One Night Only: Students Produce + Promote Live Concert

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News of JWU’s Concert and Event Production class has traveled halfway around the world to the Netherlands. Isabella Harpenau, from Amsterdam, and Sanne Huizer, from Rotterdam, signed up for the class after hearing rave reviews about it from former JWU exchange students back home.

Why is the class causing such a stir? The students agree that being able to produce a live concert is a game-changer. They don’t have that opportunity at their universities back home, which focus more on theory and industry terminology, and producing basic events like meetings. “This class is way more specific,” says Eva Maria Gonzalez Escartin, from Barcelona, Spain, another exchange student in the class. “I want to work in the music industry, the concert industry, so that’s why this is nice. It’s an actual concert.”

Video:  Assistant Professor Viscardi-Smalley and Concert and Event Production students bring concert to life at JWU

Assistant Professor Julie Viscardi-Smalley, JWU Providence Campus, who teaches the class and has a professional background in concert production, says the course offers the best of both worlds. Half of the time is dedicated to learning the theory and principles of concert promotion and production, and the other half is spent planning and executing a live concert. That, she says, is what makes JWU’s Sports, Entertainment, Event — Management (SEEM) program stand out from other universities’ event programs.

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WONYÀE (Far Left) and DJ KRAZMATIC (Far Right) performing

Learning the Ropes and Collaborating
From the first time the class meets, and through the post-concert debrief, students learn all aspects of planning, producing and executing a concert. Viscardi-Smalley describes the many aspects of pulling it all together:

“Students research why they would put on an event and back up those decisions with research and data. Then they need to make it happen. So, they look for artists, scout them, and onboard them — talking about the requirements they would need to come in the door and play a successful show. They assess the venue to see if it’s going to be a great place for the show, and they come up with a marketing plan to get people in the door. They design the event, come up with a concept and a theme, and execute that through their event design, layout and hospitality elements.”

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Students watch Myles Bullen Up Close

On-Campus Advantage
One of the big advantages for the class is being able to hold the concert at Pepsi Forum in Providence, an on-campus venue space with a stage, lighting and sound system already in place. Students get to work with venue staff and lighting and sound techs. They hire JWU Campus Safety & Security and make sure the location is ready to go for the show — just as they would working in the concert industry.

Thanks to Viscardi-Smalley along with Assistant Professor Jeff Drury and Associate Professor and Department Chair Deana Marzocchi, both from the College of Engineering & Design, the class also collaborated with a group of graphic design students to create the marketing materials for the show. Using the name of the concert, Equinox, the students pulled together a cohesive brand and design for banners, posters, videos, wrist bands, VIP passes and more.

Viscardi-Smalley, who set up the collaboration with the design students, said it is “much more closely aligned with the real-world experience of concert promotion.” In the past, the Concert and Event Production students created the materials themselves. “Now, the students have the opportunity to participate in design consultations and spend more time strategizing and executing a marketing plan.”

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Show Time
With one week to go before the concert, enthusiasm among the students was high as they went over last-minute details. They worked in teams of two and three for operations, talent, hospitality, décor and sponsorships. For the more encompassing areas, like marketing and promotions, everyone lent a hand.

“It was very much a collaborative effort, and that's something I would like to take outside of this class.”

On the day of the concert, the students arrived at Pepsi Forum a good 3 hours early to take care of sound and light checks, and to set up the check-in space, signs and banners, tables and chairs, and food and beverages.

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Myles Bullen and Catherine Briones prepping for the show

The night’s lineup of talent made for an eclectic show: performance artist and storyteller Myles Bullen; singer and songwriter Wonyáe; and DJ Krazmatic, who is also a JWU student. As they arrived, Catherine Briones ’20, showed them to their dressing rooms and checked in with them throughout the night to make sure they had everything they needed.

As guests started to appear, they were checked in, given wristbands, and greeted by the students who pulled the evening together. The performance space is comfortable and open and they were able to hang out close to the stage to watch the show up-close. They were mostly JWU students and were excited about having the show right on campus.

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Reijour (Ray) Lobos ’20, a marketing major with a strong interest in the music industry, hosted an Instagram takeover, took photos and shot some video. “I like how the team was really heavy on communication,” said Lobos. “It was very much a collaborative effort, and that's something I would like to take outside of this class.”

Concert Recap
During class after the concert, Viscardi-Smalley and the students held a worthwhile debrief. They spoke about the concert with excitement, expressing why they want to work in this industry, and why this class was so important for thier future.

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Concert and Event Production students and Assistant Professor Viscardi-Smalley

Grace Brandon ’20, a Sports, Entertainment and Events — Management major, talked about why producing a concert was such a fantastic experience: “The highlight of any concert for me would be when you take a moment to just stop what you’re doing and listen to people enjoying the music, laughing, creating all these memories, especially when you’re on the event planning side of it. You know that you’re responsible for giving people the opportunity to actually create those memories and be a part of something that you design and work so hard towards creating.”

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