The Jazz Concert Stanford Didn’t Want You Attending

Posted by at 2:14PM

Mingus Big Band performed at Dinkelspiel Auditorium on Wednesday night to a sold-out crowd of jazz patrons, few of whom were students.

On Wednesday night, one of America’s greatest jazz ensembles took campus by storm, resurrecting before a packed audience in Dinkelspiel Auditorium the legendary work of Charles Mingus. The performance by Mingus Big Band was a triumph for Stanford Lively Arts, with one caveat: hardly any students showed up.

Although the concert was sold out, I saw fewer than twenty students in the whole auditorium. This was not chiefly due to lack of interest. I mentioned the concert to several musicians and jazz aficionados in the days that followed, and they told me with considerable consternation that they had never even heard about it. It also explains why the ushers in the auditorium were giving me and my roommate funny looks as we made our way to our seats. One of them actually asked me if we were attending the concert while we waited outside for the doors to open, even though I was holding onto a ticket. There was a distinctive vibe in the air that we were not supposed to be there. Scheduled on Greek bid night without any Facebook event, promotional posters, or e-flyer campaign, this event in the middle of campus was a closed affair, available to students only if they could find out about it.

The absence of students was a real shame because this concert was special. Despite its edginess, the music appealed to a wide spectrum of music-lovers. Each musician was a virtuoso and a team-player simultaneously. The solos dazzled. The collective pulse of sound, rapid tempo changes, nimble finger-work, and sultry melodies transported me to another realm of consciousness. No beat was left un-stretched, no chord abandoned to complacency. One of the trombonists even stood up to sing, floating above the beat with a lusty baritone.

Such exceptional jazz in a big-band setting does not often find its way to the Farm. A pity that more students were not able to witness it.

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5 Responses to “The Jazz Concert Stanford Didn’t Want You Attending”

  1. Katie says:

    Ahh! I felt the same way when Punch Brothers (Chris Thile’s amazing bluegrass band) were here in the fall. I found out they were playing Dink when I was looking at tour dates on the band’s website haha.. a very pleasant surprise, but I was shocked that I hadn’t heard about it at school.

  2. Austin says:

    I agree that the show was a) fantastic and b) not well publicized to the student body, but there were a lot of flyers around. I was lucky enough to see one a week before the show.

  3. Jenny Bilfield says:

    George — I haven’t seen my reply post, which I submitted via iPhone yesterday morning (April 17) so I’m re-writing this and sending it again from an on-campus internet connection.

    I appreciate the interest in Mingus — and at the Artistic/Executive Director of Lively Arts I’d like to correct some mis-information in the original posting. First — I’m happy to say that 150 students purchased $10 tickets, or received them through Lively Arts classroom/ensemble subsidies for the Mingus Big Band performance. For Punch Brothers, we also had a sold-out house, and 190 of the 700 people there were indeed students who purchased $10 tickets. We offer $10 tickets to each performance on our season. thanks to generous alumni donor support. The students last Wednesday came through classes, ensembles that were coached by Mingus players, faculty, posters, dorm RF’s, the SICA calendar blast, and the Lively Arts Facebook and email blasts. Posters were put up all over campus (by students) and we definitely had the event on our Facebook page. As for the Greek bid night — we book our artists so far ahead we can’t anticipate or work around all conflicts, as you’d imagine. And as for an e-flyer…Lively arts isn’t actually permitted to email students directly unless students have opted-in to receive mailings from us (a good privacy policy by the university, certainly). But if someone’s on our email list (which they can sign up for at livelyarts.stanford.edu) they’ll receive regular notifications of upcoming events — free and/or ticketed. So, we rely upon the posters, Stanford Daily articles, students who opt in on Facebook, and other methods. If there’s a regular go-to source that I haven’t covered, please do share it! Many thanks!

  4. George Malkin says:

    @Jenny Bilfield.

    To begin with, I am very sorry that your original comment did not show up. I searched for it last night but could not find it in our system. Thank you for re-posting it.

    Now for your thoughts. First, I appreciate the lengths to which Lively Arts sought to reach out to students. Although neither my roommate nor I saw a single poster on campus, I grant that we very likely failed to notice them or had the bad luck of not frequenting the locations where they were posted. The same goes for the Lively Arts Facebook group and e-mail list, of which we and our many peers had no prior knowledge.

    Second, while I am happy to hear that 150 students bought tickets, I stand by my argument that this event was not primarily catered to students. The crowd overwhelmingly consisted of older, non-Stanford-affiliated patrons. When the bassist took a moment to say, “Thank you, Stanford, for having us,” I looked at all the gray heads and did a double take. The Stanford that hosted these musicians bore little resemblance to the Stanford where I live and that I pay to attend on a day-to-day basis. I grant that Stanford is a wide-reaching institution that puts on all sorts of events, catering to big donors, alumni, professors, administrators, grads, and undergrads alike. However, the vast majority of the people attending this event did not represent the Stanford I know, one whose lifeblood is its students. No matter how you choose to frame it, the non-students who attended the concert had more effective access to the event–thanks to the sheer mechanics of awareness–than did the students.

    Thus, what you characterize as “mis-information” is in fact a widely held perception. Given the lengths to which your organization appeared to reach out to students, this perception may be inaccurate and unfair. To address it, I propose that your organization consider the following steps:
    1) Instead of using just a Facebook page, create a Facebook event and have the students who work with Lively Arts invite all of their friends. If they already do this, then you might want to consider reaching out to a wider group of student volunteers and make them administrators of the Facebook event so they can invite more students. Stanford Concert Network, Ram’s Head, and several other student groups do this quite effectively. Expecting students to opt in to your Facebook page when they don’t know what it is will not increase your outreach much in the near-term.
    2) When you have students flyer, try to pick places where people are most likely to stop and look around absentmindedly. Bathrooms are arguably the best places.
    3) I did not realize Lively Arts was prohibited from distributing e-flyers, but there is an easy way around that. Have student volunteers send email “announcements” to the big email lists on campus: Diaspora, Comunidad, Kibbitz, etc. These emails from students do not violate students’ privacy, since they exist effectively in the public domain. Because the emails are from students, nobody can credibly complain, since myriad student groups use this tactic every day.
    4) Feel free to get in touch with us at TUSB about any major events coming up. We get 1000+ hits a day, making us one of the most effective e-flyers available.

  5. Mark Weiss says:

    Hey, wow, pleased to find this (1,000 posts in, it seems). I’m a townie who works in music and occassionally attends or even produces stuff on campus, like at CoHo. When I get a minute I want to respond more fully both to this (which I attended, and went to the workshops earlier in the week with music students like Ami Robbins) and the Third Eye Blind piece (missed the show — not sure there was room for “community members” — but went to high school with Steve Jenkins and produced one of their earliest 3EB shows). Go TUSB!!!

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