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Mass Comms Student wins 3 Minute Thesis Competition

Keith Evans stood among the finalists in the 3MT, or 3 Minute Thesis competition. Looking around at his competitors, he felt the odds were stacked against him. Most were PhD students; he is currently working toward a master’s degree in mass communications. His competitors were from various colleges at BYU, and most of their theses involved complex or scientific topics; Evans’ thesis was on how country music lyrics have changed in the past 20 years.

Even though he used to perform as a member of BYU’s Vocal Point and currently performs in a band and participates in community theatre on the side, he found himself terribly nervous just before his presentation. But he kept his composure and won the competition. He said he owes it to his decision to play to his strengths.

“If I was going to win the contest it wasn’t necessarily going to be on a really intricate, complicated explanation. It was going to be more on showmanship than anything else,” Evans said.

Evans decided on his topic after talking about country music with a friend. They both assumed country music was perceived by the majority of people as a “squeaky-clean” genre of music. His assumption and further questioning led him to make the project his master’s thesis.

“I think one of the values of academic study is to stop taking things for granted and really look at what’s there,” Evans said.

Through his research he found that there is a significant increase in the mentions of violence, sex and substance use in country music compared to 20 years ago. The consumption of alcohol, for example, has tripled in the number of times it’s mentioned in popular country music.

John Taylor, the former Latter-day Saint prophet, said, “It is true intelligence for a man to take a subject that is mysterious and great in itself and to unfold and simplify it so that a child can understand it.” Evans believes this is what 3MT invites students to do.

“It really helps us see what we’ve actually got here without all the fancy academic bells and whistles that the average layperson would not understand,” Evans noted.

Evans is the recipient of a $5,000 prize, but winning the competition brought more value to him than just money.

“A deeper understanding of what’s going on in pop music is educating me as to what I want to do as a future participant in the music industry, whether it’s marketing, or PR for a band or something like that,” Evans stated.