Whiteside's appointment to the Academy comes after 23 years in the music and entertainment industries, most recently serving 6 years at the Country Music Association where he began as Senior Vice President of Marketing and Strategic Partnerships prior to being elevated to the role of Chief Marketing Officer.
In his time at CMA, Whiteside was responsible for overseeing the development of multi-million-dollar marketing and media campaigns for CMA's three annual television properties and strengthening the partnership with CMA's exclusive broadcast partner ABC Television Network and The Walt Disney Company. Additionally, Whiteside dedicated efforts to identify and build strategic partnerships with multi-platform media partners, digital companies, and Fortune 500 brands. Notable accomplishments include increased ratings for the monumental 53rd annual CMA Awards in November 2019, his leadership role in the year-long campaign for "The 50th Annual CMA Awards" and the groundbreaking "Forever Country" single and music video campaign; serving as the lead Country strategist for the release of the Ken Burns Country Music documentary; award-winning creative campaigns positioning CMA Awards as the leader in music awards shows; the launch of CMA Brand Marketing Summits in New York, Toronto and London; dramatic growth across CMA digital platforms; the launch of CMA's content creation efforts; integrated media partnerships with top digital/DSPs, radio, and cable television partners; re-branding of CMA Music Festival and Fan Fair X; 40% increase in annual sponsorship revenue; supporting the CMA Board of Directors' expansion of international efforts; overall re-tooling of CMA Marketing, Research, Communications and Strategic Partnerships teams to better serve the needs of the Country Music industry.
Whiteside's diverse, multi-media career began in 1996 at The Walt Disney Company. There he was regarded as a marketing and partnerships innovator with a strong reputation for generating marketing value, incremental revenue, and longevity of music, film, TV, and live entertainment franchises. He was responsible for award-winning marketing, creative productions, live events, and digital partnership programs during his tenure with numerous Disney-owned companies including Disney Music Group, The Walt Disney Studios, Disney Channel, and Disney Consumer Products. Some of his notable accomplishments include leading multi-platform marketing and partnership campaigns that achieved more than 100 No. 1 films, TV series, album releases and concert tours. This success was driven by Whiteside's ability to work in partnership with artists, labels, producers and talent representatives in Country, Pop, Adult Contemporary, R&B, Jazz, and New Age to deliver best-in-class marketing and creative productions for countless superstar-level artists and was instrumental in launching the music careers of some of today's most successful artists. In addition, he developed brand and retail strategies for the world's largest film and TV franchises, including Hannah Montana, High School Musical, Cars, Toy Story, Pirates of the Caribbean, Mickey Mouse, Disney Princess and more, each generating more than $3 billion in retail sales. He secured over $100MM annually in media value through brand partnerships and broadcast marketing efforts with top networks including ABC, ABC Family, CMT, MTV, VH-1, Disney Channel, ESPN, HGTV, GAC, PBS, VH1, and many more. In the business and corporate development arena, Whiteside engineered innovative product development and strategic partnership programs that drove Walt Disney Records annual revenues by more than 500 percent to gain a #1 independent record company ranking by Billboard. He also served on Disney's Corporate Brand Management and Synergy Executive Committees, which identified and set strategy for the top franchise and marketing priorities across the Company. There he represented the three Disney Music Group labels which included Walt Disney Records, Hollywood Records, and Lyric Street Records in integration of artists into Disney-wide initiatives.
In 2011, Whiteside formed Nomad Entertainment Group in Hollywood, CA, where he represented multi-genre music artists, producers and songwriters, and developed marketing and digital campaigns, brand strategy, and partnerships for entertainment brand clients.
Whiteside's professional affiliations have included Leadership Music, NARAS, Music Business Association, Digital LA, CMO Club, LA Office, American Marketing Association and Promotion Marketing Association. His current Board positions include the Nashville Entrepreneur Center, Nashville Cares and the TJ Martell Foundation. In 2013 he completed the Executive Program at the renowned UCLA Anderson School of Management.
