In time there would be church choirs and music scholarships, opera singing, and business management. But it started with her grandfather, and songs around the kitchen table.
“My parents aren’t musicians; they weren’t playing music. It was more my grandfather,” Stephanie Mundy Self remembers. “My love of music came from my dad’s dad. He loves country music, he had the 8-tracks and the records and the tapes. He played it for us in the car and was always making up songs. We would sit and sing around the kitchen table.”
“She spent a lot of time with us growing up. My husband is a retired Marine and he would take her to school and dance recitals and her piano lessons,” says Sarah Mundy, Stephanie’s grandmother, about her husband Marion. “He sang country music, and they would sing all the way to school and back.”
It was where Self first dreamed of becoming a country singer. But along the way her dream met unexpected crossroads, as country music beget classic music, succeeded by risk management, which in many ways brought her back to country music.
“I remember her being good at everything. She played instruments early, we always knew music was going to be an important part of her life,” says Ellen Mundy (BBA ’11, AB ’11), her sister. “She was someone you could look up to. She was a leader.”
Now living and thriving in Nashville, Self is a partner at Farris, Self & Moore LLC, a boutique firm specializing in business management and financial planning services. She and her partners — Kella Stephenson-Farris and Catherine Stein Moore — provide all-encompassing business resources for songwriters and producers, major touring acts and national recording artists.
“Anything that has a dollar sign related to a person that affected that artist’s life we’re involved in, so you get to work with so many people, publishers, bankers, booking agents, managers, labels. No day is the same,” Self says of her firm, which was founded in 2015. “I wanted to try something new, and thank goodness I did.”
A South Carolina native, Self trained as an opera singer while attending the South Carolina Governor’s School for the Arts and Humanities. Her love for the Athens music scene and strength of the Hodgson School of Music led her to UGA, where she earned a four-year renewable voice scholarship and took aim at a career in arias.
She quickly learned the plights of the profession.
“I saw there were not that many opera companies anymore, and to get a job doing that was going to be a long road,” she says. “I also felt like there were people that sang even better than me that were struggling to find jobs in classical music.”
She realized she had an affinity for business, and it was by sheer coincidence that the Terry College was about to proclaim its affinity for music.
“I thought, you know I have a good business mind, and I would like to work more behind the scenes. I didn’t know in what capacity, but I knew that I still wanted to be involved with creative people,” she says. “I was sitting in choir one day, and my professor told me about the Music Business Program. He said it was going to start the next year.”
Which led her to Bruce Burch, a songwriter of No. 1 hits and co-creator and director of the Music Business Program. She already lined up an internship in Nashville to see if this newfound pairing of music and business was right for her, and the Music Business Program only cemented what she now knew to be true.
“The good thing about knowing what you want to do is that I didn’t waste any time,” she says. “Every moment I was in the Music Business Program, or in the business school, or in the music school, felt like home to me.”
“First time I met Stephanie she told me she was a double major, and I remember thinking how can she take on this too? I knew our program was pretty demanding,” Burch says. “But she proved me wrong. I don’t know how she did it, but she did it, and she did it successfully. She’s the best student I have ever had.”
“I had to get up at 5 o’clock in the morning to get to work and she would have me call her. And I would call her every morning at 5 to wake her up so she could practice music,” says her grandmother.
The skills she learned through the Music Business Program, combined with lessons she studied under Rob Hoyt and others in Terry’s Risk Management and Insurance Program, made finding a job in Nashville painless. Two days after graduation, she went to Music City with her dad, her then-boyfriend (now husband) Craig, and after securing two job offers decided to work as an account manager at Flood, Bumstead, McCready, and McCarthy Inc., where her clients included high profile recording artists (such as Taylor Swift), international touring companies and newly discovered talent.
It was a job her future partners Farris and Moore held before and after her, respectively, and after eight years with the firm, she felt she learned what was needed to go out on her own. Self and Moore reached out to Farris — who had left Flood to start her own firm — for advice on starting their firm. The idea was hatched that the three should work together.
It proved a smart move, finding success through patience.
“When we first started all of Kella’s clients became new company clients, so the first year was us going out and getting our name out,” Self says. “You can never force it, you have to wait and let it happen. But at the end of the first year, we ended up signing somebody that had a major radio hit that took off and was a huge success. We are very different and we all have different strengths and wear different hats, but it feels so right.”
“With Stephanie, if I had to pick her core value, she’s all in,” Farris says. “She’s all in if you’re her friend, if she’s your partner if she’s your boss if she’s your sister, anything. If Stephanie’s in your life, she’s all in. That’s what makes her a great leader and great partner, a great wife, a great mom, and a great friend. She’s awesome.”
Today the firm, which the trio strives to keep as boutique as possible, serves a client roster who collectively has more than 100 No. 1 songs and cuts on albums that have sold more than 300 million units. Self, with her husband and their two children, daughter Hagen and son McCall, are heavily involved in their community. Self has served on the board of the Nashville Film Festival, was committee co-chair of the Nashville Women’s Music Business Association, and was chosen one of Nashville’s Emerging Leaders and one of its Top 30 under 30.
She also keeps close ties with UGA and Athens at all times, and as FSM’s HR director has hired her share of Bulldogs to work in their offices (much to the delight of Farris, an Auburn grad, and Moore, who went to South Carolina). If one of her clients is playing the Georgia Theatre for the first time, she’s sure to be there, and she takes time to meet with up-and-coming Music Business Program students.
“When people hear Georgia, their ears perk up in the music industry here. There are so many Georgia people and they all stick together,” she says. “I still go to coffee with people in school or right out of college, and I love doing it. I love meeting with young people and mentoring them because I will see this spark that I had and still have. If you can give back to young people and the community, it makes what you do feel more valuable and worthwhile.”