For its annual music festival, the School of Music at the Wertheim allows students to experience every aspect of mega-event production.
By working on stage management, festival coordination, set design, sound engineering, ushering and performing, students gain hands-on experience under the guidance of faculty and professionals. From Oct. 26 to Nov. 10, the culmination of their dedication will be on display during this year’s 11-day music festival showcase.
“The School of Music is focused on providing real world experiences for our students," says Karen S. Fuller Veloz, interim director of the School of Music. "The FIU Music Festival provides this opportunity for experiential learning with music professionals across the globe.”
Fuller Veloz leads a department-wide master music production seminar focusing on several aspects of event organization and promotion geared toward the music industry. In her seminar, music students learn the specifics of press release writing and media relations, lighting and sound amplification, stage design and instrument placement, along with how to assess the needs of the audience.
“At both the undergraduate and graduate levels," Fuller Veloz adds, "students get the opportunity to be performers and producers through their ensemble and music production classes. It is one of the best real-world experiences in a concentrated, festival-like dynamic setting that a student can encounter throughout their academic studies here at FIU.”
Luis Aguilar Millan, Orlando Haddock and Pedja Kovacevic—graduate students in the orchestral conducting, jazz performance and music management and production programs, respectively—have been charged with stage management roles for the 11-day event. The trio is responsible for overseeing the execution of the event by managing rehearsals, coordinating performances and directing orchestras.
They say the experience has been somewhat taxing as they balance their time between school and work, but the rewards far outweigh the challenges. Per week, they each dedicate more than 20 hours to ensure the festival's success. When asked about the most rewarding part of his involvement with the festival, Haddock explained that the reward for his dedication will be seeing smiles on the faces of the audience.
“For our hard work, our greatest reward is yet to come,” Haddock says. “At the end of the first night when patrons tell us how much they enjoyed the production and can’t wait for next year, [that] is when our sacrifices will all be worth it.”
Speaking to what the audience can expect from attending the festival, Aguilar Millan says, "Music is art that lives through time. When we are on stage, we are recreating and giving life to a piece. The audience becomes a part of that piece. That experience can change them, change their lives and change their thinking. I hope that from the concert we can make the world a better place through music."
Kovacevic, one of the three stage managers, says that his vision for the future is seeing the festival develop in performance variety and length in order to attract, not only students, but also members of the wider community.
The demand for persons equipped with the necessary skills to produce a mega-event is ever increasing. Earlier this year, the nationally ranked Chaplin School of Hospitality & Tourism Management launched the first ever fully online master’s degree specializing in mega-event planning.