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10 Questions With Movin’ On 2022 Executive Director George Lewis

We’re less than two weeks away from Movin’ On, folks.

For the first time since 2019, Penn State’s annual end-of-year music festival will return to the IM Fields on Friday, April 29 — better known as the last day of classes. Preparing for this event is no easy feat, and it takes the hard work of all the Movin’ On committee members and its executive board to put together the show.

Senior George Lewis leads this year’s festival as its executive director. This week, we sat down with him to learn more about his role and his time with the organization.

Onward State: As the Movin’ On executive director for this year, what goals did you have coming into this year’s festival?

George Lewis: When I started as executive director last April, we were still in a place where the idea of a large in-person event was still shaky. I really came into it with the goals of getting the organization back off the ground and doing my best to make sure it could come back strong once we knew we were going to be able to have an in-person festival. This year has been challenging for my team and me. A lot of my work this year involved convincing the university why Movin’ On is such an important aspect of student life. We experienced a lot of hurdles and red tape, which isn’t surprising, as I understand the university was cautious in the earlier days of loosening health restrictions.

OS: Why did you decide to get involved with Movin’ On?

GL: I grew up in the Chicago area and attended Lollapalooza plenty of times. I was always fascinated with Lolla and how such a big event could be so successful. I guess when I found Movin’ On at the involvement fair freshman year, it scratched that itch about getting involved in a production. I’m really glad I did because I’ve met some of my best friends through the organization, and it has fully transformed my path going forward and pushed me to pursue a career in event management.

OS: How do you think preparing for this year’s music festival has been different from years past?

GL: This year’s Movin’ On planning has definitely been a bigger challenge than in past years. Coming off of a canceled year in 2020 and a virtual year in 2021, the vast majority of our membership has never seen or been involved with this festival in its regular format. Beyond that, we’ve experienced a lot of difficulties this year getting through the university. As we are planning an event on campus with student fee money, the university is very involved with every step of the process. While there has been a lot of adversity in the planning this year, I am fully confident in everyone in this organization to deliver a very memorable return for Penn State, something I promised myself we would do from the beginning.

OS: Describe the process of booking the acts for the festival. What do you and the rest of the organization have to do in order to prepare the final setlist?

GL: The process of booking artists starts in the summer when the previous Movin’ On is still fresh in everyone’s memory. Our executive board just starts brainstorming names of artists who we think would represent Penn State students’ interests the best. From there, we will discuss and choose to send an offer based on a lot of factors, including but not limited to budget, tour routing, and what Penn State risk management thinks about the artist and their shows.

Once an offer has been accepted by the artist, all of the contracts are handled by our middle agent. He’s been working with Movin’ On for over a decade, and if it weren’t for his dedicated work, we wouldn’t be able to secure the amazing artists that we do. It’s always a long process, but in the end, there is nothing more relieving than signing the contracts and making them official.

OS: What’s the trickiest part about securing a big-name artist? Does it take a lot of persistence, or is it just luck of the draw?

GL: Again, I have to give a big shoutout to our middle agent, his work in the industry and the relationships he has formed with industry professionals over the years have really helped us in securing some of the big-name artists. I want to say that we just get lucky, but years of Movin’ On’s success as one of the most professionally run and largest student festivals in the country has created a great reputation.

It’s awesome when I hear from our agent that these big artists’ agents know what Movin’ On is and positively react to hearing that their client is getting an offer from us. If the tour routing lines up and the money talks, more times than not, artists are willing to accept an offer to play Movin’ On, and it makes me really proud to be a part of such a historically successful and longstanding Penn State tradition.

OS: What has been the most rewarding part of being involved with the festival?

GL: I think the overall experience in general. My first semester at Penn State was difficult, and I had a hard time finding my place here. Movin’ On has always been that anchor that reminded me I am in the right place and doing what I was meant to do. I can’t emphasize enough how cool the people involved in Movin’ On are! Everyone in this organization pushes me to be the best I can be and is the reason I stay motivated and focused. The industry knowledge from being a part of Movin’ On is also extremely rewarding. I get to work with professionals like our agent and our advisor (shoutout to Nick Pazdziorko!) who stage-managed for Boston Calling and know what it takes to put together a festival.

Movin’ On has rewarded me by taking the leap into working in the industry. I like to directly credit Movin’ On as the main reason I have gotten such cool experiences. This past summer, I was able to work on the site operations team for Lollapalooza and Austin City Limits. Being able to work at the festival that started this dream really felt like a full-circle moment and Movin’ On is the reason I got there.

OS: Describe what it’s like on the day of the festival. How much time does set-up take?

GL: I think organized chaos is a good way to describe the day of the festival. I like to say that for every one thing attendees see going on at a festival, there are ten more things going on that they have no idea about. An event like Movin’ On is a very complex operation with a lot of people involved to ensure its success. Our site build starts on the Wednesday before. That’s when the stage goes up and we start to prepare for everything else to arrive on the field. Thursday is a day when a lot of vendors show up and everything starts to look like a festival site. On Friday, our day starts quite early in the morning to make sure all loose ends are tied up before gates open at 3:30 p.m., then it’s go-time and we run the show. Immediately after the headliner walks off the stage, the tear-down starts, and pretty much everything will be gone by 8 a.m. Saturday. Within the chaos, I will be sure to take my five minutes to stop and take it all in before getting right back to work.

OS: What is your favorite memory from your time at Penn State?

GL: It’s hard to pick just one! I think once Movin’ On happens this year, it will solidify itself as my favorite Penn State memory, but for the time being, I would probably have to say our Movin’ On retreat my freshman year. On that retreat, I was really able to connect with everyone in the organization at the time and felt like I truly belonged. It was a great couple of days hanging out and getting to know all of the cool people that this organization brings together.

OS: What are you looking forward to the most about this year’s Movin’ On?

GL: Showing Penn State what Movin’ On is all about! The overwhelmingly positive response to our lineup this year made me really excited for a student body, who most have never experienced a Movin’ On, to enjoy what we have been working so hard on all year. Beyond that, I know of a bunch of Movin’ On alumni who are making the trip to Happy Valley for the show, and seeing them again after a tough couple of years away from an in-person festival will be such an amazing moment. I’m also a firm believer in shared experiences and their ability to bring the community together and I think Movin’ On is the perfect shared experience for Penn Staters to celebrate the end of the semester and have a great time with their friends right before finals.

OS: Finally, per Onward State tradition, if you were a dinosaur, which one would you be and why?

GL: An Iguanodon, of course. I did my second-grade dinosaur report on them and they are also the focus of one of my favorite Disney World rides, Dinosaur. What a cool creature!

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About the Author

Mackenzie Cullen

Sadly, Mackenzie graduated from Penn State in 2022. She majored in English and served as one of Onward State's associate editors. You can keep up with her life and send compliments to @MackenzieC__ on Twitter.

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