Finalists, Judges Announced for Synovus Voice of the Bowl

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Ten finalists will compete Saturday, Nov. 16 at Ole Red on Broadway to sing the National Anthem and “God Bless America” at this year’s Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl.

The finalists were selected during an audition process for the inaugural Synovus Voice of the Bowl Contest which saw dozens of daily entries. Midway through the audition process, the Bowl was proud to welcome Synovus aboard as the official sponsor of the contest.

“As the bank of here in Music City, USA, Synovus is thrilled to sponsor this contest to determine who will sing ‘God Bless America’ and the ‘Star-Spangled Banner’ during the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl,” said Rob McNeilly, Tennessee Division CEO of Synovus Bank. “The unrivaled music talent pool in Nashville, and the top-notch group of judges who will select the winners, will significantly enhance the overall fan experience.

“I can’t think of a more appropriate way to demonstrate Synovus’ commitment to Nashville than by partnering with the Music City Bowl and recognizing the musical talent here.”

Each finalist will compete from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. in front of three judges. The panel of judges includes McNeilly, Jordan Petitt, Director of Artist Relations & Programming Strategy for Opry Entertainment Group, and longtime Nashville music executive Kent Earls.

Bios for all three judges are included at the bottom of this article.

The following finalists were selected and will compete in the final round*:

National Anthem

Tamica Harris, Morgan Myles, Keesha Rainey, Katie Spurling and Rockland Road (group).

God Bless America

Spencer Ezell, Emily Rogers, Luisa Reyes, Ava Nicole Hurst and Julia Cole.

* Finalists must attend the Nov. 16 final round in order to qualify. In the event they cannot, lineups are subject to change.

About the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl

The Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl (501(c)(3) non-profit organization) is an annual post-season collegiate bowl featuring the Atlantic Coast or Big Ten and Southeastern Conferences. Since its inception, the bowl has produced over $310 million in direct economic impact. Distributed nationally to millions of viewers and listeners on ESPN and ESPN Radio, the bowl is Nashville’s holiday tradition. For more information, call the bowl office at 615-743-3130 or visit the bowl online at MusicCityBowl.com.

About Synovus

Synovus Bank, a Georgia-chartered, FDIC-insured bank, provides commercial and retail banking, investment, and mortgage services together with its affiliates through 298 branches in Georgia, Alabama, South Carolina, Florida, and Tennessee. Synovus Bank has been recognized as one of the country’s “Most Reputable Banks” by American Banker and the Reputation Institute. Synovus Bank is on the web at synovus.com, and on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram. Equal Housing Lender.

Judge Bios:

Jordan Petitt

Jordan Pettit serves as Director of Artist Relations & Programming Strategy for Opry Entertainment Group. Responsible for expanding Opry Entertainment Group’s relationship with artists at all levels of their careers, he oversees programming strategy for the Grand Ole Opry and Ole Red, as well as other overarching artist strategies and initiatives including Opry NextStage.

Pettit brings fifteen years of experience working in the Nashville music community, most recently as a radio & streaming strategist. Prior to that, he spent five years at Warner Music Group where he rose to Vice President of National Radio Marketing where he led the WEA promotion team. Throughout his career, he has worked with artists including Big & Rich, Billy Currington, Brett Eldredge, Charlie Worsham, Dan + Shay, Devin Dawson, Faith Hill, Gretchen Wilson, Joe Nichols, Kid Rock, Michael Ray, Miranda Lambert, Mitchell Tenpenny, Montgomery Gentry, Phil Vassar, Sugarland, Toby Keith, and Trace Adkins. Pettit’s previous roles in radio promotion include Sony Music Nashville, Universal Music Group, and Universal South/Show Dog.

Kent Earls

A Nashville native and 25-year music industry veteran, Kent Earls has been immersed in the music business since majoring in Recording Industry at Middle Tennessee State University.

Kent recently was the head of Universal Music Publishing Group Nashville for 7-plus years and worked for the company for a total of 21-plus years. While at UMPG, he guided the careers of some of Nashville’s most well respected talent including: Nashville Songwriter Hall of Fame member Rivers Rutherford, BMI Songwriter of the Year and Grammy winner Luke Laird, Grammy winners Shane McAnally and Lori McKenna. He also signed and developed some of country music’s most influential artists.  His work with Keith Urban, Kane Brown, Sam Hunt, Maren Morris, Chris Young, Ingrid Andress and Hunter Hayes has made a significant and lasting impact on the country format.  Kent is also a well-known and respected “song plugger,” and has placed numerous country hits including Dierks Bentley’s No. 1, “Say You Do,”  BMI Country Song of the Year, “Take A Back Road” by Rodney Atkins and the Brooks & Dunn six-week No. 1 “Ain’t Nothin’ About You.” Kent’s ability to recognize and develop early emerging songwriters and artists is unparalleled and in addition to the above he also has worked with Ryan Hurd, Natalie Hemby, Chase McGill, Troy Verges, Andrew Dorff, Jimmy Robbin and Striking Matches.

Kent joined UMPG (then MCA Music Publishing) in October 1997 as Associate Director of Creative Services.  He remained at this position until March of 1999 when he was upped to Creative Director. In April of 2001 he was promoted to Senior Director of Creative Services, Vice President of Creative Services in 2002, Senior Vice President of Creative Services in 2008 and was promoted to his former position, Executive Vice President/General Manager in January 2012.

Kent came to UMPG after working as Professional Manager for four years at Affiliated Publishers, Inc. where he worked with hit songwriters Chris Lindsey and Kerry Kurt Phillips. Rutherford summed it up best in his 2019 Hall of Fame induction speech when he said, “There is no greater partner, no better person I could have achieved this honor with and no one that I respect more.”

Rob McNeilly

Rob McNeilly is Tennessee Division CEO of Synovus Bank. In this role, McNeilly is responsible for the Synovus franchise in the Tennessee markets of Nashville and Chattanooga.  He is based in Nashville.

McNeilly assumed his current role in December 2017.  He is a 41-year veteran of the banking industry; he previously was Chairman and CEO of SunTrust Bank, Middle Tennessee for 12 years.  In his career at SunTrust, where he served for 34 years, he was an Executive Vice President, Commercial Line of Business Manager responsible for sales and service delivery to business clients whose revenues range from $5MM - $250MM in size. McNeilly also previously served as Chairman, President & CEO of SunTrust Bank, Alabama, a $375M community bank serving the financial needs of north Alabama since 1889. McNeilly began his career with SunTrust Bank in 1984 at Third National Bank (purchased by SunTrust in 1987).  He started as an Assistant Vice President in the National Department and was promoted to Vice President and assigned to the Metropolitan Commercial Lending Department in 1987, then to Senior Vice President in Credit Administration where he served until 1993 when he relocated to Florence, Ala.

McNeilly is active in both the Nashville and Florence communities.  Currently he serves on the board of Goodwill Industries, Leadership Nashville, the YMCA of Middle Tennessee, the Middle Tennessee Council of Boy Scouts, the Music City Bowl and the Nashville Public Education Foundation. He is a graduate of Leadership Shoals and Leadership Nashville. McNeilly is a graduate of Tulane University and the Stonier Graduate School of Banking. McNeilly resides in Nashville with his wife, Caroline, along with three grown children, Margaret Thompson, Tate and Robert McNeilly.

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