UH Students Go Inside Bon Jovi's Space-Age Stage
Photos by Matthew Keever
As if he hadn't done enough already, we can add philanthropy to the list of John Bon Jovi's accomplishments. Already world renowned for his music, the rock icon and No. 1 worldwide touring act of 2010, according to Billboard and Pollstar, is out to help people, and a lot of them, at that.
Among those people are college students, eager to learn a trade in the industry in which Bon Jovi makes a living.
Tuesday morning, a group of students from the University of Houston were given the opportunity to go backstage before the all-but-sold-out show, watch the crew set up and gain firsthand knowledge of how these kind of events go from empty arena to full house.
Students from two colleges were present: A group from the Jack J. Valenti School of Communication, who came to watch Bon Jovi's road crew set up lights, sound and video, and students from the Hilton College of Hotel and Restaurant Management.
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Amanda Strudler, Toyota Center's assistant general manager, began teaching Stadium and Arena Management classes at UH only a year ago, and assisted in making Tuesday's event possible.
"It's all about timing," Strudler said of the tour. "Who knows? One of [the students] may meet someone and hit it off, and they may have an opening."
While it's rare for a fledgling graduate to land a job somewhere as prestigious as the Toyota Center just after graduation, it does happen. And even if they aren't offered a job, it can prove beneficial in the future.
"And its also a chance for them to network," Strudler said.
Students weren't the only ones getting a treat, however. The technicians, too, thoroughly enjoyed the chance to impart some behind-the-scenes knowledge.
"Indirectly, we found that the crew guys were really inspired by the students," said Mike Savas, who organized and executed the "Bon Jovi VIP Experience." Savas said that the crew found inspiration in the group of energetic students, all of whom impressed the technicians on hand.
"We're not trying to de-mystify the business, because show business is all about mystique," said Paul Korzilius, board member and treasurer of the JBJ Soul Foundation. "But it's nice to have someone like Bon Jovi who's so open. We have yet to have been told 'No' about anything."
Ryan Cariño, who graduated from UH last week with a media productions degree, wasn't originally supposed to be on the tour, but he ended up taking the spot of one of the initial student crew members, who was sick.
"Jon Bon Jovi's production crew are true professionals of the business," Cariño said. "I barely grasp the new technology that [they] were using for video projection; it utilized a type of sliding LED panel and robot arms that served as a video screen and stage platform for Jon Bon Jovi."
Those robot arms were once used to make cars in Detroit. By the numbers, the new technology included high-definition video screens comprised of 1.5 million pixels and a sound system with the abilitity to generate 608,000 total watts.
It all took 21,933 hours of labor to put together, according to a press release from Bon Jovi's staff.
Cariño said the tour and the opportunity to talk with professionals definitely helped him understand "live production." He also asked that we give a special thanks to Professor Randy Polk, who helped get all the UH media students involved.
And, of course, we had to ask Cariño what his favorite Bon Jovi song was.
"'Living on a Prayer,' because that reminds myself that I was five years old, having fun with my cousin."
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