Striking Matches ignites converse’s first ever student-produced rock show

SPARTANBURG — Striking Matches — a Nashville, Tenn. duo lighting up the music world with a buzz as electrifying as their duel guitars and smoldering vocals, makes history when a Petrie School of Music class presents its own rock concert at Converse College.

Striking Matches’ Justin Davis and Sarah Zimmermann celebrate the release of their T Bone Burnett-produced album, “Nothing But The Silence,” at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Oct 30, at Daniel Recital Hall. The entirely student-produced show is a first for Converse’s new Music Business & Technology Certificate program, the only one of its kind in the Upstate. The concert is open to the public, and beer and wine will be sold in the lobby.

“Their debut album is an engaging blend of slick country storytelling scuffed up with rockier riffs,” says The Guardian in Britain, where Striking Matches already played a run of sold-out shows. “Imagine a noisier version of The Civil Wars: squaring up and trading electric licks before coiling their voices together in sweet harmony.” Striking Matches, The Guardian says, “occupies that sweet spot at the intersection of country, rock and blues, where all of the elements blend to form an authentically raw and rootsy sound that has a timeless and international appeal.”

NPR raves, “Zimmermann and Davis are practically superheroes, shooting out guitar lines that light up their beautifully formed, emotional songs,” while the Los Angeles Times calls much of their show a “swampy blues-rock freak-out with dueling guitar solos.”

Tickets are $15 for general admission and $8 for students, and are available through the Converse Box Office at 864-596-9724 or

Producing the concert is the first hands-on learning experience for the new Music Business & Technology program, designed to equip students with skills, knowledge and networking know-how for building successful careers in the music industry. Mentored by The Handlebar’s John Jeter, who brings a new vibe and perspective to the Petrie School, the students are involved in all aspects of the show—from contract negotiation with the booking agent to advertising to paying the artists after the show.

Jeter is a journalist-turned-music-man who has presented thousands of artists–John Mayer, Joan Baez, Zac Brown, and Sugarland among them–and hosted a quarter-million fans since opening The Handlebar in Greenville, S.C. in 1994.

“Nothing I love more than being here at Converse College as a professor,” he mused. “For years, I’d dreamed of being one of those distinguished types in a gray tweed jacket, smoking a pipe and waxing brilliant about all manner of scholarly things. But I’d always thought I’d teach writing. Now, though, I’m teaching the music business, but I’m not so much teaching as I am sharing what I learned in my 20 years in the industry.”

Jeter’s Intro to Music Business class launched on a high note, hosting on the first day of class veteran music-business pro Charlie Jennings, who helped build Bonnaroo, one of the nation’s largest festivals. The students had a phone interview with Joe Brauner, agent for Norah Jones and a close friend of managers for Green Day and Bruce Springsteen. They talked with Grammy-nominated Peter Cooper of the Country Music Hall of Fame, who was music writer for the Nashville Tennessean newspaper. They chatted with a Greenville entertainment lawyer. And that just recaps the first few weeks.

“I’ve stressed to our students that these can be new relationships for them, so they should cultivate those contacts now – not just for job and internship opportunities but to explore more and bigger shows at Converse,” said Jeter.

“Striking Matches is an excellent show with an artist people will be hearing more about, and when the band does make it big, our students will be able to say, ‘Yeah, we produced them at Daniel Recital Hall,’” he said.

As the program grows, Jeter’s vision is to dig deeper and wider into the all aspects of the industry and the world of concerts and venues, creating a significant network for students (it IS all about relationships, he emphasizes).

“We’ll offer the College and the community more and better shows – up-and-coming stars and big-marquee names, of all different genres, rock, pop, whatever we determine the Spartanburg and College market wants,” he effuses. “In other words, we will create a buzz that will make Converse College one of the most exciting places in the country. We will be striking a lot of matches.”