Posted by Ryan Chase on 12/02 at 02:14 PM
Every Friday at noon during the fall and spring semesters, a band performs on the first floor lounge of the HUB-Robeson Center. It’s called the Noontime Concert Series. Masterminded by SPA (Student Programming Association) and funded by the student activity fee, the Noontime Concert Series, in the past, has offered an eclectic selection of outfits stretching the entire musical soundscape.
The SPA Noontime Concert Series inhabits a relatively small space that reverts back to the chair-saturated lounge area when the show ends. The HUB does not need to over-extend itself to accommodate the band, and the band (looking for an opportunity to perform and further expand its audience) can satisfy its needs without much, if any, loss. It’s the perfect marriage.
I recently corresponded via email with Carolyn Lederach, the SPA Noontime Concert Series chair. She says she pays particular attention to representing a wide spread of music – classical, jazz, folk, etc. But as of late, the series’ oeuvre has largely been restricted to acoustic-based music, much to the chagrin, she says, of the audience who wants rock music.
This is one of the shortcomings of the series. In the past, it has showcased such acts as Andrew Jackson’s Jazz Ensemble, (which I attended and enjoyed thoroughly) and Pennharmonics. However, by trending towards similar sounding acoustic-based acts, it is running the risk of losing the renown and notoriety it once held in providing a glimpse into styles of music we might otherwise not hear on the radio or through our iPods.
Acoustic-based music faces no danger of extinction—it’s everywhere. It’s understandable considering the flexibility and ease in which it provides its artists and hosts. Nevertheless, if the Noontime Concert Series considers diversity a point of emphasis for its program, perhaps it should intensify its search for more varied acts.
According to Carolyn Lederach, they receive “emails from artists, managers, booking agents about wanting to play on campus.” They also accept submissions from Sonicbids.com. Perhaps they should adopt a more aggressive role and pound the pavement, so to speak, to seek other bands, especially ones who do not frequent sites like sonicbids.com. Also, they might benefit from holding student showcases more often, as opposed to once or twice each semester.
Outside of band selection, the Noontime Concert Series should also take another look at its promotion plan. While I enjoyed Andrew Jackson’s Jazz Ensemble, I have not returned for a show since. The schedule should be accessible to more students than those passing through the HUB during lunchtime.
The SPA isn’t entirely to blame, of course. The audience has just not been responsive. Penn State is a university of students that putatively craves “the other” - the new and different. But when we are given an opportunity to hear new kinds of music, what do we do? We complain. Perhaps if students look up from their cell phones, they would see this alternative outlet blooming right in front of them. More constructive audience feedback could help the series. With time, it has the potential to flourish.
In order for the two sides to reconcile, somebody has to give. Perhaps the SPA could take the first step. Mix it up more frequently and see what happens. Indeed, it may already be happening this Friday. iToombs, an up-and-coming rapper and clothing designer from Brooklyn, is a formidable start:
When: Friday, December 3rd
Where: HUB 1st Floor Lounge
Author: Ryan Chase
Bio: Ryan Chase is a senior at Pennsylvania State University, majoring in English and Sociology. In his free time, he enjoys writing, reading, woodcarving, and playing the guitar. Outside of most rap and opera, he listens to every type of music, but he prefers classic rock and jazz. His favorite artists are Robert Johnson, Heatmiser, and Minor Davis & the Fuzzy Slippers.
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