Faculty Focus features TONYA BUTLER

Music Industry Professor Gains Perspective From Clint Eastwood ‘Spaghetti Western’

Tonya was the cover feature in the River Valley Magazine in September 2016. View the magazine and article here.

By REED CARR
CSU Public Relations Intern

Tonya Butler, professor of music industry studies, is a big fan of Clint Eastwood movies. “For a Few Dollars More” she finds a lesson in self-determination.

A scene in the spaghetti western has a reverend gunslinger on a train bound for Sante Fe – but he plans to get off in Tucumcari. When he’s told the train won’t stop there, he looks at the man and says, “This train will stop in Tucumcari,” and pulls the emergency cord.

“There’s just something about that scene that gets me,” Tonya said. “The way I feel is somebody is always telling you about what’s not gonna happen or what can happen. Well I say this train is stopping there. That’s how I feel about my whole life. Don’t tell me what this train is doing. I’ll tell the train where to go.”

Tonya’s “optimistic, outgoing, and out of sight” personality is revered by her students and faculty members. It’s even helped her win a spot on the television game show, “Let’s Make a Deal.”

“It was so much fun,” Tonya said. “Wayne [Brady] was cool. He was laid back, but he was there to work. I got to meet him and give him a hug on stage. I won a living room furniture suite, wireless stereo, iPod Touch, and a $500 gift certificate to iTunes.”

Her comfortability in front of large groups has given her more than just furniture and electronics. She recently won the Toastmasters Humorous Speech Contest for the entire state of Minnesota.

“Toastmasters has humorous speech and international speech each year,” Tonya said. “You give a speech at club level and win it, then you go to the area level which is a bunch of clubs, then you do it at the division level which is a bunch of areas, then at the district level which is a bunch of divisions. I’m supposed to enter the international speech competition this Thursday which goes all around the world.”

Tonya was used to the hustle and bustle of Los Angeles, where she worked as an entertainment lawyer. The Midwest lifestyle has been a big change.


“Living here in Minnesota and being at MSU has really taught me to take things in stride a little bit more.” – Tonya Butler


“I’m a lot more patient than I used to be,” she said. “I think it has something to do with the climate and the students here. Everyone is laid back and it kinda makes you laid back. Living here in Minnesota and being at MSU has really taught me to take things in stride a little bit more.”

Contributing to student’s education and making a positive impact is what motivates her. She wants to lead a life that gives back to people. With three years under her belt at Minnesota State Mankato, she’s helped spread big ideas and transfer her knowledge of the music industry to students who need it.


 You may not want to fly with Tonya Butler. Find out why in her 15-question quiz

  1. Favorite type of music? Earth Wind and Fire, Cameo, and Commodores
  2. Do you play any instruments? No, I’m the only faculty member in the department that that doesn’t play an instrument.
  3. What is it you like about music? I just love the way it makes you feel. There are very few things that can make you feel good when you’re feeling bad and music is one of them.
  4. Where is your hometown? Watts, California
  5. What did you do for fun growing up? Fun for me was singing in talent shows even though I wasn’t a great singer and reading and learning even outside of school. I was one of those kind of kids. I was a little nerdy.
  6. Would you rather watch a movie or read a book?    I would rather watch a movie. I like to see someone else’s interpretation. “The Good the Bad and the Ugly.” That is my movie.
  7. Which superpower would you choose?    I would not want to read minds or see the future. I know that. Super speed so I can run fast and do stuff fast.
  8. Which fad do you wish would come back, and which do you wish would disappear? I wish skinny jeans would go away. I wish bell bottoms would come back and platform shoes. I’d like flared leg jeans. I miss those.
  9. Do you collect anything? Yes, I collect black angels. So, whether they’re ceramic or wooden or little statues, dolls, paintings; anything black angel.
  10. Are you in any clubs or organization? I’m a member of The Recording Academy. I’m the chair of business and industry for the College of Music Society. I’m a member NABFEM, which is the National Association of Black Female Executives of Music and Entertainment.
  11. What would you do if you weren’t a professor? If I wasn’t a professor, I would be a motivational speaker. I like to share stories.
  12. What does your perfect day include? My perfect day would be waking up when I want to, speaking or teaching for an hour or two, going to the mall, shopping or watching a movie, and then just spending time with family. Nothing special. I don’t have to be on a yacht or on a beach. I’ve done all that.
  13. Who is your hero/heroine? I have a friend; her name is Rhea. She has bone marrow cancer. She is like the bravest, most spiritual, person I’ve ever known. She’s my hero.
  14. Where in the world would you like to live? I’d probably want to live somewhere back in California, in southern California somewhere because I’d be closest to my family.
  15. What is the most courageous thing you’ve ever done? Jumping down the slide on a plane that had to emergency land. You don’t want to fly with me. I’ve had it happen three times.

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