledge in event planning during her time at ACM



Katelyn Larson’s internship at the Academy of Country Music (ACM) turned into a job the following year.

Story by Emilee Wentland, Op/Ed Editor

Sometimes doing something the day before it’s due pays off.

At least it did when Katelyn Larson, a senior majoring in organizational communication at UW-Eau Claire, first applied for an internship with the Academy of Country Music (ACM) two years ago.

“There are hundreds and hundreds of kids who apply for this,” Larson said. “So I never thought in a million years that I would be able to be in the position that I was able to do.”

At ACM, Larson worked as one of the company’s two Operations and Events Interns. She said there were 12 total interns when she began working with ACM in January 2016.

As an intern, Larson laid out events and festivals within ACM. Because she lived in Los Angeles for the semester and the events were in Las Vegas, she had to participate in conference calls to complete a lot of the team’s tasks. Anywhere from 15,000 to 25,000 fans per day attended the festivals she planned and worked at, Larson said.

Last year, she was asked back to work at ACM, this time as a production assistant for Party for a Cause (PFAC)’s operations and events team. In this position, she worked with concerts.

When she had her job as a production assistant for Party for a Cause, she helped plan their Pool Party for a Cause at the Flamingo Las Vegas Hotel and Casino.

During her time working with ACM, she was able to attend and work for the ACM Festival as well as the Country Music Association (CMA) Awards. Larson will take a week in November to go to the CMA Awards once again, she said.

A lot goes into planning a festival, Larson said. The days became long, but even so, she said she still enjoyed it because she “lives off” the hype of the fans and music festivals.

“My mom loves to say every time I come back from a festival or an awards show, I just have this glow (and) this energy to me,” Larson said. “I think that’s so true because I’m the happiest after I work these things, and so that’s how I kind of know I’m in the right … career path.”

When she moved to LA for her internship, Larson said she was treading into unknown territory. All she had were two suitcases and herself, she said.

“That was the best experience I ever could’ve put myself in,” she said of the cross-country move.

She was challenged with adapting throughout her time in LA. Larson was presented with new opportunities and difficulties, and in turn she learned more about the field she hopes to someday build a career in, she said.

There also come the potential complications from hosting live events, Larson said about the festivals she worked with.

“You have this plan and schedule for the day,” she said, “… but just learning to negotiate your tasks and the way to take things (makes it go) smoothly. I think that’s a life lesson, too.”

Throughout her first semester with ACM, Larson worked under Senior Vice President of Operations and Events, Erick Long.

“He’s such a role model, so to be able to work under him was very rewarding,” Larson said. “I definitely don’t take that for granted. I learned a lot from him.”

Under Long’s team, Larson brought a positive attitude, a hunger to learn more about the industry and commitment to the ACM team.

“She started out cautious as an intern,” Long said. “And as she felt comfortable, she opened up and used her education and experience and turned into a real integral part of our team.”

Larson said she worked under Long’s team when she helped put together festivals.

The most rewarding part of her time with ACM was seeing people enjoy country music, she said.

“You have this vision in your head (during) all these months of planning,” Larson said. “And then when it’s show day, you see everyone smiling and enjoying   themselves, and you really see the country music community coming together.”

Working around country music stars has its perks. Larson’s met and worked with Keith Urban, Dolly Parton, Steven Tyler and other country musicians. Additionally, she’s “been in the presence of” Taylor Swift and even Beyoncé when she was at the Country Music Association Awards (CMA Awards) last year.

“I’ve worked with a lot of them many times,” Larson said of the country artists she’s encountered. “I’ve also worked for festivals in the summer, so a lot of times you see people and their teams multiple times in a year.”

In addition to her work at music festivals, concerts and awards shows, Larson also had the opportunity to work at Coachella, an eclectic musical festival in California. An intern at ACM knew someone who worked at Coachella and was able to get them jobs working in the apparel tent at the festival.

Larson worked the apparel tent at Coachella one spring.

While the festivals Larson worked before were large — tens of thousands of people — Coachella was even bigger, with around 100,000 people per day at the venue.

As for the future, Larson said she hopes to manage bands someday. She intends to move to Nashville, Tennessee afters she graduates this December, she said. While she would consider moving to LA, she said her decision to move to Nashville is “pretty concrete.”

Larson reminisced over her elders asking her what she wanted to be when she grew up. Instead of a more typical response, such as a doctor or a teacher, she would always tell people she wanted to work with and manage bands.

“It’s kind of funny to see people who’ve known me since I was little, and seeing that (career path) kind of come to life is pretty cool,” Larson said.

Ideally, Larson said, she’d like to get experience working on the road with country artists after she graduates, and after a while, become an agent.