Eighteen months after Mike Williams turned his focus to his music career, he was in the pocket. Then, the world stopped.
“I watched things close down slowly because of the pandemic,” he said. “I knew I had to move, shift and do something different. I saw an advertisement for a master’s degree program. It wasn’t something I knew I was going to do right away, but then I saw the advertisement again.
“It started out as a joke with a couple of friends talking about getting our master’s degrees. A month later, I was filling out applications and the process had started.”
Williams’ graduation from the online Master of Business Administration (MBA) program at Bowling Green State University (BGSU) in May 2021 coincided with the return of live music.
“I would perform at bars, restaurants, wineries, receptions, corporate events — you name it,” he said. “It was very exciting. Now, inquiries are flying in again. I got to a point where I had to tell people to let me get to May.”
Williams has a natural passion for music, as he started playing piano and singing when he was 10 years old. He now performs with the indie rock/alternative rock band Moths in the Attic and has recorded as a solo jazz saxophonist. He goes by the moniker Mike Williams on Sax.
“My father’s side of the family is all musically inclined,” he said. “We joke and say it runs in the blood. My maternal grandmother believed that music stimulates the brain, so that was the first introduction into it. It was going to happen one way or the other.”
Bridge to Success
Williams, who grew up in Cincinnati, graduated with a bachelor’s degree in business management from Bowling Green in 2013. That same year, he founded a company called Live Muzik Group. He is currently the CEO.
“When I was in undergrad, I had a band on campus called Live Muzik,” he said. “When I graduated, the only way for us to still receive compensation from the university was to start it as an official business under my name.
“I then had the idea that I was ready to go out and conquer the world. I officially took the leap after four-and-a-half years working at Enterprise Rental Car. The timing felt great. I learned a lot in school and professionally. It’s exciting to pursue a passion.”
Williams loved the added bonus to earning his master’s degree while living close to the BGSU campus so he could utilize its resources.
“One of the most attractive things about this program was the fact that it was online and asynchronous, where you could go at your own pace within the week and access the material whenever you needed it,” he said. “I love that, too.
“Even as an entrepreneur, you have to do a lot of self-learning and self-teaching outside of the classroom and in different environments. The online MBA program really complemented that. Plus, I loved going back to Bowling Green.”
Marketing Management and Strategy, taught by Dr. Greg Rich, was the most applicable course in the program for Williams. It was also his favorite.
“It lends itself to my business,” he said. “It was the biggest eye-opener for me, and it helped me realize I could use this material everywhere. After I took that course, I started to realize I need to save some of these Microsoft Excel spreadsheets and some of this terminology. It’s good stuff.”
Setting the Tone
In addition to getting back to doing what he loves in front of live audiences, Williams will release his debut album in the fall of 2021. One of his favorite jazz musicians, Gerald Albright, will be a guest.
“I am excited to have him on the project,” said Williams. “I have done EPs, but this is my first full-length album.”
Williams, the third person in his immediate family to earn a master’s degree, might not have completed his higher education journey if it wasn’t for the support he received from his community.
“My family and friends were extremely stoked,” he said. “There has been a lot of push from the church where I am a musician for me to keep going. I didn’t expect that part.
“Our pastor says every week, ‘We’re going to push Michael to earn a doctorate.’ That’s a big question mark, but I am going to meet with Dr. Rich about the possibility of a Ph.D. in Marketing. Dr. Rich goes above and beyond, for sure.”
Either way, Williams is proud to have a second degree from the university he loves so much.
“I came to Bowling Green and never left,” he said. “This is a great program that will give you a full scope of all of the aspects of business.
“Don’t be afraid to reach out to the professors. Everyone pulls their weight and does their part — same thing with the advisors. Connie Disbro [online MBA program coordinator] has been a great resource. They walk you along the process. Just go for it!”
Learn more about BGSU’s online MBA program.