Founder of Joel A. Katz Music and Entertainment Business Program honored
KENNESAW, Ga. (Aug. 1, 2014) — Kennesaw State University bestowed an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters on Joel A. Katz, Billboard magazine’s No. 1-ranked entertainment attorney in the United States and founder of the Joel A. Katz Music and Entertainment Business Program (MEBUS) at Kennesaw State, during one of three Commencement ceremonies for nearly 1,200 graduates this week at the KSU Convocation Center.
Katz, chair of the Global Media & Entertainment Practice at the international law firm Greenberg Traurig, LLP, presented the morning Commencement address on Tuesday to the graduates of the College of the Arts, Michael J. Coles College of Business, WellStar College of Health and Human Services and University College.
Katz is only the 15th person to be awarded with an honorary doctorate in the school’s 50-year history. The honor from Kennesaw State is Katz’s second honorary doctorate. He received a Doctor of Laws degree from Hunter College in 2008.
Kennesaw State President Daniel S. Papp conferred the honorary degree upon Katz, noting “the transformative investments in Kennesaw State that Joel Katz has made that have inspired students, along with the launch of a unique certificate program that teaches students about the business side of entertainment.”
“The MEBUS curriculum, combined with our strong arts programming, allows Kennesaw State students to get exposure to the entire entertainment industry from development of talent to marketing and management of entertainers and their careers,” Papp said.
Billed as a multi-disciplinary program similar to a minor concentration, the MEBUS certificate is designed to provide a foundation of practical experiences, on-the-job training and exploration of career opportunities in the music and entertainment industry. Students may complete the program in as little as two years.
Katz, who provided a significant gift to underwrite the launch of MEBUS in fall 2010, foresaw the need for an innovative academic certificate program targeting business majors and music students who want to develop proficiency in the business side of the entertainment industry. In existence for just four years, the program has 250 students enrolled for the fall semester.
Fittingly, there were several MEBUS graduates at the three Commencement ceremonies, two of whom participated in the Commencement that Katz addressed.
During his Commencement address, Katz told the several thousand graduates, guests and dignitaries the humorous story of his hardscrabble start as an entertainment lawyer in Atlanta in 1971. After hanging out his shingle, it was nearly a month before he landed his first client – James Brown, the “Godfather of Soul.” Coincidentally, Katz received his honorary degree in the same week that “Get on Up,”a film about Brown, opened in theaters across the country.
In the intervening decades, Katz has assembled a roster of some of the biggest show business clients in the world, giants like Julio Iglesias, Michael Jackson, Ludacris, Willie Nelson, Pitbull and Justin Timberlake. Despite rubbing shoulders with some of the powerful forces in the industry, Katz remains a humble man who appreciates taking a more contemplative approach to life.
Katz advised graduates not to rush into things. “Please, learn the gift of patience,” he said. “Remember, the tortoise will win every single race.”
In conclusion, Katz reminded the Class of 2014 that time is their most precious commodity. “So, graduates make each and every day count. Learn to be generous with your money and lavish with your praise.”
Katz, who is based in Atlanta, continues to play a significant role in growing the entertainment business. The former chairman of the American Bar Association’s Entertainment & Sports Law Section, Katz is widely recognized as a leader in the field of entertainment law. His clients include some of the world’s most well-known entertainers, music producers, record companies, concert promoters and Fortune 500 companies. More than 30 years ago, he founded Katz, Smith & Cohen, which became one of the United States’ largest music entertainment law firms. In 1998, Katz joined his practice with Greenberg Traurig.
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Kennesaw State University is the third-largest university in Georgia, offering 90 graduate and undergraduate degrees, including doctorates in education, business and nursing and a Ph.D. in international conflict management. A member of the University System of Georgia, Kennesaw State is a comprehensive, residential institution with a growing student population of more than 24,600 from 130 countries.
-- Robert S. Godlewski