Big Sean performs at the Quest concert on Friday, April 24, 2015, at the SteelStacks. Big Sean released his latest studio album, "Dark Sky Paradise" in late February. (Chester Toye/B&W Staff)

University Productions debates quality over quantity of events


University Productions, one of the largest student-run organizations at Lehigh, works to bring different forms of entertainment to campus each year with both large- and small-scale events. Although the group has been operating for several years, the structure of its events is changing.

One change occurred in January 2015 when the Office of Student Affairs supported a pilot program to allow student organizations to host events with alcohol for those who are 21 and older, said Matt Kitchie, the adviser for University Productions and the director of student activities.

With this pilot program in place, University Productions hosted Oktoberfest in the fall and Spring Fest on the UC Front Lawn this past month. The group will also bring Rae Sremmurd and other performers for its QUEST event this May.

The organization is broken up into five branches: movies, comedy, arts and excursions, special events and music. The music branch focuses on organizing large-scale events such as QUEST.

QUEST, an event that brings big-name artists such as Big Sean and Flosstradamus to the MusikFest Café and ArtsQuest Center at the SteelStacks, was one of the big changes University Productions has made since 2013.

Prior to 2013, however, University Productions hosted its spring concert event each year, which was known as Sundaze. The event, which was an all-day concert and carnival on Sayre Field, featured artists such as The Roots in 2009, Wiz Khalifa in 2011 and Sugar Ray in 2013.

Ali Fotinopoulos, ’17, the president of University Productions, said the venue was switched because of weather, lack of attendance and the desire of the group to hold events off campus.

“It was QUEST, but a different location,” Fotinopoulos said.

This year’s spring concert will mirror previous years. There will be an afternoon festival of activities at the Levitt Pavilion at the SteelStacks. The event will end with a performance by Rae Sremmurd.

While University Productions often holds a fall and a spring concert each year, Fotinopoulos said the organization is considering cutting performances in the fall to save money to hire an artist with a more expensive cost to perform in the spring.

The organization received about $202,000 in funding for the 2015-16 academic year, and $110,000 of that went to the music committee for the fall and spring concerts, according to Jonathan Densa, ’16, the previous president of University Productions.

“That’s erratically higher than all other branches of (University Productions),” Fotinopoulos said. “Next is comedy, and the last three (branches) are split evenly. With this money it includes concert booking, venues, rain locations, ticket prices, what type of artist you’re getting.

When choosing an artist, the music committee has to take multiple things into consideration.

“There’s so much going into choosing an artist,” Fotinopoulos said. “There’s three huge variables that can effect how we get our artists, and it’s frustrating when people ask why we can’t get a particular person. We have to consider price, their availability, and tour dates.”

Other schools such as Lafayette College and Bucknell University had performances in the past from the Chainsmokers and Darius Rucker, respectively.

“University Productions is more than one spring concert, even though that’s what the organization is best know for programming,” Densa said. “Even though we may be a similar school to those mentioned in terms of the size of the student body, we may not be the same size in terms of programming boards or budgetary dollars. In terms of being mainstream, everyone’s music interests are subjective.”

University Productions begins the process by working to determine the music tastes of the student body by conducting multiple surveys throughout the year. When they have those results, it begins to work out the logistics.

“Prices are based on more than just a name alone,” Densa said. “Prices can depend on availability, touring routes, et cetera. Sometimes the artist has competing offers and their schedules change. The process is very dynamic.”

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