Executive Director, ACM Lifting Lives
Lyndsay Cruz, a seasoned professional experienced in engaging celebrities in charitable affairs, began her career as a political appointee under George W. Bush's White House where she worked as an Advance Representative for the Secretary of Education, Secretary of Treasury and the Vice President. She then went on to the international non-profit Oxfam America, where she created and managed their first-ever public figures ambassador program for 13 years. She left Oxfam to independently consult for a number of non-profit organizations, including two of the most successful fundraisers in New Orleans' history, including leading the talent team of Brad Pitt's Make It Right Galas in 2012 and 2014, and other major events and fundraising efforts for The Malala Fund, Emily's List, Muscular Dystrophy Association, Girl Rising, The World Bank, Harlem Village Academies and many others.
She brings expertise from a range of fields, specifically talent outreach and recruitment, media and public relations, and logistics management to the newly created role of ACM Lifting Lives Executive Director. Cruz will lead and collaborate with stakeholders to further the mission of improving lives through the power of music, and execute ACM Lifting Lives 501(c)(3) California Nonprofit Public Benefit Corporation, as well as organizational relationships, to meet qualifying needs.
EVP, Finance & Operations
Torii joined the Academy from Anschutz Entertainment Group, where he solidified his reputation as a hands-on, strategic CFO, capable of providing financial and operational direction across organizations. During his nearly decade-long tenure as Vice President of Finance at AEG and Chief Financial Officer of AEG Sports, Torii oversaw all finance of sports entities including Amgen Tour of California, Houston Dynamo, Los Angeles Galaxy, Los Angeles Kings, and many other marquee brands. In addition, he led finance activities for non-sports entities such as AXS TV, JW Marriott and Ritz-Carlton at LA Live, Ritz-Carlton condominiums at LA Live, ticketing platforms for AXS.com and Examiner.com, among others.
Prior to AEG, Torii developed and implemented financial strategies at the operational level as Interim Chief Financial Officer at AVP Pro Beach Volleyball Tour. During his six years there, he was responsible for finance and accounting for the public company. A leader of finance and accounting, Torii's career stops include 20th Century Fox, Warner Bros./Turner Feature Animation and The Jim Henson Company.
In his role as Executive Vice President, Finance & Operations, Torii oversees all aspects of the Academy's finance, planning, analysis, operations and human resources functions.
SVP, Creative & Content Production
Lisa Lee drew on her experience as a TV journalist and producer to help establish and grow an in-house creative and video production department for the Academy in 2007. Currently serving as Senior Vice President of Creative and Content Production, Lee is the Academy's lead staff producer and oversees all video production as well as the design, creation and editing of ACM logos, digital and printed materials—including ACM Tempo magazine, the ACM Awards program book, A-List eblasts and both the ACM and ACM Lifting Lives websites. Lee also serves as a liaison with CBS creative departments and CBS.com for promos and creative surrounding the annual ACM Awards. Lee was also named producer of the live ACM Honors event, staged annually at the historic Ryman Auditorium in Nashville.
Before joining the Academy staff, Lee got her start in the country music industry as an entertainment journalist, spending 10 years in Nashville as an on-air reporter for CMT, CMT.com, country.com and the former TNN, reporting on events across the United States and in England, Japan, Canada and Switzerland. She moved to Los Angeles in 2004 as the Hollywood correspondent and West Coast news bureau chief for the weekly show CMT Insider, covering music, movies and television.
Lee is a Cabot, Arkansas, native and holds a bachelor's degree in journalism and English from the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville. She also earned a master's degree in broadcast journalism from Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism in Chicago. Lee recently authored the book This Is Country: A Backstage Pass to the Academy of Country Music Awards, which celebrates the 50th anniversary of the ACM Awards. The book was published by Insight Editions and is available nationwide.
