From Rachmaninoff to Weezer: Star Course shines throughout 130-year history

Band+Beach+Bunny+performs+in+Foellinger+Auditorium+on+Oct.+7.+Star+Course+has+been+bringing+artists+to+campus+for+over+a+hundred+years%2C+providing+students+with+live+music+entertainment+oppertunities.

Cameron Krasucki

Band Beach Bunny performs in Foellinger Auditorium on Oct. 7. Star Course has been bringing artists to campus for over a hundred years, providing students with live music entertainment oppertunities.

By Cecilia Milmoe and Matt Troher

What do the Rolling Stones, Louis Armstong, Weezer, and Doja Cat all have in common? They’ve all performed at the University of Illinois due to the efforts of Star Course.

Star Course, an RSO promoting and producing concerts, has been bringing artists to campus for 130 years. Behind the scenes, several factors are involved in choosing which artists will come to the University and putting on a successful performance.

Hannah Rezetko, a recent graduate and a former senior manager at Star Course, said that a large part of choosing an artist is considering what the general student body would like.

“We’ll get a list of about 15 (artists) and then with the senior managers, we first kind of bear with ourselves like, ‘who would be good for campus?’” Rezetko said. “Of course, general interest is great, but when we’re deciding we really want to just try and gauge what campus is going to like.”

Rezetko said senior managers work with the State Farm Center, which helps with their budget. Senior managers communicate with a middle agent, who helps with the process of finding artists.

In addition to the senior managers, several junior managers help with gauging which artists students are most interested in. General members of the RSO also help with gauging student interest in various artists.

Michaela Dillon, senior in FAA and a Star Course senior manager for the 2022-2023 school year, said members have a variety of different tastes in music.

“There’s a lot of variety within the general members of who they like,” Dillon said. “And then sometimes there’ll be a name that we throw out and everyone’s like, ‘Oh my gosh, yes.’”

Established in 1892, Star Course is the oldest RSO at the University. Initially established to try and bring political speakers to campus, Star Course transitioned to focusing on live music at the turn of the century and brought its first orchestra to campus in 1912. Early artists Star Course brought to campus include Sergi Rachmaninoff in 1932, Duke Ellington in 1948 and Louis Armstrong in 1956. 

A history of popular music can be traced through the acts Star Course has brought to campus. They brought the Rolling Stones in 1969, Joni Mitchell in 1974, The Ramones in 1981, Weezer in 1994, Lil’ Wayne in 2004 and Doja Cat in 2019.

When it comes to the night of a concert, Dillon said Star Course members are present to ensure that there are no issues with the performance.

“We make sure that there are (general) members, we have people who make sure that when the shows come through, they can go on smoothly,” Dillon said.

Rezetko said that members help with checking tickets and making sure attendees are following mask policies.

When the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic began, Star Course was unable to organize concerts for nearly a year and a half. Rezetko said there were plans for virtual concerts, but these plans weren’t realized.

“Because, you know, we didn’t have a safe way of doing what we wanted to do,” Rezetko said. “And we were going to try doing virtual but like, I think just the COVID in itself kind of just halted us.”

In October 2021, Star Course brought Beach Bunny to campus, the first concert since Earthgang in March 2020. Rezetko said that the concert almost sold out, and she was very happy with the large turnout.

Marc Fauntleroy, senior in LAS, is another senior manager for the 2022-2023 school year along with Dillon. Fauntleroy said that the pandemic hurt the social aspect of the RSO, but he hopes it will improve.

“I want to get back to how we were before, where we had (the concert production), but we also had biweekly and weekly outings for everyone involved in the group just to keep everyone very active and feeling like they are a valued member of Star Course,” Fauntleroy said.

In terms of concert turnout, Dillon said she was very impressed with the concerts held during the 2021-2022 school year, especially after the long pause in Star Course’s concert production.

“They did a really great job of going from literally nothing at all to bringing two pretty good acts,” Dillon said. “Not even pretty good, they were great. Like they were really good shows and people were really excited to see them.”

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