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Behind the scenes: Green Music Center explains performance choices

By Cameron Hatheway
On October 15, 2013

The GMC has become a focal point of activity on campus within the last year, and so have the many musicians that have played there. Jessica Anderson, the associated director of communications for the GMC, answered questions about booking and upcoming events in an exclusive interview.

STAR: How far in advance do you tend to book the bigger acts, and how often do you put together concerts/shows on short notice?
ANDERSON: It depends on the series - the classical, jazz and world music presented in the MasterCard Performance Series is booked more than a year in advance. For that season, we're already booking artists through May 2015. When we're talking about the On Campus Presents programming - more mainstream artists, comedians, and entertainers - those acts tend to be booked with a much shorter lead-time, sometimes only a few months from the event date.

STAR: Who decides on which acts to book, and what tends to be the criteria when selecting an act?
ANDERSON: One of the biggest criteria for selecting acts is the venue itself - Weill Hall is a venue built specifically for choral, vocal, and instrumental performance. It's not designed to support amplified music, so you won't see rock or hip-hop being programmed for that space.
However, when the 10,000-seat MasterCard Performing Arts Pavilion opens, we'll be able to present any number of genres, including those with amplified sound. Think of it as similar to Shoreline Amphitheater or Hollywood Bowl - and we'll be able to present the same acts you would see at those venues. The Artistic Planning team decides which artists will be scheduled at Weill Hall - including Robert Cole, long-time director of UC Berkeley's Cal Performances, and Rick Bartalini, a concert promoter who formerly worked at the Wells Fargo Center.
We factor in the artist's touring schedule, where else they are playing in the area, how much they cost to book, and data regarding their past ticket sales in the region. It's a long and formulaic process, actually.

STAR: Since the venue is on a school campus, how often are the students kept in mind when booking acts?
ANDERSON: On Campus Presents was conceived exclusively for students, and during last year's season we presented Matt Nathanson, Aziz Ansari and Wyatt Cenac - each of those performances was sold-out primarily by students. But again, the venue itself limits which "popular" acts we can currently bring to campus.
Over-amplified sound won't work in the concert hall, and another factor is our number of seats. A major artist who can sell 10,000-plus tickets is more likely to book at a larger venue in the Bay Area, because we can only do 1,400-seat concerts most of the year (5,000-seat concerts in the summer when the rear wall is open). The MasterCard Performing Arts Pavilion will completely change the music scene for SSU students.

STAR: As of the one year the Green Music Center has been open, what was the most popular or successful act?
ANDERSON: That would depend on your definition, I suppose - we've had a number of sold-out concerts since our opening in September 2012. The most well-attended concert so far has been Alison Krauss & Union Station during our Grand Opening weekend, with more than 5,000 tickets sold. The most notable indoor-only concerts have probably been Yo-Yo Ma and Wynton Marsalis with the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra. But Season Two has just begun, so we'll see what works well this year.

STAR: Will Lip Jam be held at Weill Hall again next year?
ANDERSON: I don't know about that - Lip Jam would be a private rental of the space through a student group, and that's something that my office wouldn't be "presenting" per se. But, we were really excited to see Lip Jam in Weill Hall last April and I'm sure that people on campus are already working out this year's details.

STAR: Do you think if more shows were catered specifically to the students, then more would attend?
ANDERSON: It depends on the kind of student you're talking about. Many students attend and enjoy the current programming - but mainstream programming will certainly appeal to a wider swath of the student body, and those performances will really kick in once the MasterCard Performing Arts Pavilion opens, currently scheduled for 2015. Once that venue is in place, there's really no limit to the artists we can present.

STAR: If students wish to request certain performers or artists to come to Weill Hall, how would they go about suggesting it to you or is that not allowed? Online petition?
ANDERSON: We love to receive input from students or anyone else - just send your suggestions to greenmusiccenter@sonoma.edu.


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