President of Suman Entertainment Group returns to Tech for lectures and clinics for current students

by Kory Riemensperger
Michael Suman, center, leads a clinic for Tech music students.

If you’ve enjoyed music on a cruise ship, there’s a good chance Michael Suman, ’83 music education, played a role in providing it.

Suman is president of Suman Entertainment Group and former music director for Norwegian and Celebrity Cruise Lines. He has roughly 35 years of administrative and music experience.

In April 2016, Suman visited Tennessee Tech University to speak with students about how to succeed as performers and administrators in today’s entertainment and music industry. He delivered two lectures in Wattenbarger Auditorium and two clinics with students in the Haste Rehearsal Hall.

“The most rewarding thing about coming back to Tech for me is getting to speak with all the music education majors,” said Suman. “They’re all heading in different directions. I just hope the advice I give them here helps them succeed out there.”

In his two days at Tech, Suman presented attendees with real-world knowledge on how to prosper in the music entertainment world, specifically on a cruise ship.

Most contracts for musicians at sea are four to six months long. Typically, a workweek is performing four 50-minute sets a night, Monday through Sunday. It’s rare that shows change, so once the selected compositions are rehearsed enough, preparation for a show becomes minimal.

“A strong ability to sight read music – to pick up a piece and play it right off the bat – is extremely important in this industry,” said Suman. “Don’t be fooled by the number of sets a cruise ship musician has to perform. Even with its perks, it’s still a demanding job.”

His senior year, Suman was a student leader of the Troubadours, a jazz ensemble formed at Tech in 1948. He remembers when the band would regularly perform lawn concerts. He also recalled living at the corner of W 12th St. and N. Dixie Ave., a lot that is now empty.

He has personally backed up notable clients including Bob Hope, Ben Vereen, Davy Jones of the Monkees, Chuck Berry, Michael Feinstein, Diana Ross, Paul Anka and Rich Little. When the Miami Heat played their first game, musicians from Suman’s group provided the entertainment. For three years after that, they provided music at every home game.

Suman said his group has hired several TTU music graduates in the past, and a handful of students were invited to audition.

“We look for younger musicians with musical maturity above all else. I’m always happy to help a Tech musician break into the industry.”