The Arizona Desert Lamp

Glitter on Centennial

Posted in Campus by Evan Lisull on 7 May 2009

Rock LobsterIn their continuing mission to “educate and entertain,” UApresents announced that they will be bringing the B-52s and country star Randy Travis this summer. Now I love “Rock Lobster” as much as anyone, but I have trouble seeing where the “educate” comes in – unless this is part of a forthcoming “Center for the Study of the Eighties,” in which case a life-long dream will have finally come to fruition.

Certainly, for a pluralist there are some tough issues here – why is Sonny Rollins OK, but Randy Travis a no-go? As hard as it may be to quantify, one should look towards the main intent of the programming. In the Jay-Z case, retention was clearly not the driving purpose of the concert, even if it may have been a positive (if completely unquantifiable) externality. For UApresents’ presentation of the inauguration, I still maintain that the primary purpose was not at all related to education, or any “higher values” beyond those of politics dressed up as collective history.

This isn’t the first time UApresents has dived deep into such waters. This past year we were privy to “Bjorn Again: The ABBA Experience” and schmaltz-king Jim Brickman. Now, the program has had its funding cut by seventy-five percent (and you’re complaining about your budget cut), and we still have these sorts of pop acts coming in. To paraphrase Bastiat, there are not only the seen costs of bringing in a big-name act, but the unseen costs of the many more meritorious programs that will not be offered to the UA community. Never mind the collective amnesia – shared with ASUA – of the fact that the Rialto Theatre is literally five minutes away.

This is not to say that everything UApresents, er, presents is bad. B.B. King will be here this November. In February, Dave Brubeck – a master composer and rather engaging performer – will also be coming to Centennial. Yet for every Brubeck or King, UApresents somehow feels driven to host a Mannheim Steamroller (no, really) or “A Year With Frog and Toad.” Where UApresents’ advantage should be its high-brow (at least, relative the Rialto et al), it insists on booking some of the lowest-brow acts available.

On a more strategic level, it’s also hard to see exactly what the UA is getting out of this big-concert approach:

1) Bring in smaller concerts to “prove yourself” to the Chili Palmers of the world

2) Get the big act

. . .

3) Top higher-education institution in the country.

Ironically enough, ASUA called for the shuttering of UAPresents in its white paper:

Auxiliary Funding– Any auxiliary that does not fall in line with the university’s mission to support the success of students should not be funded by the State.

EX: While the service that UA Presents provides to the university and the community is greatly appreciated – it does not support students in their path to graduation and should not be receiving state support.

Wait a minute – any auxiliary service that doesn’t support the success of students?

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