January 31, 2023
Ithaca, NY | 16°F


Concert planners band together

Posters that advertise concerts, dance performances and other events at the historic State Theatre adorn nearly every bulletin board on the campuses of Ithaca College and Cornell University, as well as every postable surface in downtown Ithaca.

Independent concert promoter Dan Smalls displays a poster for the upcoming STARS concert Tuesday outside the State Theatre. Smalls is working with student groups to plan the event. Allison Usavage/The Ithacan

But for the first time, the most recent concert poster contains three different logos.

One belongs to independent concert promoter Dan Smalls, and the other two are the insignias of the Ithaca College Bureau of Concerts and the Cornell Concert Commission. The trifecta is planning next Friday’s concert at the State Theatre, featuring the critically acclaimed Canadian indie-rock band, STARS, and marking the first collaboration between the groups.

The idea behind the endeavor stemmed from Smalls’ work with the Ithaca College Bureau of Concerts last spring, when the two brought folk-rocker Keller Williams to the State Theatre in February and funk/jazz trio Soulive in March.

Soon after, Smalls reached out to the Cornell Concert Commission to bring the indie-rock band The New Pornographers to the State Theatre in April. The Ithaca College Bureau of Concerts and the Cornell Concert Commission have not worked together in recent years, said Justine Fields, executive director of the Cornell Concert Commission.

Smalls, the titular man behind Dan Smalls Presents and the professional talent buyer for the State Theatre, organized concerts in Ithaca in the early ’90s while attending Cornell University. His first show featured Spin Doctors and Blues Traveler before they hit mainstream radio a few years later.

After building a solid foundation of contacts in the music industry, Smalls moved back to Ithaca in 2007 and started his concert promotion company shortly thereafter.

“I want to give back to the place where I got started,” he said. “I thought I’d show a bit of real solidarity to the community by all linking up with each other.”

The significance of Ithaca as a college town also appealed to Smalls, who considers the students themselves to be the biggest “renewable resource” for concert attendance.

“The population of Ithaca is not large enough to maintain a venue like the State [Theatre] without the student population,” he said. “That’s why programming for and reaching the students is critical to my plans for the State [Theatre].”

This renewed process — which marks the first time the three committees have met to plan all aspects of a concert, from advertising to ticket sales — has been well received so far by members of each group. Fields said Smalls has added a sense of professionalism by meeting with the groups at each school.

“There are two things that I am specifically looking forward to gaining from this experience,” Fields said. “The first is the learning opportunity our membership can gain from running a show at the State Theatre, [and] the second is a whole new group of friends from the other side of the hill who share in our passion for concerts and music.”

Smalls’ involvement with the committees has offered students experience with the business side of concert promoting and practice in the public relations field. Kate Trautmann, executive director of the Ithaca College Bureau of Concerts, said having a seasoned veteran like Smalls on board is important when it comes to gaining valuable know-how about the industry.

“A lot of kids are interested in going into the music scene after graduation,” Trautmann said. “We get quite a few majors from the [Roy H. Park School of Communications], but also a good amount from the [School of Business] who cover the financial aspect. It’s a really diverse group of kids who want professional experience in an extracurricular setting.”

The Ithaca College Bureau of Concerts has 10 positions, with two people filling each. Positions include jobs ranging from security to tech directors and photographers. Several students on the college’s campus also volunteer for individual shows in which they want to participate.

Smalls said he hopes this collaboration with the institutions will have broad implications for Ithaca’s music scene and what the town has to offer in arts and entertainment as a whole.

“I want to get this town back on the map, where it was when I was in college, [when] every band wanted to play here on every tour,” Smalls said.

Tickets for the STARS concert Feb. 6 at the State Theatre are on sale now for $17.50 at the Recreation Center at Ithaca College and at the Willard Straight Hall ticket office at Cornell University.