Concert by Music Legend Caps Historic Weekend for Ithaca College

By Dave Maley, November 22, 2019
Bob Dylan brings it all back home in performance at A&E Center.

Fresh off rocking MetLife Stadium in the historic Cortaca Jug football game played the day before, members of the Ithaca College community had the opportunity to rock — and roll — in the Athletics and Events Center as music legend Bob Dylan brought his fall tour to campus on Sunday, Nov. 17.

In collaboration with concert promoter DSP Shows and Madison House Presents, the performance provided more than just an entertaining show for the near sell-out audience of 4,267. It provided an opportunity for the college to partner with a local organization and for IC students to hold professional roles in helping make for a memorable evening.

Mary Jo Watts, learning application coordinator in Information Technology, has been to over two dozen Dylan shows, in a variety of venues large and small. She said she had warned friends seeing him live for the first time that he doesn’t just duplicate his records, and that they might not recognize what song he was playing until a minute or two into it.

“I know Bob Dylan is an acquired taste, but this was one of his finest performances that I have seen,” said Watts. “While the set list may not vary from show to show, each one is different because of the improvisation of Dylan and his band within each song. He gets criticized by some for his voice, but on this night his singing was good and his harmonica work was phenomenal.”

“This is the very embodiment of what the strategic plan hopes to achieve — bringing in revenue, partnering with a community organization and giving students a valuable learning opportunity. It’s a great sign for the future.”

Mary Jo Watts, learning application coordinator in Information Technology

Watts was also surprised by how good the acoustics in the A&E Center were compared to some shows she has attended elsewhere.

“I know there were some issues with parking and with the flow of people entering, and there is room for growth in that area, but this was really promising for the first big concert in this venue.”

In addition to being a big Bob Dylan fan, Watts is a big fan of the goals of the college’s Ithaca Forever strategic plan.

“When I learned that my favorite performer was going to be appearing on the IC campus, I was so excited,” said Watts. “I also thought of how this is the very embodiment of what the strategic plan hopes to achieve — bringing in revenue, partnering with a community organization and giving students a valuable learning opportunity. It’s a great sign for the future.”

man standing on catwalk of performance venue

Dave Prunty, executive director of auxiliary services, before the show.

This was, by far, the largest and most complicated musical performance ever held not only in the A&E Center, but anywhere on campus, according to Dave Prunty, executive director of auxiliary services.

“We hope to continue to partner with DSP Shows and other local professionals to host similar events in the future,” he said.

Prunty says students in the Live Event Design and Management minor and MBA in Entertainment and Media Management program served in critical experiential learning roles as crowd managers and as interns with the production company.

Kayli DePinto ’21 was one of the two students in charge of the crowd managers. She says it was a great opportunity to apply all the concepts that she has been learning in class to a real-life scenario.

“There are a lot of moving parts to consider with an event like this, and with over 4,000 people in attendance we had to be really on point with what we were doing,” said DePinto. “I think the best part was being able to lead a team full of crowd managers, and being able to learn hands-on what it takes to put on a live concert.”

DePinto says there is definitely room for improvements from a crowd control and accessibility standpoint, but she is hopeful for opportunities to improve upon these in the future.

“Overall, the event was successful and I am thankful for Dave Prunty and assistant professor Yvette Sterbenk, who gave me this fantastic learning opportunity. I would also like to thank all the crowd managers who volunteered that night and did a great job of making it possible!”

The other student lead manager, Nora Borgos ’19, said it was difficult at times dealing with some audience members who were blocking aisles and not moving to their seats, but overall it was an enjoyable experience.

“The best part of the event was probably getting to work with all of the other volunteers,” said Borgos. “Kayli and I were in charge of about 30 volunteers, made up of students, faculty and staff. The vast majority of them had no prior event experience, but were great to work with.”

Borgos will be earning her degree in Communication Management and Design in December and has been planning a career path in social media strategy and digital marketing. “While that is still something I’m pursuing, preparing for this event and actually working it made me think more about delving into the world of events,” she said. “I learned that it is a fast-paced and constantly changing environment, which was really cool to experience.”

Jacob Generali ’20, a student in the inaugural class of the MBA program, said working the show was a very rewarding experience.

“Even with the number of smaller tasks I undertook, I felt valued because the little things make the biggest difference,” said Generali. “Whether it was scanning tickets or helping patrons find their seats, it was fulfilling knowing we all played an important role.”

Generali and his classmates are already hard at work on their next collaboration.

“We are working alongside DSP Shows to host the Ithaca College Student Showcase on December 8 at The Haunt and have booked five performers who are IC students to play that night,” said Generali. “Following the Dylan show, we all gained a conscious perspective about all of the important small details that must be attended to in order to make our show a success for both the artists and fans.”

“Each concert is different, and you want to see every gig because you never know what he is going to throw at you.”

Charles Esposito, prospective parent

While the audience demographic skewed a bit on the older side, the student presence in the crowd was noticeable. It was the first time seeing Dylan in concert for Jack Berchoff ’23, and he didn’t leave disappointed.

“I had never heard much of his music before, but I knew that he was a legendary artist who made many great songs, and so it sounded like a cool thing to finally see him in person,” said Berchoff. “It surpassed my expectations.”

Attending the show along with Berchoff was his friend from high school, George Esposito, and Esposito’s parents, Charles and Maria. Currently a student at Raritan Valley Community College in New Jersey, George is hoping to transfer to Ithaca, and he was thrilled with the “trifecta” of being able to see Dylan for the first time while visiting both his friend and the IC campus.

“I listen regularly to every single one of Bob Dylan’s albums,” said Esposito. “He’s been my favorite artist, so for me it was too good an opportunity to pass up.”

Charles Esposito recalls borrowing Dylan records from his school library while growing up, and was happy to see him in person for the third time.

“Each concert is different, and you want to see every gig because you never know what he is going to throw at you. I saw him in the ’80s and the ’90s, and now in the 21st century. He’s as great as ever.”