Alumni Spotlight: Jesse Michel ’10 & Patrick Conant ’11

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Hitting the Right Notes: Jesse Michel ’10 & Patrick Conant ’11

Asheville Music Guide founders Jesse Michel ’10 and Patrick Conant ’11

Asheville Music Guide is the most comprehensive calendar for music shows and concerts around the Asheville area. Co-founder Zach Boylston got the idea when he almost missed one of his favorite artists, Shaky Graves, play at the Grey Eagle. After speaking with a mutual friend, he reached out to Jesse Michel ’10 and Patrick Conant ’11 about developing a website where users could not only see all of the music-focused events in Asheville, but also discover bands at less popular venues that they may enjoy.

Michel and Conant met in the dorms during their first semester at UNC Asheville. Michel, a computer science major, transferred to UNC Asheville in order to obtain a well-rounded perspective on computer and web engineering.

“I was drawn to UNC Asheville specifically to add a liberal arts education to the technical skillset I was building,” he said. “It was more valuable to combine those disciplines than just have an engineering focus.”

Michel also completed his undergraduate research by building a site called Asheville Nightlife, which compiled food and drink specials, as well as major events in town.

“That really helped drive my entrepreneurial spirit in a lot of ways. The flexibility I was allowed and the freedom I was given showed me how important it is to see a task to completion,” he said. “I was able to see how a small team or individual can actually build an app or community.”

Conant also discovered a holistic approach to web design not only through his multimedia arts and sciences degree, but a philosophy course that examined important issues.

“We did a lot of reading in that class where when you fix one problem, you introduce another problem,” he said. “It was influential for me, this type of work, and getting interested in the ripple effect of introducing initiatives like these in the community.”

Asheville Music Guide (AMG) regularly meets with the Asheville Music Professionals group and other venue owners throughout the area to discuss their problems and ideas for effectively informing the Asheville community about the music scene.

“We’re happiest when we’re focused on the outcome and how this makes peoples’ lives easier and better,” Conant said. “It’s not so much about technical nitty-gritty details, and is more of a humanist view of technology.”

Many community members expressed their desires for kiosks downtown that would give show times and allow users to buy tickets, so Conant, Michel and Boylston set out to program and build the AMGiosk, Asheville's first touch-free, interactive live music kiosk. With prototypes rolling out this summer, by using the kiosk and a smart phone, tourists and locals alike will be able to discover music at some of Asheville’s most popular music spots.

As AMG expands and moves onto other applications of their technology, the company continues to be a labor of love for Boylston, Conant and Michel.

“This is something we built out of the passion and desire to exist,” Conant said.