Erick Long joined the Academy of Country Music in 2009 after many years in the events industry. He currently manages the Events Department at the Academy including several components of the Academy of Country Music Awards, ACM Party for a Cause as well as ACM Honors. Long oversees event production, red carpet, talent logistics, partnership fulfillment, catering, security, transportation, as well as the internship and volunteer programs.
Prior to joining the Academy, Long spent years in special events at Universal Studios Hollywood where he managed and produced aspects of several key large-scale events and movie premieres. Before Universal, Long spent more than 10 years in event production and operations with the Salt Lake Organizing Committee for the 2002 Winter Olympic Games, Pallotta TeamWorks - Avon Walk for Breast Cancer, Up with People and independent contracts with the Grammys, Latin Grammys, and the Inland Valley Humane Society. A Tennessee native, Long graduated from Emory & Henry College in Virginia where he currently serves on the Board of Directors. He also serves on the Board of Directors of Leadership Music which is a non-profit 501(c)(3) educational organization designed to further communications and understanding among facets of the entertainment business and to assist established leaders in their roles as decision makers.
Brooke Primero joined the Academy from BNC (now PMK-BNC), a leading entertainment PR and marketing firm, where she led the Special Events team - including working with the Academy for more than four years. Her experience in event marketing and media solutions resulted in highly successful campaigns during her nine years at the agency for clients including T-Mobile, General Motors, Screen Actors Guild, The Miss America Pageant, GUESS?, Red Bull, 7th on Sixth and more, and for magazine clients including Vanity Fair, People, Us Weekly, Sports Illustrated, etc. Prior to that with Paramount Pictures, she handled talent relations and was a key contributor to developing media and promotional events--ranging from film premieres, Hollywood Walk of Fame ceremonies and Oscar parties--for film launches including Mission Impossible, Titanic, First Wives' Club, Face/Off and more. Primero began her career as a journalist, working for Petersen Publishing and Disney Magazine Publishing, among others.
Nick Di Fruscia
VP, Awards & Membership
Regarded as a highly respected executive in the music community, Di Fruscia joined the Academy's membership team from The Recording Academy, where he was Director, Awards and served nearly a decade-long tenure overseeing the pop and country categories for The GRAMMY Awards.
Born in Los Angeles and raised in Las Vegas, Di Fruscia returned to Southern California to attend San Diego State University, where he studied Business Administration. He moved to Los Angeles in 2000 where he began his music business career at Chalkboard Music, Inc., a boutique publishing and management company. As Creative Director and Manager, Di Fruscia worked on a variety of projects with artists including Cher, Donna Summer, Elton John, Diane Warren, and many more.
Di Fruscia's career included his own consultancy, 33 Music Consulting, where he advised and managed artists, producers and television/film composers, and a stop as Director of Music Licensing at the popular online social giant MySpace.
In his role as Vice President, Awards & Membership, Di Fruscia oversees all Awards voting and processes, and leads membership initiatives, while also contributing to the Academy's artist and industry relations efforts both in Nashville and on the West Coast.
Di Fruscia is a member of the Academy of Country Music, the Association of Independent Music Publishers (AIMP), The Recording Academy, The GRAMMY Museum, the Country Music Association and the Songwriters' Hall of Fame.
Alexa Fasheh first joined the Academy staff as Director of Finance in 2011. A Los Angeles native, Fasheh graduated from Loyola Marymount University in 2000 with a Bachelor of Science in accounting. She then went on to work as an accountant for a variety of CPA firms, including the Haber Corporation where she spent 5 years as the ACM's outside accountant before joining the ACM staff full-time.
In her role as Director of Finance, Fasheh oversees the Academy's finances and benefits packages, as well as credentials for the ACM Awards. She reports to Tom Torii, EVP Finance & Operations.
