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Movin’ On: The Making of a Student Music Festival

Penn State’s annual spring music festival Movin’ On is coming up this Friday. For many Penn State students, community members, and visiting friends, this event marks the high point of the year — a time where Penn Staters can get together and celebrate the end of another school year. This year’s Movin’ On will feature local State College bands Automatic Habit and The Wondershop Showdown, as well as Kids These Days, Gloriana, Brand New, Big Boi and the headliners MGMT.

Even though Movin’ On is a one-day event, a team of students work tirelessly year-round to put this show together. And planning for a music festival like this is not as easy as it sounds. I spoke to Movin’ On’s Director of Marketing, Karisa Maxwell, to see what the Movin’ On committee does throughout the year to organize this festival.

In collaboration with other student groups like the Student Programming Association (SPA), and the Association of Residence Hall Students (ARHS), the Movin’ On student organization, funded by UPAC, corporate and local sponsors, starts work on the day after the previous Movin’ On. Starting from day one, they gather feedback from the audience via Facebook and Twitter, hoping to see what could be improved for the next year.

“In the summer, even though we all might be in different parts of the country, we have email threads going back and forth. So we had a pretty solid idea of the acts we wanted to bring going into the school year,” Maxwell explained.

When selecting what artists to bring, it really is a balancing act. Movin’ On tries to bring artists that the community wants, while preserving a balance in musical genres.

“Our biggest thing that we try to do is get a very eclectic mix of sounds and genres. Looking at Movin’ On in years past, a lot of the bands were of the same genre,” Maxwell said. “A lot of that had to do with us not being as large of an organization as we are now, and not having the funding that we have.”

One of the first steps in the selection process is a student survey, which gives an idea of where the students stand. Looking at the survey results for this year, you can see that none of the top choices are actually playing at this year’s festival, although Imagine Dragons did come to Penn State for this year’s Founder’s Day concert, presented by SPA. And that’s no surprise — the survey is not the only thing that Movin’ On looks at when deciding on acts to bring.

“A lot of people think that the bands we choose are going to be right off the survey, and that’s not always the case,” Maxwell said. “We use the survey for student input more than anything else, but a lot of these bands become unavailable, or they’re not willing to come and perform on that day. So we take the bands that are top picks, and if they’re not available or out of our price range, we try to find bands with a similar sound that can attract the same crowd.”

Even though a certain artist may be a perfect fit for the show, they often have scheduling conflicts or fall out of the price range for the event. The Movin’ On committee spends most of the year contacting potential artists and working with PR representatives to see who can come and how much it would cost.

The work isn’t all in bringing artists, though. A show this big requires a ton of planning to ensure that the day of the event runs smoothly. This year’s show will have increased security to prevent any unwanted incidents (remember that this is a family-friendly, substance-free event). Students also work the day before the event to assemble the stage and prepare the IM West field for thousands of spectators.

While we are all enjoying the free music festival on Friday, don’t forget that a lot of work went into putting the show together. And most of all, have a good time!

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About the Author

Zack Rutstein

Penn State 5th-year Materials Science and Engineering student, Onward State Arts Editor, Musician

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