Published on January 20, 2022 by Ashley Smith  
Commercial Music Industry Event

Two entertainment icons will be on campus Jan. 27-29 to judge Samford University’s 2022 Step Sing and share industry knowledge with Samford students and the Birmingham community.  Jan Smith and Simon Lythgoe will host a special symposium, How to Make it in the Music Industry, on Saturday, Jan. 29 from 9 a.m. -12 noon in Brock Recital Hall.  Area high school students are encouraged to attend and learn from these professionals as well as find out more about the new Commercial Music program at Samford.  Register here.

Steven Potaczek, director of the Commercial Music program in the School of the Arts is also a Step Sing judge this year and brings his recording expertise to the competition.  Potaczek is coordinating How to Make it in the Music Industry and is excited to have Smith and Lythgoe on campus. The School of the Arts hosts numerous guest artists on campus each year to connect students with industry leaders and provide insight into the current business environment. 

“For students interested in careers in the music and entertainment industry, Samford’s Commercial Music degree provides an excellent path for pursing these opportunities. Events like this are but a small portion of what students experience on a regular basis: the combination of theory, practice, networking, and performance. Having industry icons like Simon and Jan on campus bolsters students’ education by connecting them with real people actually working in the field. In the past, we’ve hosted people such as Leland Sklar (bassist for James Taylor and Phil Collins), Philip Peters (manager for tobyMac and Mandissa), and many others.  Students also have the opportunity to attend industry events such as NAMM in Los Angeles, California and SXSW in Austin, Texas,” said Potaczek.

“Mama Jan” Smith is a nationally recognized singer/songwriter/musician, Grammy nominated producer, GA Music Hall of Fame inductee, and a multi-platinum certified vocal coach/vocal producer who has tended to some of the most distinctive voices in the business. Owner of Jan Smith Studios in Atlanta, a state-of-the-art vocal coaching, artist development, and production facility offering services nationwide to record companies, artists, producers and motion pictures. Clients include Usher, Rob Thomas/Matchbox Twenty, Shania Twain, Justin Bieber, The Band Perry, Jill Scott, India Arie, David Crowder, Tasha Cobbs-Leonard, Sugarland, Drake, Mastodon, Nicki Minaj, FLA/GA Line, Jesus Culture, and many more.

Simon Lythgoe has received three Emmy nominations, one Producers Guild of America nomination and in 2006 received a People’s Choice Award for his work on American Idol.  More recently Simon received two Telly Awards for Showrunning Decorating Disney: Halloween Magic and Disney’s Fair Tale Weddings: Holiday Magic.  British-born, Lythgoe came to the United States from Australia in 2001 to produce American Idol after successfully completing work in Australia.  More recently, Simon’s Legacy productions, inked a co-production deal with Critical Content, where they are currently in production for a major Network pilot with his fellow Executive Producer, John Legend.



Samford is a leading Christian university offering undergraduate programs grounded in the liberal arts with an array of nationally recognized graduate and professional schools. Founded in 1841, Samford is the 87th-oldest institution of higher learning in the United States. Samford enrolls 5,791 students from 49 states, Puerto Rico and 16 countries in its 10 academic schools: arts, arts and sciences, business, divinity, education, health professions, law, nursing, pharmacy and public health. Samford fields 17 athletic teams that compete in the tradition-rich Southern Conference and ranks 6th nationally for its Graduation Success Rate among all NCAA Division I schools.