VP, Artist & Industry Relations and Board Administration & Governance
Atlanta-born and Chicago-raised, Moore attended Marquette University in Milwaukee, WI, where he graduated with a degree in Broadcasting and Electronic Communications. His life-long love for country music dovetailed professionally with an early job in country radio at WMIL-FM in Milwaukee, where he worked as a morning show production assistant. Moore joined the Academy in 2011, where he most recently served as Senior Director, Governance & Board Administration, a position that was absorbed into his current expanded role.
As Vice President, Artist & Industry Relations, Board Administration & Governance, he directs the overall Board communication of ACM. Moore also directs and manages ticketing for all ACM events. In his role, Moore spearheads artist communication and engagement within the Academy. He is a SOLID alumnus, class of 2014. He reports to Damon Whiteside, CEO of the Academy.
Director, Strategic Partnerships
California born and raised, Jen Heaton joins the Academy of Country Music as Director, Strategic Partnerships, in the Academy's Los Angeles office.
Heaton attended the University of Arizona, graduating with degrees in communications and business, and remained in Arizona and joined the Arizona Diamondbacks' Sales Department in 2010 to assist with their season tickets, group events and hospitality. She was quickly promoted to an account executive, overseeing more than 500 season ticket holders and their day-to-day ticket usage in addition to coordinating annual events for season ticket holders. In 2013, Heaton transitioned to the role of account service executive in Corporate Partnerships, where she managed corporate partners of the Arizona Diamondbacks, overseeing contracts and executing activations with the team.
In her role as Director, Heaton is responsible for planning and executing the ACM and ACM Lifting Lives® partners programs—including identifying, cultivating, and developing new sponsors across industries and developing a multi-year partnership strategy. She reports to Damon Whiteside, CEO of the Academy.
Senior Manager, Marketing
Moldovan joined the Academy in 2015, fresh off a four-year stint at the nationally syndicated radio show The Big Time with Whitney Allen, where she worked as an assistant producer and fill-in co-host while simultaneously developing the show's social media marketing strategy. Her work there led to the creation of a social media staff position, which Moldovan undertook in addition to her other roles.
In her role as Senior Manager, Moldovan executes all ACM radio promotions and leads on Academy and ACM Lifting Lives press materials and marketing initiatives, to oversee ACM Lifting Lives Music Camp publicity, ACM Honors credentialing, and more. She reports to Brooke Primero, Senior Vice President, Marketing.
Senior Video Manager, Creative & Content Production
Atlanta-born and Tennessee-raised, Campbell graduated from Middle Tennessee State University where he studied electronic media communications with a focus on single camera production. Prior to joining the Academy, Campbell spent six years freelancing in Nashville on various awards shows and joined Hunter Hayes' team as a full-time videographer for three years. During his 4 years at the ACM, Campbell has contributed to media campaigns for the Academy and our partners CBS and dick clark productions to promote the ACM Awards, ACM Honors and ACM Lifting Lives, among other Academy initiatives.
In his current role as Senior Video Manager, Campbell leads the ACM Awards Vegas videography team, while continuing to design in-house animation and graphics for Academy projects. Campbell is also point for capturing video content with artists during their visits to the Los Angeles office. Campbell reports to Lisa Lee, Senior Vice President, Creative & Content Production.
Manager, Artist & Industry Relations and Board Administration & Governance
Originally from Petaluma, CA, Stessman spent four years on the East Coast where she studied broadcast and digital journalism at Syracuse University. Following that, Stessman kept busy with internships at NBC's Affiliate Marketing Department, The Meredith Vieira Show and The TODAY Show, as well as the Academy of Country Music, where she supported the Events team for the Academy's historic 50th Anniversary in Texas. Stessman joined the Academy full-time in fall 2016, where she served as Coordinator, Events and in 2018, she stepped in as Manager, Administration, a position that was absorbed into her current expanded role.
Stessman oversees administrative tasks; additionally, she provides direct support to the VP, Artist & Industry Relations, Board Administration & Governance with all board and industry communications and outreach, in addition to a special focus on artist engagement within the Academy. Stessman reports to Tommy Moore, Vice President, Artist & Industry Relations, Board Administration & Governance.
