JWU Concert Pays Tribute to Haley Sisto’ s Memory

In typical years, Professor Julie Viscardi-Smalley’s SEE3060: Concert & Event Production Management class culminates in a live concert booked, planned, promoted and executed by the students.

But this term, the entire event — from platform and booking to promotion — needed to be rethought for a virtual environment. So much would be different about the logistics and planning. No set to be built; no seating charts or signage to be mocked up; no lighting schematics to be plotted out.

But going virtual presents its own set of challenges: How do you stoke excitement for a purely online event? How do you pivot from posting flyers around campus and other word-of-mouth strategies to focusing solely on social media to reach your intended audience in cyberspace? It required a totally different mindset for the student team of organizers.

“Haley Sisto made a huge impact on everyone involved in her life.”

Be the Match: Paying Tribute to Haley Sisto
One aspect remaining unchanged: Every SEE3060 class chooses a charitable cause close to their hearts, and this term’s pick — Be the Match, a global nonprofit that connects patients with their donor match for a life-saving marrow or blood stem cell transplant — was an especially emotional one.

Haley Sisto, a good friend of JWU Hospitality Management student Danielle Flores, passed away at age 22 after a 10-year battle with non-Hodgkin lymphoma and Common Variable Immunodeficiency. In 2019, Sisto began working with Be the Match to find a potential bone marrow donor; she died from complications from her transplant.

“Haley Sisto made a huge impact on everyone involved in her life. She was such a kind and caring person,” explains Flores, who served as SEE 3060’s liaison with Be the Match. “I met her through my sister, who was one of her best friends. Since my sister and I are close in age, we had similar friend groups and would hang out with each other’s friends. Haley ... was the type of person that was friends with everyone, and she made everyone smile and laugh all the time.”

It was Flores who created the moving video tribute to Sisto that played at the start of their event, which ended up being titled Jammin’ with JWU. Her goal was to personalize the huge impact an organization like Be the Match can have on cancer patients’ lives: “So many people with stories like Haley’s can be helped, and I wanted to raise awareness and help other families in need.”

Maximizing the ’80s Theme
With the charity secured, the event needed a headliner. Through a connection, Marketing team lead Kayla Gurrieri secured Colorado DJ h0usewife, who brought virtual event experience and was responsive to the team’s ideas for graphics and visuals to tie the event back to JWU.

Prior to the event, MC and Operations Team Lead Eliza Raynard spoke with DJ h0usewife and Be the Match to work out messaging and break down the timing of the event. “From those conversations, I was able to write my MC statements to encompass the mood and purpose of the event,” notes Raynard. h0usewife’s DJ set was the main event, bookended by segments about Sisto and Be the Match’s mission; the event concluded with a DJ Q&A.

“So many people with stories like Haley’s can be helped.”

Putting on a concert is a massive collaborative effort, and since much of the concert’s impact needed to be heavily visual, Associate Professor Julie Viscardi-Smalley facilitated a collaboration with a team of Graphic Design students to create a comprehensive suite of branding graphics and marketing materials.

“Julie and her class chose was an 1980s retro theme,” notes Design team lead Ryan Wirth. “From there, the team and I drew up some ideas that were presented to the client. The idea that stuck out the most was an Nintendo Entertainment System cartridge that I had designed, as well as the name ‘Jammin’ with JWU.’”

With the punchy ‘80s look in hand, the team started work on designing motion graphics for maximum Instagram impact: “I couldn’t help but think that there had to be two main things: Audio from the artist, as well as moving elements. Concerts are very engaging with the audience, so I felt that the Instagram posts had to follow suit.”

To solidify the branding and make everything shareable, Wirth created a website where users could download one of 8 backgrounds of their choosing to match the “Jammin’ with JWU” theme.

In spite of some intermittent sound glitches, the show ran smoothly, with a Zoom crowd grooving along to DJ H0usewife’s upbeat house and techno sounds.

Gurrieri was pleased with the turnout: “I was most proud of how many people were able to make it to the concert after only marketing the event for a week. What I would have done differently was finding an artist sooner and being able to post and promote what the class was working on for the term.”

For Flores, it was a rousing success for raising awareness around a good cause. “I am very proud of how much of an impact we all made for Be The Match,” she notes. “We ended up with a total of $610 raised, which pays to put about 6 donors on the registry list. We also got 7 people to register to be donors. Given the time we had for the semester, I think our class did a fantastic job putting the concert together and benefiting the charity.”


Logo created for the ‘Jammin’ with JWU’ event run by SEE 3060 students.

Zoom audience for the SEE 3060 concert.