By Rachael Long
It is a rainy Wednesday night and instead of spending the night drinking coffee and writing papers in the Paul and Rosemary Trible library, Christopher Newport University students flock to the Ferguson Center for the Arts’ Concert Hall.
On Oct.19, the Campus Activities Board (CAB) brought three-time Grammy award nominated artist Sara Bareilles to CNU, kicking off Homecoming weekend. Students had the opportunity to reserve a maximum of two tickets for free before they went on sale to the general public, which was announced this past August.
The room buzzed with excited chatter as the seats began to fill and the lights dimmed. Strobe lights and fog dominate the stage as Sara Bareilles walks to the piano. Everyone is silent. The air is soon filled with the haunting sound of Bareilles’ voice as she began to play the second single from her album, “Kaleidoscope Heart,” titled “Uncharted.”
The crowd cheers as a beaming Sara looks out into the audience. She adds her commentary to the concert all night, with witty one-liners and interesting variations of the meaning of CAB (Candid Animals Bureau and Campus Action Bureau were just a few).
After her opener she plays a few songs deemed as her “depressing songs.” Everyone gazes at her from their seats, taking in the somber lyrics of the songs. However as the night goes on, the room fills with energy.
The crowd stands and erupts into cheers as Sara and her band play a cover of Mumford & Sons’ “Little Lion Man.” After she plays her first single, “Love Song,” she follows with her hit single, “King of Anything.” Sara asks the crowd to join along and the students sing back up oh-oh-ohs as she smiles out at the crowd. She then leaves the stage and the entire room chants her name for an encore.
Sara inevitably returns a few minutes later and sings a slow, pretty song called “Gravity,” her a capella voice echoing through the Concert Hall. Her band returns to the stage and Sara then performs a brand new song, “Beautiful Girl,” which she said she wrote to her 13-year-old self.
She closes the show with “Let the Rain.” The lights come on and the stage empties as students leave “the Ferg” with giant smiles on their faces. The hard work and preparation for the concert by the CAB has paid off.
Chair of the Headliners Committee of CAB, Andrea Rowley, explained how CNU was able to book Sara Bareilles and all of the hard work that went into the event.
“Toward the end of last semester when we began planning for the Fall, my advisor, Katie Winstead, told me that my committee should plan to book a bigger name to celebrate CNU’s 50th birthday.”
The committee was given a list of artists that were in CNU’s price range and they compiled an online survey of those artists for students to vote on.
“Sara Bareilles fell in that group. From there, Katie [Winstead] took care of negotiating pricing and dates with their booking agency, and it worked out that Sara Bareilles could perform during Homecoming week.”
“Aside from the obvious planning and promoting prior to the event, CAB did a lot of the dirty work on the day of (running errands for the band/crew, picking up dinner orders, and driving the crew, band and Sara herself to and from their hotel to campus) to make sure that everything on site would run smoothly,” Rowley said.
In addition to the hard work put in for the concert, CAB also planned and hosted a meet and greet contest.
“To enter in the contest CNU students had to record themselves singing/dancing/doing karaoke to a Sara Bareilles song and post it on the CNU CAB Fan Page. Then they had to encourage their friends to “like” the Fan Page and “like” their video,” said Alex Reiner, Vice President of CAB’s Marketing Board. “The winners for the Sara Bareilles Meet and Greet contest were chosen based on how many Facebook “likes” their video received on the CNU CAB Fan Page.”
A total of 11 videos were submitted with the top two videos receiving over 1,300 “likes” each. The success of the contest was more than CAB could have expected. In three months, the CAB facebook fan page went from 22 fans to 1,112.
“This contest showed CAB that Captains are competitive and are willing to participate in contests such as this, so definitely be looking for some more creative, engaging contests in the future,” Reiner said.
After receiving a total of 1,391 “likes” on their video, sophomores Laney Parrott and Emily Dyer won the contest and were able to meet Sara Bareilles after the concert. Both Parrott and Dyer are big fans of Sara Bareilles and enjoyed the meet and greet.
“She was really, really nice. She’s so funny and chill. She seemed to really connect with each person in the meet and greet and made and effort to get to know them,” Parrott and Dyer said.
As inspiration for the contest, they borrowed an idea from Sara’s single “Uncharted.”
“We mimicked [our video] after her uncharted video. We kind of did the literal meaning of lyrics and got a bunch of our friends to help us,” Parrott and Dyer said.
In order to get people to like their video, Laney and Emily did a lot of “major spamming.”
“We messaged all of our friends and talked to people from high school and asked them to like our video,” Parrott and Dyer said. “Most of the people who liked our video we have never even met before.”
Based on the success of the both the concert and the meet and greet, it is likely that CAB will be able to bring more artists like Sara to campus in the near future.
“We needed the student body’s support to show staff and faculty that access to big name concerts at a low cost or free is a valued part of their experience at CNU. Packing the Concert Hall with over 1,600 Sara Bareilles fans was one step closer to proving that we are a campus ready to host name acts and should continue to do so in the future,” Rowley said. “CAB sends out a sincere thank you to each and every person who came out to the event and helped make it such a success. We put on these events for the students to give them a sense of community. To see an entire theater full of people smiling, dancing and singing along to an artist they love… it makes all of the planning and hard work put into it completely worth it.”