A Massachusetts native, Lanni Gagnon joins the Academy of Country Music team as Coordinator of the Events department.
Gagnon attended New York's Ithaca College where she studied communication management and design. She interned with the Academy's Event & Operations team for the 50th Annual ACM Awards, and after graduating in May 2015 relocated to Los Angeles for stints with Intern Queen, Inc., RGLive Events and George P. Johnson Experiential Marketing. During that time, she also freelanced with the ACM Events team on-site for the past two ACM Awards in Las Vegas.
In her role as Manager, Gagnon is responsible for various logistical and operational elements of the ACM Awards and ACM Party for a Cause Events – including event production, red carpet, food and beverage, transportation, signage, security, event décor and partnership fulfillment. She reports to Erick Long, Senior Vice President, Events.
Manager, Finance & Operations
Pambukyan joined the Academy in 2018 as a Jr. Accountant, following turns at both Chase and Wells Fargo totaling nearly five years, in addition to accounting and administrative experience in the health care and automotive industries. A Los Angeles native, Pambukyan graduated with a master's degree in Business and Accounting from the University of Phoenix, with an emphasis on Finance and Risk Management. Pambukyan served as President of Birmingham Community Charter Business and Technology Senate and has won numerous service and sales/customer service awards.
In her role as Manager, Pambukyan supports all ACM financial initiatives and oversee office operations. She reports to Alexa Fasheh, Vice President of Finance & Operations
Manager, Awards & Membership
Tekautz, a Kansas City native, attended Trevecca Nazarene University in Nashville, where she graduated with a degree in music business. After interning at Universal Music Publishing Group, Sony Music Nashville, Red Light Management and the Country Music Association, Tekautz began working full-time for CMA in 2013 within the Membership & Balloting department. In 2015, Tekautz joined the Ryman Auditorium and Grand Ole Opry team as assistant, a role she held for nearly two years before moving to Los Angeles.
In her role as Manager, Tekautz helps maintain the membership database, recruits new ACM professional members and helps coordinate the ACM Awards voting process. She reports to Nick Di Fruscia, Vice President, Awards & Membership.
Born and raised in Ventura County, Curtis joins the Academy after a three-year stint with Live Nation. Working as an executive editor for MegaCountry.com and editorial contributor to Setlist.fm, Curtis worked closely with both the editorial and post-production teams, as well as the production staff to create and expedite creative content, promote festival and ticket sales and introduce new social media marketing strategies.
In her role as Manager, Curtis will take lead on developing strategies for both ticket promotions and social media for Academy initiatives. She will also manage all digital marketing and advertising, and support developing partnerships with outside brands to increase tickets sales, maximize brand awareness and promote Awards tune in. She reports to Brooke Primero, Senior Vice President, Marketing. ?€‹
Chicago-born and Las Vegas-raised, Cirone joined the Academy of Country Music's Los Angeles team in 2018, as Assistant for both the Marketing and Creative & Content departments. Cirone graduated from Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin where she studied public relations and digital media and worked for both the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and WISN 12 News. After graduating, Cirone moved back to Las Vegas where she worked at Wicked Creative, an entertainment, hospitality and lifestyle public relations firm. Cirone was a volunteer for the ACM Awards and ACM Party for a Cause® events in 2017.
In her role as Coordintor, Cirone supports all publicity and marketing initiatives for the Academy and ACM Lifting Lives. She reports to Brooke Primero, Senior Vice President, Marketing.
Coordinator, Creative & Content Production
Born in Kokomo, Ind. and raised in both Shelby Township, Mich. and Allentown, Pa., Gardner attended Syracuse University where she received a bachelor's degree in Television, Radio, and Film. During her time at Syracuse, Gardner interned at the Academy in the creative department and following her graduation in 2018, continued working for the Academy as a freelance field producer. Gardner has also worked as a production assistant on numerous television shows ranging from an Investigation Discovery true crime series to the talk show, The Doctors.
