hroughout my last three and a half years at St. Olaf, I’ve seen the Music Entertainment Committee (MEC) bring in some concerts that I have really enjoyed, and a few that I have left feeling incredibly underwhelmed. Every style of music that a college campus could ask for has been covered, from frat-rap (Hoodie Allen) to bluegrass/folk-rock (Trampled by Turtles).
Even though I have not personally enjoyed each artist, I have witnessed hundreds of Oles enjoying themselves at each and every show. Yet, as far as what I hear and read around campus, MEC seems to be the committee on campus that takes the most flak.
The first mistake that Oles often make is underestimating the budget of MEC by a long shot. I’ve heard things like, “Why don’t we bring in Beyoncé?” or, “The U of M got Iggy Azalea, why can’t we?”
The fact is, if St. Olaf was willing to spend a good chunk of a million dollars on an artist like this, I would be far more skeptical about St. Olaf’s values and goals as an institution. St. Olaf, in comparison to similarly sized liberal arts colleges, puts a modest amount of money into concerts, prioritizes Ole attendance at the shows and keeps ticket prices relatively cheap.
Something that makes the big concert decisions each semester even trickier for MEC is that everything is at the disposal of the artist. Even after a list of suitable artists in St. Olaf’s price range is compiled, the odds that each artist is available to play, or for that matter even wants to play at St. Olaf, is very slim.
Some musicians, typically ones that have been out of the spotlight for a while, don’t enjoy playing colleges because the crowd is made up of rowdy students. Others would love a pumped-up Ole crowd, but it simply doesn’t work out with their tour schedule. If an artist is being paid to share their talents, they have a right to choose the environment, but that negatively affects the logistical convenience of booking a concert.
With Dessa’s recent appearance at the Pause Mane Stage, the blasts on MEC were in full force. Although I can admit to never owning a single song of hers, the amount of positive energy that the one-and-a-half hourlong set brought justified bringing her to campus. Preference in music is something that many people take pride in and, for better or for worse, judge other’s characters by.
However, there is a difference between choosing not to attend a concert based on preference and insulting the individuals that hired the artist. In the end, any choice that MEC makes is going to receive a certain amount of criticism, but based on my experiences, each concert is also going to have a significant amount of Oles getting their groove on.