On Aug. 1, 1968, a full-page ad appeared in The Daily Orange . With the slogan “UU is You” at the top, University Union advertised its scheduled events for the upcoming year. Along with notable initiatives like “The Place” (a precursor to The People’s Place coffee shop in Hendricks Chapel), dances on the Quad and “Bull Sessions” (the forebear of Coffee with the Chancellor), the University Union announced plans for concerts “designed to appeal to fans of all types of music.” The first major act, Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, played at the War Memorial during Orientation Week on Sunday, Sept. 29, 1968. It was the first time Robinson ever played in this area. Tickets cost $3-$4.
Five decades later, University Union remains the official programming board of Syracuse University. President Anna Simone ’20 and Vice President Lauren Crimmins ’20 oversee the board of directors, the executive board and all general members and also act as liaisons between the Syracuse University administration and University Union members. More specifically, they oversee all booking, planning, promotion and execution for University Union concerts, including Juice Jam, Bandersnatch, Mayfest and Block Party. Additionally, they book performing arts shows that feature speakers, comedians, and weekly and advanced cinema screenings.
Simone was attracted to University Union before moving to campus. “I found out about University Union on social media during my senior year of high school after I committed to Syracuse and knew I wanted to be part of it as soon as I got to campus,” says Simone, a New Jersey native. She calls the student experience at University Union events her “number-one motivator.”
Crimmins became involved with University Union during her first year on campus. “As an alumna of LaGuardia High School for the Performing Arts, I found myself missing music more and more,” Crimmins says . She finds having a direct role in organizing events that bring the student body together motivates her every day. “ University Union allowed me to explore the industry side of music I had never considered and immediately loved. ”
Crimmins also relishes the opportunity to effect positive change through her leadership. “I think University Union has come a long way in ensuring our events are inclusive, but improving the inclusivity and accessibility of our events is a personal goal I have worked toward in my time in UU,” Crimmins says . “I hope to instill these same goals in future directors.”
Over the years, University Union has brought an impressive number of musicians to Syracuse University. Janis Joplin and Jefferson Airplane performed at Syracuse only months after appearing at the 1969 Woodstock music festival. Other notable names include the Talking Heads, Genesis, The Police, James Brown, Prince, Billy Joel, Nas , Destiny’s Child (featuring Beyoncé ), Kanye West and 21 Savage , among others .
Requirements vary for holding a major event on campus . For large events, like September ’s Juice Jam, planning begins in May . First, University Union surveys students to find out which artists they want to see. Next, student leaders reach out to booking agents to gauge prices and availability of the artists. While the booking process unfold s , University Union coordinates with the University’s administration to help plan such logistics as stage production, safety, ticketing and staffing.
When students return from summer break , the directors coordinate with marketing, public relations and social media teams to put together a promotional plan. This includes ordering giveaway items, arranging paid digital promotion and working with designers to produce posters and other assets.
For students interested in working with University Union, there are many ways to contribute. All Syracuse University and SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry students are eligible to participate. Any student can join as a general member and later apply to positions with the executive board and board of director s . University Union’s goal is for events to be representative of what the student body wants. The more students contribute to booking events, the better.
Both Simone and Crimmins say live music are a catalyst for human connection. They see University Union’s role today as especially important because it brings people together for an experience that can’t be replicated online.
“I hope to work in the entertainment industry when I graduate in May and feel so immensely prepared because of the professional development I have experienced through my involvement with UU,” Simone says . “Since our organization is student run, we are the points of contact for agents, artists and Syracuse administration while planning our events. This level of responsibility has equipped me with professional and organizational skills I can take with me in the future.”
Like Simone, Crimmins has also found the management experience with University Union to be invaluable. “Overseeing a 15-person board of directors, 60-person executive board and around 100 active general members has been both challenging and extremely rewarding,” Crimmins says . “Being able to rely on and support the University Union team while ensuring everything from contracting, catering, security and staffing is secured for each event has prepared me with organizational skills and an understanding of the industry that cannot be taught in a classroom.”