Cameron Mann has traded in an office of brick and glass for one of trees and meadow.
Perhaps not literally, but his new position as development manager for corporate and foundation support for Shelby Farms Park Conservancy promises to be more pastoral than musical, as his previous work with the Memphis Music Foundation proved to be.
In his new role, Mann will be focused on corporate and foundation support both regionally and nationally, working to raise the $2 million it takes every year to run the 4,500-acre park, one of the largest urban parks in the country. He comes in at a time when the conservancy is still in phase one of an ambitious 20-plus-year master plan to increase access and broaden usage, and as concerns over a proposed roadway through the park has emotions running high.
“It’s exciting and I’m looking forward to the challenge of it,” Mann said. He also gives credit to executive director Laura Adams, director of strategic operations Linda Brashear and director of development and communications Jen Andrews, as well as the rangers, who have done so much to put the master plan in motion. “A lot of amazing work has already been done, but certainly this is just kind of the beginning of the journey.”
Mann was born in New York City and moved in 1982 with his family to Memphis at age 5. He attended Memphis University School and then headed south for New Orleans and Tulane University, where he majored in American studies with minors in philosophy and communications. He graduated in 2000 and spent a year in London, working in international wholesale marketing for WorldCom.
In 2001, Mann’s father, Don, was starting up Young Avenue Sound, a recording studio in the Cooper-Young neighborhood that also housed the new label Memphis Records. He came home to work with his father and stayed on for seven years. It gave him the opportunity to work with the music and the music community, a longtime passion for one half of the band Lord T & Eloise.
At the Memphis Music Foundation, he helped launch the Music Resource Center, a membership-based program that works with artists and small-business owners focused on local music.
“It’s exciting and I’m looking forward to the challenge of it. A lot of amazing work has already been done.”
– Cameron Mann
Shelby Farms Park Conservancy
The mission is one of economic development for the music scene in Memphis, he said, “to use music as an economic engine for the city of Memphis and, in the process, help artists to be educated about the new music industry and to provide them with opportunities to increase their revenue streams.”
Though the ultimate goals may be different, Mann sees a seamless transition between the jobs. He’ll familiarize himself with the institutional knowledge of the park, of course, he said, but as far as the work itself, “It will involve grant writing and researching, as well as handling relationships with the corporate community. That’s stuff that I did at the Memphis Music Foundation.”
An avid user of the park’s amenities, Mann’s participation expanded when the Shelby Farms Greenline opened three years ago this month and the Music Foundation helped to provide bands and entertainment for the grand opening weekend block parties, as well as subsequent music-related events in the park.
He has known Andrews and Matt Farr, whose position he’s filling and who recently moved to Nashville to work with The Nature Conservancy, for some time. They’ve helped him to acclimate to the expectations and goals of working with Shelby Farms.
“I’ve always enjoyed the park and been passionate about the park as a user, and then it kind of kicked up a notch in the last few years as Matt and Jen have been keeping me apprised of all the developments over here and all the good work that they’ve done already in the first phase of the master plan.”
Mann’s labor is one of love; he’s built a career on promoting and developing two of Memphis’ greatest assets – original music and green space. His deep knowledge of nonprofits and community building come into play, as well, whether he’s working with a band of musicians or a herd of bison.
“I feel like I’m getting in on the beginning of a really exciting time for the park, but certainly there’s much work to be done in every aspect.”