"Music, as an art, has an importance that can never be overstated," Peter Guralnick said in his lecture on the work of music producer Sam Phillips. Guralnick, a biographer and music historian, spoke to a group of approximately 275 students, faculty and community members Tuesday night. Guralnick's lecture was the first in the Jepson Leadership Forum series.

This year's forum theme is "Culture Shock: the Art of Leading Society." Kristin Bezio who organized the Forum along with fellow leadership professor Peter Kaufman, said that she and Kaufman both shared an interest in the arts and fiction, and that was how they decided on that theme. The forum will focus on the relationship between people and culture and how each influences the other.

"We thought having a Forum that highlights the work of culture as leadership and to leadership would be beneficial to both students and colleagues," Bezio said.

Guralnick's lecture explored the work of Sam Phillips, the founder of Sun Records and the music producer who discovered Elvis Presley. Phillips also worked with Howlin' Wolf, Jerry Lee Lewis and Johnny Cash.

Bezio said Guralnick had been selected to speak as part of this series because they were looking for someone to talk about the music industry as a part of culture. The other speakers in the series are focusing on "global culture" such as theater, television or photography.

"Guralnick is an expert not only in a wide variety of musicians and genres, but in other parts of the industry," Bezio said.

Guralnick is currently writing a book on Phillips' life and has interviewed him extensively. He said Phillips was one of the most positive people he had ever met. He said Phillips had a talent for seeing and convincing his artists of the power of their own inspiration.

Guralnick said Phillips "prided himself on having a mind of his own," and that mind had made him musically, socially and politically unique. Guralnick said Phillips had used his unique personality to make him a leader, rather than an outcast.

Guralnick's lecture focused on Phillips' ability to lead by example and his ability to bring out the best in his artists.

"Sam Phillips nurtured, he cherished every one of his artists," Guralnick said. "What he prided himself on most of all was looking into a man's soul and seeing what he himself could not."

The next speaker in the Forum is Giles Gunn . He will discuss how culture shapes many aspects of the world, including foreign policy, economics and people's views of others. That event will be held at 7 p.m. Oct. 23 in the Jepson Alumni Center.

Contact reporter Katie Evans at katie.evans@richmond.edu