St. Thomas Student Struggles To Start Campus Music Fest

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Clinton Kuykendall, a senior at the University of St. Thomas, tried to have an on-campus music festival last spring and ran into a bevy of problems with the university.

Concert in the Mall, which was scheduled for March 2010 on UST's Campus Life Mall, a courtyard in the middle of campus, was going to be a charity benefit concert with all the proceeds going to the Houston Food Bank.

One canned or non-perishable food item would get students access to the concert; if they didn't have either, Kuykendall and his fellow organizers arranged for the on-campus convenience store to stock up on canned foods. If the store ran out, students could get into the show for a dollar.

But the concert never happened.

The lineup was strong, including Fat Tony, VerseCity and three other bands from UST.

"We didn't want to deter anyone from coming," Kuykendall says. "So we wanted to have the most diverse lineup possible with five bands."

Originally, the concert was going to be two stages on opposite ends of this field.

"It was going to be about four hours, and the stages would alternate," says Kuykendall, explaining that one band would play on Stage A while another set up on Stage B. "It was supposed to be four hours of nonstop music."

Kuykendall realized this would be difficult, and eventually the bands' set times were scaled back from one hour to about 30 minutes apiece, and the festival was scaled back to only one stage.

"The university, having never dealt with [anything like] this, was a little wary when we started moving forward," he says. "It was a big unknown to them; they didn't know how to approach it."

Kuykendall admits that he should have contacted UST officials earlier, but he didn't just approach administrators the week of the event with a random number. He researched the costs, prepared a budget and included precautions.

"They knew in August 2009 that we wanted to do this type of event," Kuykendall says. "We got a budget, and our biggest expense was a sound system. It was going to run us about $3,200, and that's because I wanted to make sure we had quality sound and adequate sound for the amount of people (there).

He budgeted in another $1,000 in supplies and added another $1,000 just to be safe.

"Residence Life, which would be the main sponsor of the event, could only put up about $200, which is our normal budget for any event that we do," says Kuykendall. "From there, we went to the Campus Programming Committee with our itemized budget and explained that we needed $5,000... and they came back and only gave us $1,000.

At this point, Kuykendall had $1,200, and he and the rest of the concert's organizers were worried it would all fall through. But the Montrose school's small size played out to their advantage.

"Several Residence Life members are on UST's Student Government Association, and I had heard through the grapevine that SGA was sitting on about 70 grand," he says.

The SGA agreed to free up some funds and suspend a rule that would have caught up the money in a bunch of red tape, with the stipulation that the organizers give back any money that wasn't used for the concert.

At its onset, the administration seemed receptive. But it wasn't until about a month before the event was scheduled, in February 2010, that Kuykendall really started pushing it on the university.

St. Thomas has about 350 on-campus residents, and he expected at most 500 people to pack the courtyard - and that was assuming everything went according to plan.

"From there, we started running into issues with the university... mostly through security, which was concerned about drugs and alcohol on campus," Kuykendall says. "Originally, we did plan to serve alcohol since St. Thomas is a wet campus, but when we started to realize that it would be a lot of trouble and more of a pain in the ass than it was worth, we cut out the alcohol.

"But [security] was worried about people bringing in their own."

So they decided to fence in the area and not allow reentries. The organizers had even budgeted to hire a constable to do bag searches, but none of it sat too well with the university.

"At the end of the day, the university ended up pulling the plug," says Kuykendall. "But I just want to be very clear that I don't blame the university for pulling the plug; I think this was more our fault and my naivety, thinking that I could easily pull this off when I didn't realize the amount of red tape [involved]."

Kuykendall is trying again this year - he's already started going through all the channels, and, perhaps most importantly, he started a lot earlier. He hopes that all the money will be approved and that the campus' security and administration are happy with it.

Read Rocks Off's article on the history of campus concerts in Houston here and see our slideshow of vintage Hofheinz Pavilion posters here.

Follow Rocks Off on Facebook and on Twitter at @HPRocksOff.

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