The latest excerpt from our profiles of industry ballers focuses on the CMA chief, with the awards show set to air on 11/13.

Sarah Trahern took a long and winding road with more than its share of obstacles to get to her pivotal role in the thriving country-music business. It’s hard to imagine why a Georgetown grad who found herself moving from producer to department head at C-SPAN at just 25 years of age would want to walk away from that groundbreaking cable network. After all, as the late pundit Christopher Hitchens wrote in the October 1991 Vogue, C-SPAN “boasts its viewers vote at twice the national average and also read many more newspapers and magazines than the average consumer.” Yet after eight years, including the 1988 and 1992 presidential campaigns, that’s just what Country Music Association CEO Sarah Trahern did.

Born in Champaign-Urbana, Ill., to a mother who played classical viola with the Oak Ridge Symphony Orchestra and the UT Opera Theatre in Knoxville, and a father who taught at the University of Illinois, she grew up going to Bill Monroe’s Bean Blossom Bluegrass Festival and taking violin lessons.

By the time her father became the chairman of the University of Tennessee English department, the pair were making trips to the Grand Ole Opry—and Trahern had moved to banjo and acoustic guitar. That she would find herself heading the CMA in 2014 was probably not on the bucket list for the young woman who’d grown up going to weekend bluegrass festivals around the Smoky Mountains with her father.

Although the youngster was exposed to the arts and the inherent value of creative expression, it was journalism that initially attracted her. At the same time, Sarah was plagued by mysterious foot issues, which required special shoes, then crutches and finally multiple surgeries. But she fought through it. Working at a political ad agency after graduation and starting her own production company, she soon arrived at C-SPAN, a network doggedly committed to representing both sides of every story.

It was at C-SPAN, under the tutelage of the legendary Brian Lamb, that she came to understand the deeper reality of television’s economics, as well as the critical need for a narrative arc, which has characterized not just her career but also her ability to connect disparate information for a much greater whole. Whether it was making sure she had the same number of Democratic and Republican talking heads, or marshaling the all-star song/video collaboration Forever Country: Artists Then, Now & Forever to celebrate the CMA Awards' 50th anniversary, Trahern reaches beyond the obvious to create a larger inclusion.

Read the entire profile here.