Michelle Edgar ‘05 graduated from Northwestern with a Bienen-Medill dual degree before that dual degree program even officially existed. She studied piano performance and journalism, ultimately designing an ad hoc degree program in music business to support her career interests.
Now, as an executive in the entertainment business for over a decade, Edgar's expertise and focus is leading creative brand marketing campaigns and securing partnerships for her roster of artists as vice president of brand marketing for Epic Records. She works across an artist roster that includes Travis Scott, 21 Savage, Camilla Cabello, and DJ Khaled. Previously a branding agent at ICM Partners, she has also worked at Red Light Management and Warner Bros Records.
Edgar founded The XX Project more than eight years ago as a platform for leading women in business. She is also founder of the nonprofit Music Unites, funding sustainable music education programs in underserved public schools. This fall, she is continuing her education in UCLA's Master of Legal Studies program with a specialization in entertainment and media.
What made you choose the Bienen School of Music?
Music was always my passion, having studied piano for over 15 years in Manhattan School of Music's precollege program. I wanted to attend a top university with a well-rounded program and with world-class professors and music education instruction. It was important to me to have a diverse, best-in-class education to merge my passions—from music to business/marketing and journalism—to advance as a leader in my industry.
Which professors influenced you the most at Northwestern?
Ursula Oppens, my incredible piano professor, helped me develop my musical talent and helped shape me as an artist across all aspects as a performer, from musical interpretation and stage presence to performance preparation.
Michele Weldon, Charles Whitaker and Michele Bitoun believed in my gift as a journalist as a student while working internships, from my very first magazine jobs at Clavier magazine to Conde Nast Traveler and People Magazine.
Tell us about a particular experience that impacted you during your time at the Bienen School of Music.
My sophomore year, I wrote a five-page essay to apply to Medill's journalism school and explain why I wanted to double major in both journalism and piano performance, which had never been done before. I worked on getting all my professors to sign off and support me with this endeavor as I knew I would pursue both career tracks, which I have done successfully. I always appreciated the entrepreneurial path that Northwestern helped ignite in me, and my incredible professors saw my passion and supported me through my years as a student and in my professional journey.
What lessons did you learn at Bienen that have continued to resonate with you in your career?
The training, focus, and discipline I gained as a trained concert pianist is invaluable and has shaped who I've become as a young leader in business today. I've taken that same training and work ethic along with passion and applied it to my everyday business life, and will continue to do so as I continue my professional journey at Epic Records.
Michelle recently discussed her career journey on the podcast "Elevate Your Brand," hosted by Laurel Mintz: