Stanford Concert Network staff on organizing the Frost Music & Arts Festival

Student organizers talk about what it takes to pull off the biggest show on campus, scheduled for May 19 at Stanford Stadium and headlined by English indie rock band Glass Animals.

Spring quarter is half past, which means it’s almost time for the seventh annual Frost Music & Arts Festival, scheduled for Saturday, May 19. The festival, which will include performances by Ravyn Lenae, Monte Booker and headliner Glass Animals, will be held at Stanford Stadium due to renovations at Frost Amphitheater. More than a concert, the festival is a gathering to celebrate what the arts mean to the Stanford community.

Each year, Frost features a major exhibition of original artwork created by Stanford students, as well as student performers who open the festival. This year’s openers are rapper Son Kuma, aka Barron Montgomery, and the group Sister Supply, composed of members Maggie McGraw, Lucia Johnson, Christine Kazanchian, Christie Dawson and Madeleine Bouton.

The festival is produced by the Stanford Concert Network (SCN) – a student-run organization that brings live music to campus. It’s a major undertaking that takes months to plan and offers SCN staff professional experience in various aspects of event planning, from booking guests and managing finances to building a stage and organizing the art exhibition inside Stanford Stadium.

With about two weeks left until the festival, Stanford News caught up with SCN’s Co-Directors Angela Black, Tony Bruess and Alex Barakat, Financial Officer Bella Cooper and Producer Dante Zakhidov to see what goes into organizing the festival, what they gain from the experience and how they manage schoolwork while producing Stanford’s biggest show of the year.

SCN Producer

Dante Zakhidov: Grad student, Materials Science & Engineering

 

What are your core responsibilities?
I identify up-and-coming artists, reach out to and communicate with their talent agencies and managers, locate a venue for the show and then collaborate with student groups to make the event a success. My core responsibilities for Frost are press management and customer service.

How did you get involved with SCN? Did you have prior producing experience?
I graduated from Rice University and was involved with the media and arts scene there. Our spring show was organized by KTRU, the Rice University student radio, and I had a lot of friends in the organization. I wanted to continue similar passions during my stay at Stanford. I didn’t have much previous production experience but SCN does a good job of showing you the ropes.

What’s it like working with artists?
The day of the show, you meet the artists, their entourage and manager. All the artists I have worked with have been very down to earth and extremely friendly people.

My favorite experience was working with BJ the Chicago Kid when he performed at Black Love in 2017. I drove him and his crew around and we got to chat in the car all day. My favorite part was seeing what his go-to songs were in the car once he had control of the aux cord. His go-to was John Coltrane and it was awesome to hear him talk about his musical influences.

How will this experience help you in your career?
I’m not planning to go into the music industry, but I think the ability to organize a large event and communicate professionally with multiple parties is essential for any job. At the end of the day, it’s a great hobby and keeps me sane while I attempt to do research in the lab.

SCN Financial Officer

Bella Cooper: Sophomore; major: Economics

 

When do you start preparing for Frost?
As soon as the school year starts. Bigger artists usually book shows four to eight months in advance. We filter through over 100 artists before finally confirming our headliner; then we begin booking an opener.

After all artists are confirmed, we start planning the production, which includes sound, staging, marketing, people operations and budgeting the tickets. We usually try to have our tickets ready to go on sale right after spring break. Then the biggest focus is on advancing hospitality requirements with the artists, finalizing all the production elements and marketing the event on- and off-campus.

Does the change in venue pose any challenges?
The biggest obstacle is that unlike the amphitheater, the stadium lacks a pre-built stage. We work with amazing contractors and production managers to build a stage from scratch on the field. Since we do not use the entire stadium, crowd management can be difficult as well, since we need to prevent people from going into restricted areas.

What’s it like to see your hard work pay off?
Although Frost takes the entire school year to plan, seeing the final product, especially the faces of people in the crowd enjoying the music, is the biggest reward.

SCN Co-Director

Angela Black: Sophomore; major: Comparative Literature, minor: Computer Science

 

What are your core responsibilities?
I manage a lot of the internal aspects of SCN, such as leading meetings and organizing documents, from media to contracts. For Frost, I am in charge of marketing, design, volunteers and the student art exhibition.

How is artwork selected?
We first hire a student curator to head the effort. That’s followed by lots of marketing to get the word out about art applications and project proposals. After receiving applications, we see what is feasible, financially, physically and conceptually. From there, the lead curator and anyone else on the Frost planning committee who’s interested will vote on what art projects to accept. From there, we have an exhibit – a beautiful exhibit, to be more exact.

How do you balance your SCN work with school?
I figured out pretty quickly that I wouldn’t be able to take a lot of units or too many difficult classes in order to give SCN my all. Time management is a key skill to have as any officer in SCN, especially director or financial officer. You’re constantly on call for any work that needs to be done, any decision that needs to be made, and much, much more.

How did you get involved with SCN?
At the beginning of this year a spot opened up to be one of the directors of SCN. I jumped quickly on the opportunity, gave a speech to the general and core members about why I should be a director, and was voted into the position!

SCN Co-Director

Tony Bruess: Senior; major: Computer Science

 

What are your core responsibilities?
For SCN, I am mostly in charge of approving all the shows we throw on campus. This involves assigning SCN producers to shows, coordinating with student groups, working with Student Activities and Leadership to sign and execute contracts, and deploying marketing assets. For Frost, I am in charge of the website, sponsorships, ticketing, concessions, credentials and internal content.

What’s it like working with Goldenvoice, the same promoter that books Coachella and Firefly?
They work with us to pick the artist and sell tickets to the general public, and also advise us throughout the festival planning process. While we work professionally with them, we also go to shows together and share meals.

Do you receive any other guidance or mentorship?
Previous directors become members of an advisory board. Most directors stick around in the club to help advise the current directors on a variety of things. They are extremely helpful for mentoring. Oftentimes, their biggest role is onboarding new SCN members and assisting them with all aspects of throwing a show.

Also, Snehal Naik, assistant dean and associate director of Student Activities and Leadership, and Kerry Watkins, director of Event Services, meet with us every week to help bring Frost together. They’re dear friends to all of us and we couldn’t do what we do without their hard work and support.

How did you get involved with SCN?
I joined my junior year after being encouraged by my good friend who was a director last year. Being a CS major with experience in web development, I was put in charge of redesigning the SCN website. Then I was put in charge of the website for Frost.

SCN Co-Director

Alex Barakat: Senior; major: Symbolic Systems

 

What are your core responsibilities?
As financial officer last year, I gained a lot of experience balancing the books and making sure all the financial aspects of the club were in good shape. I also worked closely with Event Services and our production team, and managed the hospitality for Frost. I have taken these experiences into this year, helping our current financial officer and overseeing our production and hospitality teams throughout the year, as well as for Frost.

How will this experience help you in your career?
All three directors manage a team of over 40 students every week, a number that only grows as Frost draws closer. Learning to navigate the politics of so many people, as well as how to operate within the constraints of a larger institution such as Stanford, is invaluable experience.

On top of that, all of our shows provide learning opportunities, from balancing budgets to editing contracts to audio engineering. However, being lucky enough to be among such a talented group of young people at Stanford is what provides us our greatest learning opportunity.

There are so many different voices and opinions to be shared and heard. SCN provides the opportunity to learn how to synthesize all these different viewpoints and create an environment where everybody feels safe and free to enjoy themselves.

What do you want to do after graduating?
After graduation I am returning home to London to work in a creative industry.