Mitchell Solarek, founder and president of Maximum Artist Group, has established a strong national presence by protecting the creative integrity of his clients. For more than 25 years, the Nashville-based executive has shaped an impressive body of work in music, television, and fashion.
In 1998, at the behest of music producer David Foster, Mitchell created and managed the Christian boy band Plus One, a young five-piece group who eventually landed lucrative endorsement deals, international tour offers, a gold-certified debut album, and a pair of No. 1 singles at Christian radio.
Around this time, record labels took note of Natalie Grant, whose powerful voice rivaled that of Celine Dion and Whitney Houston. As an unknown artist, a handful of pop deals fell apart before she joined the roster of Curb Records in Nashville. To this day her career remains vital in the Christian music industry, with seven Grammy nominations and five Dove Awards as Female Vocalist of the Year to her name.
One of his highest-profile clients was Mary Mary, a Gospel duo of sisters Erica and Tina Campbell. As their manager, Mitchell led them to WeTV in 2011 for the series Mary Mary (for which Mitchell was Executive Producer through 2017) – thus, becoming the first reality show for a Gospel artist.
In 2018, four of Maximum’s artists – Danny Gokey, Natalie Grant, and Tauren Wells – landed Grammy nominations in the Gospel/Contemporary Christian Music fields. Other Maximum Artist Group clients include pop singer-songwriter Riley Clemmons, British speaker/author Charlotte Gambill, soulful newcomer Koryn Hawthorne, songwriter-producer Bernie Herms, urban-inspirational icon Donald Lawrence, and hip-hop duo Social Club Misfits.
BNA Live, a new booking agency catering to churches, has also been added to the Maximum Artist Group portfolio, which includes a record label, a management firm, a production company, and a music publishing division that includes country hits like Jake Owen’s “Alone With You” and Tyler Farr’s “Whiskey in My Water.” In early 2018, Mitchell relinquished most of the day-to-day tasks to his staff, allowing him to chase new opportunities.
Looking ahead, Mitchell is launching more TV projects and expanding the Maximum Artist Group roster, including a partnership with creative director Laurieann Gibson, whose credits range from In Living Color to Lady Gaga. Mitchell has expanded offices to Los Angeles to accommodate the demand for content creation, and expects to add an office in New York City.
Dennis, a 34-year veteran of the music and entertainment industry, joined Maximum Artist Group in January 2016. As Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, Dennis oversees all company operations, business and legal affairs, and is involved in strategic planning for each of the firm’s clients.
First beginning in marketing at Word Records in 1985, moving into the manager role for Steven Curtis Chapman (1987-1990), and then back to the corporate side of the business, Dennis has held leadership and executive positions at major entertainment companies, including Reunion Records, Benson Music (both now part of Provident/Sony), and Worthy Publishing, in addition to operating his own agency (1999-2012). Notably, as Vice President of Marketing at Benson Music (Provident/Sony), he oversaw the faith-based team for Bob Carlisle’s Double-Platinum Butterfly Kisses (2.5 million units sold), Fred Hammond’s Platinum-selling double-album Pages of Life, and 4HIM’s Gold album, The Basics of Life. As Vice President of Marketing at the boutique book house, Worthy Publishing (2012-2015), he led the publisher’s marketing team on John Hagee’s ECPA Gold Medal book, Four Blood Moons (over 700,000+ in print), and TheJeremiah Study Bible (over 250,000+ in print), the top-selling Study Bible in 2014. In all, Dennis’s efforts across his three-decade career have helped generate over $1 billion in retail revenue.
For nearly 10 years, Dennis has been an adjunct instructor at his alma mater, Belmont University, teaching Entertainment Distribution and Promotion, covering film, television, recorded music, and books, and has been a frequent speaker and/or panelist at industry seminars. In addition to his work at Maximum, Dennis began studies at Nashville School of Law in August 2018, fulfilling a 25-year dream to earn a law degree.
Originally from the small town of Platteville, Colorado, Kristi Brazell grew up with a love for music and a fascination with the "behind the scenes" side of the music industry. She holds a Bachelor of Business Administration degree with an emphasis in the Music Business from Belmont University. Upon graduation, her internship with Maximum Artist Management grew into a full-time staff position. During her 11-year tenure with the company, Kristi has led several initiatives including helping launch Maxx Music Publishing, which has had multiple #1 hits on the CCM and Country Billboard Charts, as well as handling writer and publisher communications. She eventually moved into working with Grammy-winning writer/producer, Bernie Herms, before shifting into the day-to-day management position for the firm's flagship artist, Natalie Grant who, during Kristi’s term, has garnered seven Grammy nominations along with two albums debuting at #1 on the Billboard charts. In addition to working with Natalie, Kristi also manages the Dare to Be brand, which began as a live event tour for women and has had nearly 100,000 attendees.
