Rolling With Rockers

(Photo by Duane Zehr)

Additional images

Matt Hawkins
May 30, 2017

Stress of a long planning process and hectic setup melted in the lights and sounds of indie rock Bastille rocking Bradley’s Renaissance Coliseum one April night. The concert, sponsored by the Activities Council of Bradley University, gave student organizers a firsthand event-planning experience.

“What a feeling to see it come together,” said ACBU Featured Entertainment Coordinator Brooke Engerman ’19, a professional writing and advertising major from Dunlap, Illinois. “It was cool to look down on the students and watch them singing and dancing.”

The enjoyable night took seven months of work to become reality. ACBU’s 18-member concert team surveyed Bradley students in the fall to see what bands would be popular on campus. From there, student organizers worked with a middle agent to book a band and prepare a spring semester promotions campaign.

Bradley students learned in January the top band in their survey results would make Peoria one of only two college stops on its tour. Bastille earned a near-record campus vote total in the fall, and students showed their support by selling out the venue’s student section.

Concert day began early and ended late for ACBU and Renaissance Coliseum staff. Event staff put in a 20-hour stretch beginning with security at 6 a.m. By the time the last of Bastille’s five semis left Peoria at 2 a.m., students had set up the stage, assisted with sound check, run errands, staffed the dressing rooms, helped security and tore down the set.

“It was amazing to see the team’s work ethic,” said ACBU President Kelly Wrobel ’18, a public relations major from Tinley Park, Illinois. “We tried to send part of the crew home after the concert because it had been such a long day, but they wouldn’t leave because they were so dedicated.”

Long hours came with an unexpected perk: a lot of interaction with the band and its crew. At the band’s request, students took them out to eat at local popular dining spots and showed them the campus. During lulls in the setup, concert staff had opportunities for lengthy conversations with the musicians.

Bastille’s management also allowed student newspaper staff to photograph the event and used those photos in official social media and marketing materials.

“It’s unheard of for a band to work directly with us,” Engerman said. “It was hard not to be star-struck with all our interaction, but they really did care about the student experience. They made an amazing night that much better for us.”

ACBU staff gained more than fun memories from the year of work. They developed a sense of community and leadership skills that will be beneficial as they prepare for the real world.

For Wrobel, the event was a confidence boost as she considers a career in higher education student services. For Engerman, the experience added insight into a new professional field.

“Leadership was out of my comfort zone at the beginning of the year, but I grew into it,” Engerman said. “It was a privilege to be trusted with the process, not a task. It was enjoyable, not a burden.”