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10 Questions With Movin’ On 2023 Executive Director Sofia Moussan

In less than a week, Penn Staters will be jamming out in the IM Fields as part of this year’s free, end-of-the-year music festival.

Movin’ On 2023 is slated for Friday, April 28, on the last day of classes. J.I.D will headline the event, which will be preceded by performances from COIN, Neon Trees, UPSAHL, and student-opener Mellow Honey. To prepare for the show, you can check out our comprehensive playlist.

Movin’ On Executive Director Sofia Moussan and her team have been hard at work the past year to make this festival possible. Moussan is a junior public relations major who was a Promo member and director of operations before leading Movin’ On.

We sat down with Moussan to learn more about the performance lineup, her motivation for leading the organization, and even one of her talents.

Onward State: What motivated you to lead Movin’ On this year?

Sofia Moussan: Finally seeing the festival come together in 2022 after a long run of cancellations was a really big motivator. I was ready to do it all over again after receiving so much support and excitement from the student body when it came back. I’m also just really lucky to have a brilliant team with so many ideas and so much passion for the organization, and seeing them all put in so much work into the event. Our yearly programming makes it really easy for me to execute my tasks. I find it so easy to find motivation to work on something that you have such a strong passion for.

OS: You were recently named the executive director for Movin’ On 2024 and are only the second person in Movin’ On history to do so. How will your experience and wisdom improve operations next year?

SM: There’s no better experience than having gone through a year in the position. I can’t even put into words how much I’ve learned and grown this year, which has definitely prepared me to hit the ground running for Movin’ On 2024. I think the biggest thing is that there won’t be that adjustment period of me needing to find comfort and confidence in the position because I’ve taken extensive notes on what can be improved, and I won’t hesitate to make changes having the background knowledge that I now do. Although each year brings new obstacles and challenges, I now understand what it takes to overcome that just having been at the root of those operations this year.

OS: The Movin’ On lineup includes J.I.D, COIN, Neon Trees, UPSAHL, and Mellow Honey. What was the executive board’s goal in securing artists of such diverse genres, and how do you determine the order of performances?

SM: Our team does everything in our power to secure acts that reflect each unique and diverse music taste that Penn State and Penn State students have. Our goal is always to represent as much of the Penn State community as we possibly can when booking, so including a variety of genre choices is a really big part of that. In terms of determining the order of performances, generally, that just comes from looking at our budget and the budget and quotes of the different artists that we’re interested in for that year. The highest amount starts with the headliner, and we kind of trickle our way down from there.

OS: What changes will we see from last year’s Movin’ On festival?

SM: The different activities and sponsors that we have on the field change every year to offer unique and exciting experiences for students annually. With annual events, you want to try and bring as much change to keep it interesting for students. Attendees can expect more of a sustainability conscious presence with different interactive programs for attendees to participate in on-site. This is the first year our sustainability team is larger than one or two people, so it’s really exciting to see those initiatives come into play. We have brand new merch, so you can check that out in our activities tent for anyone interested. Big shoutout to our creative team on that one!

OS: Safety is one of your main concerns as executive director. What are some ways this year’s team prioritized that ahead of the festival?

SM: I will always continue to ensure that the safety and security of festival attendees, performers, and staff is my top priority. Our team holds recurring meetings with different university stakeholders the whole year leading up to the festival, including police, EMS, and more in order to keep this safe show mindset at the forefront. Everything you’ll see at Movin’ On has been through many sets of eyes and approval checkpoints before it’s executed at the show. This behavior and mindset continue well into the show day because we’re taking all precautions by allocating time for emergency management conversations throughout the festival itself.

OS: Highlighting student performers is also one of your main goals. What do you hope to accomplish by offering Battle of the Bands, Spotlight Series, and bringing back Acoustic Roadshow?

SM: These events are meant to offer our organization as a platform to the many talented students that we have at Penn State. There are so many musicians that deserve to be heard, and if we can help be a small contributing piece to the success of a student musician, then we have accomplished our goal. We’ve seen Battle winners get booked for performances at high-scale venues after playing their sets at Movin’ On, and to me, that’s what it’s all about.

OS: What are your main responsibilities as executive director, and what does your day-to-day look like during the weeks leading up to the festival?

SM: As the executive director of Movin’ On, I oversee the entire festival: 12,000+ attendees, our budget, 85 team members (give or take), promotional plans, and booking. I advise and lead our 11-person executive board through the year, including a variety of diverse director positions. I also serve as a direct contact and liaison between the organization, our advisor, our middle agent, and the university. I wanted to shout out Nick Pazdziorko and Brett Pasternak — they are legends and contribute so much to this organization as our advisor and middle agent. I work with them really closely. Other than that, I work to develop budget requests and risk management presentations to coordinate with Penn State and the local community. As for what the day-to-day looks like, it’s definitely hectic leading up to the festival in those weeks. We spend a lot of time finalizing contracts and tying up all the loose ends in order to be show ready after a year’s worth of work. It’s busy, but that’s what makes it so fun.

OS: At THON you revealed your hidden talent: singing! How long have you been singing and is this what led to your love of music?

SM: I have always loved to sing. I used to perform with a band in high school, and I really wanted to continue doing that when I got to Penn State. I honestly think I discovered my passion for the music industry through my involvement with Movin’ On. I’ve really grown to love all of that behind-the-scenes work, and I think that’s something that I would really like to take into my career. But, I don’t think I’ll ever stop performing because it’s definitely one of my favorite things to do, and I love just having fun on stage. The behind-the-scenes and live event industry is more for me in terms of a career.

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

SM: Super hard question because ~everything,~ but I love people watching at Movin’ On. It makes me so fulfilled to see students and people enjoying themselves at the festival and just seeing each person’s different story of why they wanted to show up there. But, besides that, I really enjoy the moments with my team. As we take on the very long night, we’ll normally be on the IM Fields until 5 a.m. on Saturday. After a full year of waiting, we get to see it all come together and look at each other on those nights and say, ‘We did that,’ which is an unreal feeling to have.

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

SM: I would be a mussaurus because they may be small, but they’re mighty, and it also totally sounds like my last name.

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About the Author

Colleen Nersten

Colleen is a washed-up biology grad and former associate editor. Her legacy will live on through stories like “10 Questions With State College Sensation ‘Hot UPS Bae’”. If you’re a STEM girlie, this is your sign to take the leap of faith and learn to write. It’s pretty fun. Colleen misses the hate mail and can be reached at [email protected] or via LinkedIn.

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