In her role as Coordinator, Gardner oversees the day-to-day management of the Academy's website properties, photo archives, A-List eblasts and ACM Tempo magazine. She also acts as a field producer for the Academy's in-house video content and helps oversee both the digital and print creative content distributed by the Academy, among other duties. Gardner reports to Lisa Lee, SVP, Creative & Content.
Coordinator, ACM Lifting Lives
Born and raised in Brentwood, Tenn., Wolf attended Pepperdine University where she received a bachelor's degree in Science of Psychology. Following her graduation, Wolf pursued an opportunity at in the human resources department at Sarah Cannon, the Cancer Institute of HCA Healthcare. She has also worked as a digital content contractor prior to her move to the ACM.
Wolf reports to Lyndsay Cruz, Executive Director, Lifting Lives.
Coordinator, Strategic Partnerships
Born and raised in Laguna Hills, CA, Dunn graduated from the University of Southern California where she majored in Communications and minored in Organizational Leadership and Management. During most of her time at USC, Dunn worked for USC Football in the Recruiting department where she was responsible for recruiting the top prospective athletes for the football team. She also interned at the LA Chargers in the Community Relations and Corporate Partnerships departments, following her internship at Fox Sports in the Talent Relations and Production department.
In her role as Coordinator, she assists the Strategic Partnerships department and reports to Jen Heaton, Director, Strategic Partnerships.
Born and raised in Douglas, Massachusetts, Bardier graduated from the University of Southern California where she received a degree in Business Administration with a focus on Marketing. During her time at USC, Bardier interned for the Academy of Country Music in the events department and served as a production assistant following her 2017 graduation. Before joining the ACM team as Coordintor in the Events department, Bardier worked as a sponsorship and event coordinator for Harpoon Brewery where she helped produce several of Harpoon's charitable events.
Bardier reports to Erick Long, Senior Vice President, Events.
Assistant, Finance & Operations
A Los Angeles native, Chavez has an extensive background in accounting and finance with a diverse work experience in both the mortgage banking industry as well as property management. She applies the same passion towards her work life as she does in her personal, volunteering for organizations such as Habitat for Humanities and recreation park youth mentoring, while obtaining her Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Phoenix. Chavez is also an accomplished hiker and takes advantage of the California sun and beautiful landscapes.
In her role as Assistant, Finance & Operations, Chavez will help oversee all aspects of general office and building operations as well as act as office receptionist. She will also work alongside vendors to ensure the upkeep of both the office and building maintenance, including managing office inventory, all technological system processes and assisting in the finance department with various projects. She reports to Alexa Fasheh, Vice President of Finance & Operations.
Assistant, Creative & Content Production
Originally from Maine, Kellis graduated from Pepperdine University in Malibu where she studied Media Production. Upon graduating, she interned with companies such as A Rocha USA and Therapy Studios, where she assisted with both production and post-production. She then began to work at Vendetta/Apartment 3B Productions, where she handled script coverage and event preparation.
In her new position at the Academy, Hannah will oversee administrative tasks and other projects for the Creative & Content department. She reports to Lisa Lee, Senior Vice President, Creative & Content Production.
Poskanzer attended Ithaca College where she studied Integrated Marketing Communications. After graduating in December 2018, she relocated to Los Angeles and interned with the Academy's Marketing department during the 54th Annual ACM Awards and the 13th Annual ACM Honors. Prior to her internship with ACM, she gained industry experience interning in the promotion department at RCA records and as a Publicity intern at Atlantic Records.
In her role, she assists the Marketing team with all needs, with special attention to administrative and support duties, proofreading, culling media lists, press coverage and serving as a production assistant for all major events, among other duties. She reports to Brooke Primero, Senior Vice President, Marketing.