By Kyle Gee
Four years ago when a start-up a cappella group, InsideOut, struggled to sell their first compact disk, they came to Kumen Skinner for help.
Skinner, the BYU Bookstore music and video department supervisor, listened to the group”s CD, Innocence, and agreed to help them promote and sell it in the Bookstore. Skinner”s special management style helped InsideOut grow in popularity and become widely known as one of the finest all-vocal groups in the West.
His willingness to spotlight new music artists and help them get their feet off the ground is just one reason why Skinner recently received the excellence in retail management award at the 2003 Pearl Awards.
The Pearl Awards, sponsored by the Faith Centered Music Association, honors excellence in Latter-ay Saint entertainment. This year”s awards show honored Skinner and 30 other individuals, including Senator Orrin Hatch and former Mormon Tabernacle Choir conductor Jerold Ottley.
Kathleen Hill, a FCMA representative, said the association includes a category for retail store managers in the Pearl Awards because retailers are the front-liners in stores that make contact with customers purchasing LDS music.
“The FCMA thinks that those that go the extra mile in support of our music industry should be recognized,” Hill said in an e-mail.
Hill said Skinner was nominated for the retail manager award by more than one individual or organization and received enough votes from the members in the first round to qualify as a finalist. During the final round, he beat two other finalists in his category.
“I have no clue why I was nominated,” Skinner said, who was somewhat surprised and embarrassed when he was notified about his nomination.
Rowdy Symons, creative services manager at the BYU Bookstore, has worked with Skinner on several promotions.
“He”s a nice, pleasant, humble man dedicated to his work and his beliefs,” Symons said. “He really deserves this award.”
During his acceptance speech at the Awards, Skinner expressed his appreciation to the Bookstore customers and the artists who provide the bookstore with good LDS-type material.
Skinner started working at the BYU bookstore as a student in 1978 stocking bottles of lotion. He later transferred to the school supplies department in the bookstore and after graduation became a supervisor for the Ramsees exhibit at the BYU Art Museum. He later worked as an assistant manager at the MTC Bookstore before accepting a transfer to be supervisor in the music and video department of the BYU Bookstore in 1992.
Skinner said his department is successful because they take care in providing what customers want. He also attributes their achievement to being honest not only with customer but also vendors.
“It”s always amazing when we call up a vendor and tell them that there was an error to their credit rather than to our credit,” Skinner said. “They”re rather surprised.”
Symons said he”s impressed with the great breadth of selection for Latter-day Saints listeners and viewers that Skinner provides.
“Kumen does the best that he can given the circumstances to gather the best materials and media that”s out there for Latter-day Saints, and that”s a pretty difficult task for the world we live in,” Symons said.
Ron Simpson, from Tantara Records, a BYU-based music label, said he and Tantara Records nominated Skinner for the Pearl Award.
“There”s a huge degree of trust with Kumen and Tantara,” Simpson said. “We love working with him.”
The Pearl Awards show will be broadcast on KTVX, ABC4 on Sunday, July 13.