Turning up the music at HSN

As a Chicago Bulls fan growing up on Long Island, MARC BUJNICKI ’97 liked the idea of visiting Bradley because of its proximity to the Windy City. “We came out, took a tour, and I fell in love with the campus,” he says.

Marc worked for years in TV sports and news, thanks to opportunities he says originated at Bradley. A couple of years ago, his focus switched to a different type of entertainment — music with big-name talents. Named director of HSN Live Events last October, he is the force behind televised concerts with the likes of Josh Groban, Rod Stewart, Michael Bolton, and Lionel Richie (pictured with Marc, above). 

Since joining HSN as a show producer in September 2007, Marc has experienced the 35-year-old shopping network’s transformation into a network with multiple platforms. “We want to create experiences that can’t be replicated in many other places,” company CEO Mindy Grossman, a former leader of Nike, has explained. 

The singers’ performances — some live from the Venetian Palazzo Hotel in Las Vegas — are followed by opportunities for viewers to interact with the stars on Facebook, HSN.com, and Twitter. Thousands then pre-purchase the CD that is being launched, with delivery to their homes on the “street date” — industry lingo for the release date. 

Building a career

Marc’s career gained a solid footing during his busy student days, working first at the local PBS station and then for three years at CBS affiliate WMBD. Often, he worked in news during the week and sports on the weekends. He was a master control operator, cameraman, and then a videographer. Senior year found him courtside taping the action at Bradley basketball games. 

“My experience at Bradley, both real world and academic, was second to none. In New York or Los Angeles, you’re not going to get the hands-on experience that I had,” Marc comments. “My communication professors, Dr. Paul Gullifor and
Dr. Bob Jacobs, and I had a great relationship. Both were great mentors.”

Internships with CBS This Morning in New York and Nickelodeon at Universal Studios also pumped up his resume. Orlando’s warm weather sold Marc on Florida. “Two days after graduation, I packed up the house I was renting on Main Street with some Sigma Nu brothers, and my dad and I drove down to Florida.”

For the next few years, his jobs included operating the live truck for a new cable TV station in Orlando, producing for a digital channel operated by Nickelodeon, producing PGA Sunday Tour for USA Network, and later working on NBC’s iVillage Live talk show for a year. Then it was on to HSN, based in St. Petersburg, working overnight as a show producer. Soon he was asked to relaunch the network’s morning show. Marc and his boss created a dual-host format that was new to the TV shopping world. “We tried to make it more like a talk show. We saw the entertainment value of the show increase, which translated to increased revenue.” 

Then in 2009, HSN entered the music business. Marc began executive producing shows promoting singers such as Natalie Cole, Mary J. Blige, and Rod Stewart. “We saw a lot of success with that. Now we’re increasing the music platform. This year, we’re going to double the number of acts we bring to HSN.” 

As director of HSN Live Events, he travels frequently to New York, Los Angeles, and Nashville, meeting with executives at record labels. Music is part of Marc’s home life, too. His wife, Lisa, is a middle school band director. They live in Tampa with their two children.  

– Gayle Erwin McDowell ’77

Spice of life

Salsa spices up life for HASSAN WEHBE ’03, who learned about the Latin-influenced dance while studying for a master’s degree in biomedical engineering at the University of Miami. After returning to Peoria, he co-founded Peoria Latin Vibe dance school and has performed with the group throughout Illinois.

“I saw people dancing on campus, and it looked pretty cool. I joined the university salsa club, and the rest is history,” Hassan said about his time at Miami. 

The Caterpillar engineer shares the role of lead artistic director for the Peoria dance group with his wife, Denisse Gomez. He and the Latin Vibe have appeared at the Chicago International Salsa Congress as well as several events in the Peoria area. He has been active with the CASA-blanca fundraiser for CASA of Peoria County, co-chairing the event in 2012. Hassan and his dance partner, Bradley business professor Dr. Jennifer Robin (shown) won the CASA-blanca dance contest in 2011. 

He and his wife live in Peoria. 

– Bob Grimson ’81