By ABIGAIL SLAUGHTER
Due to source error, a previous version of this article said that Rocktoberfest did not happen. The event happened as a campus-wide rubber duck hunt.
The Campus Programming Board’s upcoming Big Spring Concert will be virtual this year. Unlike the usual gathering of excited students that meets in the Anderson Center for the show, concert goers will attend a Zoom call and view the performance put on many miles away.
The CPB sent out the Big Spring Artist Pick Survey on Feb. 1, asking students to pick their top choices out of a list of artists they wanted to perform at the Big Spring Concert. One of the many changes from previous semesters is letting students have the option to select non-musical entertainers instead of the usual bands and singers. Some of students’ choices include Valley, B.o.B, Echosmith and performer Antoni Porowski, a food and wine expert on the popular Netflix lifestyle makeover show Queer Eye.
“We want people to just have a good time. That’s our main purpose of even doing this,” says Huda Al-Bana, a senior biochemistry major and the president of CPB. She oversees all board events, working especially closely with board members in order to pull off a concert that will be unlike any other held at UMW.
The tickets for the Big Spring Concert will be free, which was done as an incentive for more people to attend. Unlike past shows, board members do not foresee a limit to how many people can attend the show this year.
The Feb. 1 survey received about 200 responses, many fewer than last year, and CPB is concerned about getting attendance for a virtual concert, not to mention their smaller events.
“I think that where we’re lacking is in interaction with the students,” said Al-Bana. “We can hold events all day but who wants to be on Zoom all day in classes and come to an event on Zoom again?”
A big obstacle for CPB has been a limited budget. With less money to put towards the concert, the board has to pay closer attention to what interests students so they do not waste their resources on a concert with little interest.
“An online concert is a whole different animal,” said Kayla Shaffer, a junior psychology major who is also one of CPB’s production chairs. For the Big Spring Concert, she handles show production and tasks involving the artist.
Shaffer thinks that having virtual events is easier in some ways. A typical Spring Concert requires funds for security, blockades, lighting and stages. Also, bands do not have to travel to perform, which saves the school thousands of dollars. With CPB’s inability to put on Mary Rock or Small Concert, they are trying their best to put on a great show for students. Rocktoberfest happened as a campus-wide rubber duck hunt.
Stella Swope, a senior communication and digital studies major, worries students are paying less attention to campus activities than before the pandemic.
“I think a lot of people are thinking about surviving and doing well in their classes, and the spring concert is very low on the list, unfortunately,” said Swope. She worries as a student who has attended a significant number of campus events that an online show loses the social appeal that makes concerts so unique.
With the pandemic forcing events online and drawing students’ attention away from campus activities, it has been challenging for CPB to get students to take interest in the concert, let alone know of its existence.
CPB fills many roles on campus. Before the pandemic, they would host weekly movie nights and occasional acoustic shows along with Big Spring Concert, a highly anticipated event among students. However, in a country void of live performances, the board has to adapt to rigid constraints keeping large in-person gatherings from happening.
The school’s #ForwardUMW plan released last July outlines restrictions on large events, stating that gatherings over 30 people will not be held for the foreseeable future. This policy is not expected to change this semester, and the concert will follow these guidelines just like every other organized event on campus thus far.
“We weren’t even debating having a concert right now in person, even if the guidelines weren’t set,” said Al-Bana.
CPB is hoping to give 20-30 loyal and active students that go to their events the opportunity to have a Q&A with the artist. With plans to send out a second survey in the coming weeks and do more advertising, Shaffer and Al-Bana hope to see a rise in attendance.
Though an exact date for the Big Spring Concert is not yet set in stone, the show will likely be sometime in April.
“Hopefully there will have been enough vaccines in the fall to bring [in-person concerts] back,” said Shaffer.