A native Floridian and a pastor's daughter, Penny Railey, developed her love for music in the church. Throughout her life and career, she's been an avid CCM fan, but initially pursued a career in marketing and advertising. A seasoned 18-year veteran of marketing and advertising, she's worked with such national brands as Harley-Davidson, NASCAR, “Deal or No Deal,” “The Price Is Right,” and Chevrolet. Her passion for music finally led her to pursue a career in the music industry, first working at one of Nashville's largest recording studios (The Sound Kitchen), an indie Christian record label,and, finally, landing in artist management where she has worked with several artists under the Maximum Artist Management umbrella. Most notably, Railey co-manages Danny Gokey of “American Idol” fame. Gokey's accolades include a recent Grammy nomination for Album of the Year, three #1 Billboard album debuts, a certified Gold single in "Tell Your Heart to Beat Again,” and three multi-week #1 Billboard singles. Gokey has toured with artists such as Taylor Swift, Sugarland, Tim McGraw, Toby Mac, Casting Crowns, Natalie Grant, and Mandisa.
Growing up in Houston, Texas, Ben Pogue was raised in a musical family where his passion for the music industry began. He moved to Nashville after high school to attend Belmont University, graduating in three years with a Bachelor of Business Administration degree with an emphasis in Production. Early in his Belmont career, Ben interned with Maximum Artist Management where he helped plan and implement the music industry’s first ever live-streamed concert for Maximum Artist client, Danny Gokey. While at Belmont, Ben’s studies included terms in London, England and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil where he immersed himself in the internal workings of the international music industry. He brought his experiences and network back to Maximum where he’s been a vital team member for over four years. Ben’s roles include overseeing the day-to-day management duties for GRAMMY Award-winning songwriter/producer, Bernie Herms, and newcomer Pop artist, Riley Clemmons. He is also the primary point person in Maximum’s relationships with all major Digital Service Providers on behalf of all Maximum clients.
Phil Sillas is the most recent addition to the Maximum Artist Group team. A long-tenured veteran of the entertainment business, Phil’s role is as a manager and product developer concentrating on the Latin Christian market, with a focus on the worship music area, a category in which he’s been a significant catalyst over many years. He has a great eye for talent and knows how to create music that impacts audiences worldwide. Phil’s career spans over 32 years in the music industry with stints at major companies including Warner-Chappell Music, Word Music, and Worship Leader magazine, among others, along with his own TSG Records, which he will continue to head up. Sillas is based in San Luis Obispo, CA and will work through Maximum’s newly established west coast office in Los Angeles.
Originally from San Bernardino, California, Sandra Wall joined the Maximum Artist Group team in early 2019 as Executive Assistant to Mitchell Solarek in our Los Angeles-based office. With a passion for film and television that began in high school, she graduated from California State University San Marcos with a Bachelor of Arts in Visual Arts and a minor in Film Studies, and also recently completed a professional program at UCLA for producing in film and television. Throughout undergrad, she produced multiple short films, worked as a cinematographer for the NFL, was a member of the production crew for a local news station, interned for a talent agency, and worked on multiple local television commercials. With Maximum, Sandra’s responsibilities include day-to-day administration, as well as support for the development of Maximum’s involvement in film and television. Bilingual in English and Spanish, Sandra is also uniquely equipped to assist with Maximum’s growing Latin division.
Growing up in Cincinnati, OH with a love for music, Christine Blundred moved to Nashville shortly after graduating from Miami University (Oxford, OH) with degrees in Communications and Psychology. Her passion for the Christian entertainment industry led to a position as Executive Assistant at Thomas-Vasquez Entertainment, providing support for artists including Building 429 and 33Miles. She also spent time as the Administrative Assistant for an artist talent agency and Executive Assistant for the television show Spiritual Outdoor Adventures. After stepping away from the music business to utilize her creative and organizational skills in the education field for a season, Christine readily welcomed the opportunity to step back into the industry that had so greatly impacted her life. She joined Danny Gokey’s team in the summer of 2018 as a Management Assistant both in the office and on the road. Now, Christine officially joins Maximum Artist Group’s growing team, serving as Executive and Management Assistant in their Nashville office.