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What Happens When A SPA Performer Wants A $40 Jar Of Honey?

Just imagine: a bona-fide celebrity is coming to your school for a concert.

The stars have aligned. Fortune has ruled in your favor, and from out of the great beyond of fame, this celebrity rolls into your little corner of agrarian Pennsylvania, their tour bus hurtling down Interstate 80 like a ten-wheeled chariot. “At last!” you think, hardly daring to believe it.

You wonder: What will the celebrity think of your school? Will the show be good? Will the celebrity live up to your expectations? And just who will buy the celebrity’s snacks?

The honor of answering these questions belongs to Penn State senior Brett Morris, a computational data science major from Lebanon, New Jersey. Morris serves as the hospitality chair for the Student Programming Association.

“My major doesn’t really have much human interaction,” he said. “It’s just something I like doing because it’s really rewarding the day of show or day of an event when I see people excited to go to our events for free.”

One of the main responsibilities of Morris’ job involves stocking the green room before a performance and ensuring the artists’ visits to Penn State go smoothly.

Once contracts are finalized, Morris reviews them, paying special attention to the riders, which indicate what the artists requests in their green room. After some negotiation — usually centered on the university’s dry campus policy — Morris and his colleagues go shopping with a SPA purchasing card to stock up on the artists’ requests.

“Usually, they have very specific food needs, even for things like water,” Morris said. “Even if it’s not like alkaline water, they still specify a brand. One thing we get somewhat frequently is something called Manuka honey. It’s extraordinarily expensive.”

For those folks reading at home who aren’t boujee enough to know, a jar of Manuka honey costs a cool $6.48 per ounce and is made by bees that pollinate in remote, untouched parts of New Zealand just 2-6 weeks per year. Morris said singers usually like to have honey before they perform in order to smooth their voices…even if it costs $40 for a small jar.

But celebrities are people, and as is the case with people, not everything is about elitist food purchases. For instance, when indie pop group Saint Motel performed last year, the band requested something local from Penn State. Morris and his team provided Cookies-N-Cream ice cream from the Creamery.

Aside from running errands and stocking the green room, Morris is still a music fan, and his job provides plenty of perks when he’s able to work with celebrities. Last year, Blackbear, his favorite artist, performed at a SPA concert, and Morris was able to work closely with him.

“We still have to exhibit the utmost professionalism, but it was still wild being that close to my favorite artist,” Morris said. “It’s always a pleasure to work with the artists, because I would say that 90 percent of the artists we deal with are engaging with SPA as a whole.”

So the next time you see a SPA-sponsored event, and that celebrity is enlivening Penn State with their overwhelming star power and talent, just remember Morris and his hospitality team, who helped make their appearance possible.

Someone’s gotta buy the Manuka honey for them, after all.

This post has been edited to more accurately reflect Morris’s role with SPA.

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About the Author

Steve Schneible

Recovering Bethlehem, PA native. English & Psych student, PSU SHC class of 2021. Paterno Fellow. Narcissism Hour Showrunner. Kalliope Fiction Coordinator. Earnest and usually good-natured milquetoast. Baby Onward State contributor. Email: [email protected] Moderately amusing Twitter account: @steve_schneibs

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