F.A.M.E. Summit Full of Inspiration, Education

Photo of Mary Brown (left) and Ashley Dubose (right) after their talk with the panel moderator.
Mary Brown (left) with Ashley Dubose (right) @ Fame Summit 2019 - Photo by Andrew Qualley

The Film/Arts/Music/Entertainment (F.A.M.E.) Summit, which was held on Saturday, August 17 in the Center for Business and Technology at North Hennepin Community College, hosted an entire day of panels featuring successful entrepreneurs and artists from all walks of the industry.

Participants and attendees were given a unique opportunity to talk about their experiences, network, and ask questions of professionals with firsthand knowledge. 

Entrance to the Center for Business and Technology at North Hennepin Community College for FAME Summit 2019
Fame Summit 2019 @ North Hennepin Community College. Photo by Andrew Qualley


The morning began with a discussion with screenwriter Michael Starrbury, whose work on When They See Us, Netflix’s crucial series about the Central Park 8, recently garnered him one of the show’s 16 Emmy nominations.

He talked about originally being called to write only the finale of the show. Producer/Director Ava DuVernay and the other creative forces behind the drama liked his script so much he was then tasked with polishing the other scripts for the series. He and DuVernay were nominated together for their collaboration on episode 4.

Michael Starrbury at Fame Summit in Minnesota
Panelist Michael Starrbury speaking (right) – Photo by Andrew Qualley

The humble writer gave credit to those who have helped him in the industry and made it clear that hard work pays off. He stressed the importance of “putting in the 10,000 hours” necessary to turn a creative passion into a bankable commodity.

Starrbury has worked his way up from smaller projects and films, always driven by his focus and inner motivation.

“You’ve got to visualize, prepare, spend the time learning, so when the opportunity comes, you’re ready. One thing I can brag about is my work ethic. Now that I have work, nothing is different than when I was doing it for free.”

Michael Starrbury at Fame Summit in Minnesota
Panelist Michael Starrbury (left) at Fame Summit 2019 – Photo by Andrew Qualley


Next up was Mike Jackson (Mike J.), the man behind the F.A.M.E. Summit. Those in attendance were given an advance screening of his documentary, Farewell, which details his various endeavors.

His journey is a different story from Starrbury’s focused path. Mike J. says it’s best for him to make a meticulous plan, then get out there and let it all go completely differently.

Mike Jackson (Fame Summit event curator) talks about his experience and the connections he has made in order to get to the place he is today.
Organizer of FAME Summit, Mike Jackson (right) speaking – Photo by Andrew Qualley

Jackson has had a hand in many different fields both on the business and entertainment end of the spectrum. He has been successful in projects from filmmaking to fashion. His streetwear line was the first in Minnesota to have a dedicated runway show, and he recently launched an app for promotors, The Premium App, which he is hoping to develop into an industry standard.

Farewell serves as the closure to several undertakings in the entrepreneur’s journey.

“It’s taken my whole life for me to become who I wanted to be,” he says of the experience.


The most anticipated discussion of the day was probably the Music Panel, which began with Jamecia Bennett, a three-time Grammy winner and lead vocalist of Sounds of Blackness. She has also recorded vocals for everyone from Luther Vandross to Janet Jackson to Boyz II Men. 

Jamecia Bennett speaking @ the Fame Summit 2019. She speaks about her music career and gives information about licensing your work
Jamecia Bennett @ Fame Summit 2019 – Photo by Andrew Qualley

Bennetts’ experiences were extremely valuable to the aspiring songwriters and performers in the crowd. She took the time to answer questions about the confusing business of publishing rights and song placement.

“At one point I got released from my label,” she explained. “The new CEO inherited it from his dad, and all he wanted to do was play golf and bring in his own artists. But it turned out to be a blessing in disguise, because ever since then I’ve had control of my own music.”

After Bennett, two more impressive talents shared their stories and advice with the eager crowd.

Ashley Dubose, who started recording in her teens and made a name for herself as a contestant on The Voice (Team Adam), described her roll in the industry as “singer/songwriter/producer/mentor,” and delivered wisdom on balancing life with the full-time work of being an entertainer. 

Mary Brown, who has written music for Beyonce and Mary J. Blige (just to name a couple), shared her thoughts on working with established acts. 

“I don’t impose my ideas on an artist. Sometimes you create what you think is best, and sometimes you ask.”

Mary Brown speaks about her unique experience as a writer for many famous artists (Including Beyonce).
Mary Brown @ Fame Summit 2019 – Photo by Andrew Qualley 

The multitalented women discussed the necessity of taking on different roles and knowing how to contribute in various capacities. They differentiated the tasks of songwriting, composing, and arranging.

Brown also confessed her early self-consciousness in her songwriting abilities. When she was asked to pen the draft of what would become Destiny’s Child’s “No No No,” their debut single, Brown asked everyone to leave the room and recorded her lyrics on a tape to be played after she had left the building.  


The latter half of the conference featured more panels with more distinguished guests. Dayna Frank, CEO of First Avenue, and Sierra Carter of Rhymsayers/Soundset talked about live music in the Twin Cities, and the day closed out with a panel on the importance of knowing the legal aspects of being an entrepreneur in the entertainment business.

Mike J. said, “You’ve got to know about the legal side of the business. Because that IS the business.”   

Written by Scott Bryan

Scott Bryan is a writer and adventurer. He has penned the books This Book Will Make You Go Crazy and Yellowville as well as the script for the independent feature film, Drunk. Now he goes to shows and runs the website


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