UI venues attract big names

The University has always had a reputation for attracting some of the biggest names in entertainment. With the student body buzzing about Kid Cudi’s performance Tuesday and the recent announcement that Dane Cook is coming to the Assembly Hall, many are wondering how University facilities are attracting such big-name talent.

Both the Assembly Hall and Krannert Center said they want to focus on University activities first, with the Assembly Hall hosting basketball games and Krannert Center providing a venue for the University performing arts students. However, both facilities aim to attract a more diverse audience apart from the University itself.

“The market includes half a million people and a 70 to 80 mile radius. Assembly Hall is always full of activities not just for students, for example, big-name acts like Red Hot Chili Peppers a few years ago, to a yearly Home and Garden show to the UI Business Expos,” said Kevin Ullestad, the director and booking agent for the Assembly Hall.

“We constantly are trying to get the best, constantly in contact with the agents and management and see who is touring. It’s a giant jigsaw puzzle where we put all the pieces together,” Ullestad said.

Krannert, putting a stronger focus on the classical music genre, has a team constantly working on programming, said Bridget Lee-Calfas, public information director of Krannert Center. Krannert starts searching for acts years ahead of schedule, she added.

“There is a programming team, and we have a person who schedules and decides which theaters are available for each person. We try to be at least two years ahead of schedule,” she said. “The programming team does different things to find shows. They attend various conferences where they meet with agents. They also see shows that are in progress, and we have a great relationship with artists that are returning (frequently). We look through the available artists and choose who we want to come to share with the community.”

The Illinois Union Courtyard Cafe also focuses on hosting frequent, weekly shows, and still manages to bring performers with big names, such as John Oliver, correspondent from “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart,” said Amy Leahy, assistant manager of the Courtyard Cafe.

“We have our own individual contracts and often co-sponsor events with RSOs,” said Leahy. “We work with performers and agents, and we often get contacted by agents who want their clients to come (to the University).”

All three facilities bring in varied acts, from baseball legend Dave Winfield, a 12-time All-Star and World Series champion narrating the CU Orchestra at Krannert, to Bob Dylan and Broadway shows at the Assembly Hall. The Assembly Hall and Krannert Center have proven to be top venues in the nation in their respective fields, according to Lee-Calfas and Ullestad.

“Krannert is prestigious due to incredible resources, and we have four different incredible facilities that artists want to perform here because of the great acoustics. It’s something that the University should take pride in, and it’s attractive for the artists and performers alike.” Lee-Calfas said.

Ullestad said the Assembly Hall is in the top 10 list of university facilities hosting performances.

“Penn State (University) and Ohio State (University) do a great job, but they have so many more people, and we’re still up there near the top. We have been for some time in terms of amount of shows, quality of shows and ticket sales.” Ullestad said.