Chris Young went back to college this week!
He was on the campus of his alma mater, MTSU (Middle Tennessee State University) to unveil a Tennessee Music Pathway marker and cut the ribbon for the grand opening of the Chris Young Café.
Chris says, “I remember standing on this campus trying to write music, meeting other people that I’ve continued to work alongside in music, and I am absolutely blown away. It’s an incredible honor.”
The café, originally named for distinguished 1929 Middle Tennessee State Teachers College alumnus Thomas B. Woodmore, first opened in 1963 as a cafeteria serving the east side of MTSU’s campus. It was renovated and reopened in the spring of 1999 as the Cyber Café with a “futuristic” vibe, that included a with a small bank of student-accessible computers with Internet access and extended late-night dining hours.
That’s what Chris had access to when he attended MTSU in 2005. While he wasn’t on the campus for long before his music career started to sky-rocket, Chris always maintained a close connection to the school located in his hometown. In 2012 he donated a selection of his touring audio equipment. and 4 years later he helped fund an annual scholarship for recording industry students.
In July 2019, the university announced that Chris had donated $50,000 to update the Woodmore Building as a teaching and rehearsal space for College of Media and Entertainment students and as a performance venue to put those students’ training to use.
Chris, “This is my hometown, and this café means the world to me,”
The renovated cafeteria was expanded from its previous 3,200 square feet of usable space to nearly 4,100 airy square feet. It now features a single large stage backed by a Department of Media Arts custom LED video wall, with the space fitted for live performances, as well as studio space for multimedia recorded events.
Upon seeing the new Café that bares his name, Chris commented, “It’s pretty wild man, just driving through Murfreesboro, and walking back on campus and seeing my name on a building that I’ve been to before…I was here when this was what it was before this. It did not look anything like this at all, they’ve done a fantastic job with this. It’s going to be an incredible space that people get to use, and very, very proud of it. Very, very honored.”
On the outside wall of the building, a “Famous Friends” mural honors influential and notable MTSU alumni…that not only includes himself and fellow MTSU alum and country singer Eric Paslay, but another very special MTSU grad as well–Chris’ mom Becky Harris, who is a founding partner at Nashville’s Huskins-Harris Business Management firm.
Chris recalls, “I remember when I was going to school here, actually Eric Pasley was here at the same time, we would go find anywhere that would let us play no matter what size it was, or what kind of gear they had.”
Along with the ribbon cutting for the café, the day included the unveiling of a Tennessee Music Pathway marker which features Chris Young’s image and story. The marker is a part of the state’s campaign in association with Ken Burns’ PBS special Country Music highlighting places around Tennessee, from Nashville, and Memphis to Bristol, that help tell the story of country music…from the people started the genre, to the modern day artists that continue to add to its legacy.
Upon seeing the marker, Chris Young commented, “So many things have happened in my career that I never expected, and really and truly, this Tennessee Music Pathways Marker is one of those things.”
After performing his new song “Famous Friends” on the new stage, Chris was asked if he was a little jealous that it didn’t look like that when he was a student, “Yeah, I think this is awesome that it exists on campus now for everybody else…but, yeah…little jealous. Little jealous.”
Another highlight of the day’s activities was a donation by The Charlie Daniels Journey Home Project for $10,000 to the newly named Daniels/Young Veterans Scholarship, honoring both the late music legend and his younger colleague. The scholarship will benefit student veterans in the Department of Recording Industry. David Corlew, The Charlie Daniels Journey Home Project co-founder and Daniels’ longtime manager, presented the check during the celebration.
The whole event was streamed, and you can watch it here
Headline Photo Credit: Jeff Johnson
Additional Photos courtesy of MTSU and Andy Heidt