The RECORD Spring 2013 - Lesley Burbridge


AgapeFest Connections

Lesley Burbridge ’89, founder of L.A.B. Media and current senior vice president at leading public relations firm Rogers and Cowan, traces her successful career as a publicist back to her college roots, specifically her leadership in producing Greenville College’s student-run music festival, now known as AgapeFest.

More than a proving ground or mock event, the festival has served for more than three decades as the “real deal” in bringing Christian performers together with Christian music fans. Foremost, it provides a platform for musicians to share their faith and invite others to join them in exalting Jesus Christ. It creates opportunities for worship and the compelling presentation of the Gospel by guest speakers. Behind the scenes, however, it also gives students unique opportunities to experience the challenges and joys of coordinating a festival ministry. In Lesley’s case, it exposed her to the music industry and opened her eyes to an engaging life calling. Thinking back, Lesley recalls that GC’s dean of students asked her to serve as co-director of the festival with her friend and roommate Michelle (Fink '90) Wright.

Lesley Burbridge with Michelle Wright and Jay Leno“We both welcomed the challenge of Agape gladly,” she reflects, “and had one of the best experiences of our lives, which actually changed the course of our futures forever. We learned through the experience what we were each equipped for and what we enjoyed. It felt as if we discovered what we were ‘made’ for.”

While Lesley’s strengths in writing led her to gravitate to the publicity and public relations roles, Michelle pursued promotions and marketing responsibilities.

“We were introduced to agents, managers, record labels and many of the contacts we would need to later work in the Christian music industry,” Lesley explains. “These people have now become employers, colleagues, business associates, and friends.”

As students, Lesley and Michelle visited Nashville for the Gospel Music Association (GMA) Convention and Dove Awards, a road trip that solidified important industry connections. One of the most influential people they met during their trip was Chaz Corzine, a 1981 graduate of Greenville College and a founding director of AgapeFest. When Lesley and Michelle met him, Chaz was working for Blanton & Harrell managing artists like Amy Grant and Michael W. Smith. He was excited when he learned that they were directing the festival he had helped start as a student.

“We met him in the lobby of the convention hotel,” recalled Lesley, “He was so incredible to us, helping us with advice and anything we needed. He became a true, amazing friend and mentor to us both.” After graduation, both Lesley and Michelle pursued work in Nashville’s music industry. “The hands-on experience of Agape was one of the things that every employer found of the strongest interest,” explains Lesley. Michelle eventually became vice president of marketing at Reunion Records and is now the director of brand sales and retail marketing for Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment. She and Lesley remain close friends. Lesley Burbridge with Gabby Douglas

AgapeFest is an experiential learning project for GC students. An executive management team comprised of ten students is selected each year through a competitive application process. Guided by a faculty advisor, students learn how to manage all the details required for producing a major event. They work with big name artists from prominent labels. Michael W. Smith, Steven Curtis Chapman, DC Talk, Switchfoot, The Newsboys, and GC’s very own Jars of Clay are just some of the bands that have played its main stage. Over 150 additional students volunteer the weekend of AgapeFest to make the event possible. 

For former AgapeFest directors Lesley Burbridge, Michelle Wright, and Chaz Corzine, the learning they experienced in producing AgapeFest produced more than great college memories. It opened the door to connections in the music industry and media promotions that proved pivotal in their careers and lives.

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