The Charger Blog

Alum's Musical Career Enables Her to Be an Artist and an Industry Professional

Jenna McIlwrath '22 is a singer-songwriter who has also excelled in the music industry. Whether she's releasing her own new music or helping to sign new artists, she enjoys making connections and sharing her love for music.

May 30, 2024

By Renee Chmiel, Office of Marketing and Communications

Jenna McIlwrath ’22.
Jenna McIlwrath ’22.

When Jenna McIlwrath '22 first began to think about her future goals as a kid, she knew she wanted to be a writer and to make an impact on the world. As a high school student, she thought she wanted to be a doctor, but she then discovered a path that was a "magical combination" of her initial two dreams. She discovered music.

McIlwrath's path of discovery continued at the University of New Haven. As a music and sound recording major, she was excited to get time in the recording studio – even as a first-semester student. She helped host a live show with the University's Music Industry Club, and even had her writing published on local blogs. She credits her time as a Charger with helping her to discover her interest in audio engineering.

"In school, I began realizing my passion for the industry side of things," she explains. "As a songwriter and artist, I think it's really cool to work with other artists and to work to stand up for our rights as creators."

A taste of Austin... a great music city
Jenna McIlwrath ’22 performing.
Jenna McIlwrath ’22 performing.

A singer-songwriter, McIlwrath is involved in music both as an artist and as an industry professional. She is an Artist Services Program co-director for Greater Than Distribution, a music entertainment company created by Randy Jackson of American Idol fame and Paula Moore, a leading A&R (artists and repertoire) research executive. McIlwrath, also an A&R scout, writes for MIC Magazine, a new publication, as well.

McIlwrath says she's already learned a great deal while working with the Artist Services Program. Using the Virgin Music system, she helps distribute music for artists, something she describes as "extremely cool" and fun. As a scout, she helps sign new artists.

Earlier this year, McIlwrath attended South by Southwest (SXSW), an annual event in Austin, Texas, comprising film, interactive media, and music festivals and conferences. She recently wrote about her experience for MIC Magazine. It was McIlwrath's first time attending the popular festival, as well as her first experience visiting Texas. She says SXSW was unlike anything she'd ever experienced, and that it was an incredible opportunity for her, both personally and professionally.

"Every night I went from show to show to show," she recalls. "It was really cool getting to do that and to see so many incredible artists. It was also great to get a taste of Austin as the great music city that it is! I won't lie and say I wasn't nervous...I was. My time at SXSW was worth the nerves though. I'm so grateful to have been able to go and to add such a valuable experience (and fun!) to my career."

'I love both sides of the business'
Jenna McIlwrath ’22 at SXSW
Jenna McIlwrath ’22 at SXSW earlier this year

McIlwrath is also grateful for the opportunities she had as a Charger that helped prepare her for experiences such as SXSW, as well as for her career in the music industry. She describes being an active member of the University's Audio Engineering Society as one of her "most impactful experiences" as a Charger. She began as the club's secretary and, eventually, served as president during her senior year. She says the organization enabled her to hone her teamwork and leadership skills while also helping her to learn how to develop valuable programming and training for her fellow Chargers.

McIlwrath also appreciates the support of her professors – particularly Patrick Rivers, Ph.D., whom she says made a "huge impact" on her. She's grateful for his guidance, both as her professor and as her adviser.

While she enjoys her many exciting roles in the music industry, McIlwrath's primary passion is her work as a singer-songwriter. She recently released "Little Thoughts," her first new song in nearly two years. She hopes to continue to be involved in music, both on the industry side and as an artist.

"Being able to pursue a career both as an artist and an industry professional is something I'm so grateful I have the opportunity to do," she said. "I love both sides of the business, and my experience with both benefit each other. My experience as an independent artist gives me a valuable perspective working inside the industry, and the knowledge I gain as I work for a music company helps me navigate the waters of the industry as a creative."

Jenna McIlwrath ’22.
Jenna McIlwrath’s professor Dr. Patrick Rivers took this photo of her at Groove Haven rehearsal in 2022.