MCAB discusses spring concert planning process

By Middlebury Campus

Every year, Middlebury students hold their breath for the announcement of the spring concert performer. They hope to hear that a well-known artist is coming to rock their Saturday night. This year three DJs, Drop the Lime, White Panda and Savoy will be the putting on the big show.

“According to survey data, people want big-name bands,” said Hannah Wilson ’11 co-chair of the Middlebury College Activities Board (MCAB) Concerts Committee. “I think it’s very hard to provide that, because we have to toe a very delicate line between bringing in an artist that’s both affordable but also has name recognition and will put on a long enough set and a good enough show to warrant the amount of money that we’re paying them.”

The MCAB Concert Committee is in charge of planning this event. But this year the committee did not use up their entire budget. Furthermore, before the students heard who was coming on May 7, dining halls were not buzzing with rumors of an all-star performer, like last year’s Kid Cudi, making his or her way to campus. And the announcement came a week later than it did last year; students were curious.

But the late announcement of the spring concert performer and the club’s inability to use their full budget does not reflect the MCAB Concert Committee’s hard work in coordinating this show.

The committee issued five official offers and looked into over 70 different artists across genres. During this process, they were in search of a performer that was not of the hip-hop genre.

“I want the student body to know that we haven’t been sitting around not trying,” said Catherine Ahearn ’11, the other co-chair of the MCAB concerts committee who has been on the committee since fall 2007. “We’ve been working really hard.”

“Tours didn’t line up; various things just didn’t go our way,” added Wilson.

The first offer went out in November 2010. The performer, who will to remain unnamed, sat on the offer for a long time. But even before this offer went out, the MCAB Concerts Committee went through training, which was overseen by David Kloepfer, MCAB concert committee adviser and technical coordinator of the Center for Campus Activities and Leadership (CCAL). He explained that the committee was provided with a two-week long pre-training session in May 2010 and in September 2010 in order to understand everything that went into planning the concert.

“It’s a very complex process in general, and a performer has to want to play here,” Kloepfer said in an email. “Not all of them do.”

Everyone involved in the process agreed that finding a performer who is popular, interesting and within MCAB’s budget is not easy.

“We first throw around ideas with our committee to see what artists might be appealing to the Middlebury community,” said Wilson. “Then we investigate their availability, contact their agent and see what inclusive offers (their fee) may be.”
The MCAB Concert Committee receives all of their funding from the SGA. Just like any other club on campus, the committee acts autonomously throughout the year and only sees the SGA Finance Committee when they ask for funding.
Members of the SGA Finance Committee explained that they are in charge of making sure that the money they allocate to MCAB Concert Committee is spent efficiently and appropriately. This is because the money comes straight from the Student Activityies Fee, which is built into each student’s tuition. But the actual amount that the Finance Committee gives to the MCAB Concert Committee is not revealed to the student body.

“The Finance Committee has a policy of not disclosing the details of budgets given to groups, although I will tell you that MCAB receives a significant portion of funding from the Finance Committee,” said Will McConaughy ’11, the SGA treasurer and chair of the Finance committee, explained in an email.

The process of allocating funds is not completely transparent to the student body. Some students are weary of this reality. However, while this policy is not likely to change, MCAB has plans to revamp the process of planning the spring concert. There will now be a member of MCAB who sits on the Finance Committee.

“I can definitely say the Finance Committee will play a greater role in ensuring that each and every dollar allocated is spent with the maximum efficiency,” said member of the SGA Finance Committee Vincent Recca ’12. Recca believes that there needs to be more oversight and cracking down on how the MCAB Concert Committee spends its money since  not all of the money was spent this year.

The MCAB Concert Committee’s budget will not change next year, despite heated discussions amongst finance committee members. Some members wanted to see the budget decrease due to the fact that it was not all used this year but others thought that decreasing the budget would be detrimental to the student body as a whole.

The reality is that it is not easy to please everyone.

“I really liked being a part of the Regina Spektor concert, Fall 2007 maybe because it was my first show, but the concert also had a very different vibe from shows we’ve put on since,” said Ahearn. “It was a seated show and she had such a great presence.”

But many other students, such as SGA President Riley O’Rourke ’12, say that the Spring 2010 Kid Cudi performance was their most memorable spring concert. This concert was held in the Nelson Arena and it was open to students’ guests.
It is unlikely that the administration will allow another show like Kid Cudi to happen again, since the show presented logistical and security problems. As a result, the maximum capacity for the Kenyon Arena, O’Rourke noted, has been decreased for the show this year.

The good news is that a big-name show could be in the works for next year.

“The MCAB Concert Committee may be very different next year as far as membership and musical interests go. The chair next year is the one that brought in Kid Cudi last year,” said O’Rourke.