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Frances Preston


WSM Radio, BMI (Broadcast Music, Inc.)
Frances Williams Preston influenced and nurtured the careers of thousands of songwriters, performers and publishers in all genres of music during her five-decade career at BMI. A Nashville native, she attended Peabody College at Vanderbilt University, then landed a job at the National Life & Accident Insurance Company as a mail messenger. While working as a receptionist for WSM, she began hosting a daily fashion and style program on WSM-TV during her lunch break from the radio station.

In 1958 Frances opened a Nashville office for BMI, the first performing rights entity with a full-time presence in the South. Her championing of young talent and support of the fledgling music business community helped establish Nashville as a creative center. Under her direction, BMI became the first organization to dedicate an awards program to songwriters and music publishers. Frances was promoted to vice president in 1964, reportedly the first woman corporate executive in Tennessee.

She is credited by many with coining the unofficial mantra of Music Row: "It all begins with a song." She relocated to BMI's headquarters in New York, and was named president and CEO in 1986. Her awards and accolades are numerous, including induction into the Country Music and Gospel Music Halls of Fame, CMA's Irving Waugh Award of Excellence, a National Trustees Award from the Recording Academy, Person of the Year at MIDEM, the highest international award accorded to music industry executive, an American Broadcast Pioneer by the Broadcasters' Foundation, the Broadcasting & Cable Hall of Fame, the President's Award from the Nashville Songwriters Association International (NSAI), and commemoration on the Music City Walk of Fame. Leadership Music saluted her with the Leadership Music Dale Franklin Award, to recognize a music industry leader who "exemplifies the highest quality of leadership and leading by example," and she was presented with the Lifetime Music Industry Award at the inaugural T. J. Martell Foundation/Nashville Honors Gala.

She was president of the board of directors of the T. J. Martell Foundation for Leukemia, Cancer and AIDS Research, and is the namesake of the Frances Williams Preston Research Laboratories at Vanderbilt- Ingram Cancer Center.

Frances Williams Preston died June 13, 2012

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