Reaves: Performance groups on campus

I’ve had the awesome opportunity to sing in an a capella group for the past three years. Throughout my time in the group, I’ve performed at dozens of performances and noticed an unfortunate trend: Event planners don’t know how to properly accommodate performance groups.

I’ve performed in numerous locations where we were given two microphones to accommodate a group of over ten vocalists, including sopranos, altos, beatboxers and soloists. I can understand where this issue stems from: Bigger groups can make do without microphones if they have three or more people on a part, but setting this expectation means that smaller groups are often improperly equipped.

This issue of improper accommodation also applies to dance troupes and other physical performers. Stages can often be dirty, improperly prepared, small or full of obstacles, leaving groups focusing less on dancing and more on self-preservation.

Where does this leave us? As campus performers, we want to show off our talents and provide a service to you, at no or little cost. When we continuously perform with poor accommodations, our reputations are impacted. Vocal groups will not sound their best without microphones used to balance their sound and dance groups need a safe stage area to perform to the best of their abilities.

We understand that sometimes budgets don’t allow for a large microphone system. Furthermore, your group may not have the ability or resources to mix sound. Similarly, campus performance spaces may be unconventional, as with outdoors events, or poorly prepared–perhaps custodial staff didn’t get to clean up after the previous event. With these thoughts in mind, I encourage you to ask questions.

The questions to ask yourself and performers regarding scheduling need to include the day of the event and approximate time of performance. It is best to leave wiggle room in case of delays, but don’t give more than a five or 10-minute buffer. You should also ask about attire: Is your event black tie or fully accepting of leggings? The length of set is another important question: Ten minutes would be a three-song set and five minutes would be one long or two short songs. Don’t forget setup time to get on and off the stage and complete any prefered introduction.

Additional questions regarding stage set-up should include: number of microphones, and whether that changes by song; type of audiovisual system, and whether the performers can send audio files days prior to the event; stage preparation, regarding cleanliness of the stage and other preparation (especially important for barefoot performances); and a contingency plan: If the audio system doesn’t work or has bad feedback, what will you do?

The last question you should make sure to ask is what compensation will look like. Most groups on our campus can be hired for free or at a low price and it is extremely important to compensate them. Provide free performers with free food or raffle tickets and pay performers who charge within a reasonable period of time. It takes a lot of coordination to get enough people together to perform. When six or more people take time out of their individual schedules to perform, we appreciate it when event planners pay it forward and compensate us.

Ask your performers what they need and they will tell you. As many of us hold our own events from time to time, we know how to utilize campus and community resources to get equipment cheaply and event spaces adequately prepped. When you open the lines of communication early on (over two weeks prior to the event) you allow yourself time to listen to performers and figure out how you can best support them.

Kayla Reaves is a fourth-year student studying marketing, accounting, and organizational leadership. She has a passionate love of Microsoft Excel sheets and Google Calendar.