Local college students lend hand at Bon Jovi concert, gain experience

Kate Baxendale

Bon Jovi performed for a sold-out crowd at the Sprint Center Saturday night. Through the Bon Jovi Community Service College Campaign, several students from UMKC and the University of Kansas were selected for backstage access.

The campaign aims to give back to local colleges and communities by allowing students an opportunity to work behind the scenes at a concert.

Students Cody Tapp, Lindsey Woolsey, Casey Osborn, senior Communication Studies majors, and Kyle Geary, junior Communication Studies major, were selected to represent UMKC.

They worked directly with the Bon Jovi management and production team to gain experience in public relations, media, management and ticketing.

The students were involved in fan interaction, customer service and other various tasks necessary to run a concert. They were able to interview several important members from Bon Jovi’s management crew.

“Production manager is in charge of the overall production team core,” said Jesse Sandler, production manager. “I am involved in hiring vendors, doing tour budgets, logistics for gear and the crew.”

Sandler has been production manager for the Bon Jovi tour since 2000. He enjoys the amount of travel his job requires.

“I like the band and the music,” he said. “It’s pretty exciting to have every day be like a new day.”

Production for a single show begins five or six months before the day of the event, according to Sandler.

“We have production rehearsal starting anywhere from a couple weeks to one month before the show,” he said. “Even a few days before the show, we are still changing things to make sure everything is right.”

The production team works long hours, usually arriving between 4 a.m. and 7 a.m. and leaving around 2 a.m. the next morning, depending on the logistical challenges the crew faces for a particular show.

Sandler said the Sprint Center is a good venue to work in because it makes production easy.

He was introduced to the production business by his father, who has toured with The Eagles, Katy Perry, Joan Jett and others.

“I started at the bottom as a production assistant and I worked my way up from there,” he said. “Everything I’ve learned I learned through actually doing it.”

Mike Savas, management coordinator and VIP coordinator, described his job as “the facilitator of everything that no one else wants to do.” He has been with the Bon Jovi tour for six years.

“I handle all the on-site tour marketing campaigns, the tour public relations campaigns and all the hospitality for the band and for the fans,” he said. “VIP is a revenue stream that has sprouted up in the last four or five years. It has become an instrumental function of the tours.”

Fans willing to pay large sums for VIP packages receive optimal seating along with a unique experience, which can include a backstage tour, a catered meal and exclusive merchandise. Savas said he was one of the creators of this section of the industry.

Stage Manager Mike Devlin has been touring with Bon Jovi for 18 years.

“I handle trucks coming to the show at the loading docks and unloading equipment,” he said. “I’m in charge of all the labor that is distributed to the crew.”

Devlin said he no longer enjoys many aspects of his job, but he likes when he and his crew are able to overcome challenges that arise during setup.

“Things went really well today,” he said. “This is a great venue and a great crew. It was really easy.”

Devlin went into the business when he met ZZ Top in Houston, Tex. in 1975. He was offered a job and began working for ZZ Top’s tour.

Tapp and Woolsey both agreed that the Bon Jovi Community Service College Campaign incorrectly advertizes.

“I think it was advertized as a chance to be a member of the real media for the Bon Jovi concert and to see the backstage workings,” Tapp said. “Instead, they didn’t even give me a media pass. I was given a working pass.”

When Tapp agreed to participate in the campaign, he specifically said he did not want to be stuffing gift bags.

“But that’s exactly what I did,” he said. “They seemed put off by the idea that we wanted to take some footage, like it was extra work for them. That was disappointing.”

Woolsey agreed.

“When this opportunity was first proposed to us, we understood that we would be reporters for the day,” she said. “But that was grossly miscalculated. Today consisted of a lot of standing around feeling useless because everyone seemed put off by the idea that we actually wanted to do media work. The best part of the day was eating free food.”

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