The evolution of concerts at Rider
By Hannah Newman and Tristan E. M. Leach
The evolution of music has traveled through history and left a staple in every decade. In the midst of music making history, Rider has showcased many historical artists dating back as far as the ’60s.
When the tradition first originated, the College Union Board (CUB) worked alongside Rider’s Student Government Association (SGA) by networking figures to perform on campus.
The CUB was a sub-government of SGA at the time, which did the work of what is now known as the Student Entertainment Council (SEC).
The board was responsible for the majority of entertainment on campus during this era. The most popular figures of the ’60s that performed at the university were The Beach Boys in May 1966, Simon and Garfunkel in October 1966, Vanilla Fudge in November 1968 and Janis Joplin in November 1969, who passed away the following year.
Alumni Randy Bergmann, ’69, recalled that there were nearly 30 concerts during his four years at Rider. Tickets to attend these concerts ranged from three to five dollars, which he explained was a sign of the times.
Artists during this period made most profit off of CDs, which made concert tickets cheaper; however, with the interference of technology to the music industry, concert tickets and streaming services such as Spotify and Apple Music have dominated the once booming demand of CDs among fans.
Although most concerts were in the Alumni Gym, some concerts showcased by Rider were moved off campus, such as the Simon and Garfunkel concert, which was moved to Trenton War Memorial as a result of the concert having a crowd that exceeded the occupancy of the Alumni Gym.
“I think they held it there just because they knew they could get a really big crowd for them. Simon [and] Garfunkel’s time was kind of at the height of its popularity,” said Bergmann.
Each performance was previewed in The Rider News, and was the primary source of advertising for campus events. After the shows, there was a review written up in The Rider News where students were able to reflect on their experience. The Beach Boys in particular did not receive a quality review after their performance.
In an article written by Steve Gabarick published on May 6, 1966, he wrote, “Part of the blame for the unsatisfying evening rests with the inadequate public address system which failed to carry either musical group’s voices well. But the larger share of the blame belongs to ‘The Beach Boys,’ whose flat notes, wrong chords and childish clowning provided the night’s largest disappointment.”
Other famous concerts that have bridged the decades were Aerosmith in April 1973, The Psychedelic Furs in September 1986, Howard Jones in May 1987 and The Go-Gos in November 1990.
Alumnus Ron Panarotti, ’93, who was the editor-in-chief of The Rider News for five semesters, recalled it as a pivotal time in not only his career as a journalist, but The Go-Gos career as a band, for which they had gotten back together after breaking up and decided to do another tour after doing a benefit show for the Environmental Protection Initiative in California where Rider was one of their stops.
The Rider News got the chance to interview these performers before their shows which in most cases, was a once in a life-time opportunity for college journalists.
In an article written in The Rider News published on November 16, 1990, Panarotti quoted The Go-Gos bass player Kathy Valentine who, Panarotti said was the first famous figure he had ever interviewed. Valentine explained the motive of the band going on tour again after their break up saying, “We really enjoyed it, so we decided to go ahead on the road and do another tour. ”
Panarotti recalled interviewing Valentine, saying the band went five years apart before they decided to go on another tour. “In between years, Belinda Carlisle [member of the Go-Gos] had hit it big because she had, I think, three solo albums of her own,” said Panarotti. “Some of the other band members also had solo albums, and then they came back and did a tour and Rider was one of the stops.”
In the 2000s, popular performers like Jason Mraz, Gym Class Heroes and Sean Kingston, came to Rider and carried on the tradition of what is now known as the Student Entertainment Council (SEC) concert. In the 2010s, Jason Derulo and MAGIC! left their marks on Rider’s SEC concert history. Rider has been known to host upcoming artists, most recently Nardo Wick.
In the present day, Nick Barbati, associate dean of campus life, has aided in the development of several SEC concerts. Based on the current environment of colleges and those who attend along with trends and music taste, the artist is chosen by SEC. An agent also advises the SEC on who is popular in the college circles.
“We work with a middle agent who will allow us to know what the college market looks like in terms of available artists and who would be interested in performing at colleges,” said Barbati. “We look into the demographic and the general price range of what we’re looking for.”
Barbati went on to say that the SEC receives a big list of artists who would best fit the criteria. Just as CUB had once done, it is now up to SEC and the dedicated students to whom the torch has been passed.
For many students at Rider, as well as the alumni, the SEC concert is one of the greatest things to happen at the university. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the tradition was on track, and in 2019, A Boogie wit da Hoodie performed with special guest Ally Brooke, a former member of Fifth Harmony.
Stephen Allen, a professor of music at Rider, learned about the school’s concert history after he became a full-time professor. Allen has taught classes such as The Music of The Beatles, The Music of RadioHead, History of Pop and Rock Music and more. Allen said he was intrigued by the archives of the yearly tradition.
“I became aware of [the past concerts] because of my first course which was my course of The Beatles. In 2008, we started to develop this new degree, which launched in 2012, which was our popular music degree, now music production. It was at some point during that journey somebody told me about it [the past concerts]. Somebody in physical education was particularly savvy about new bands that were coming up in the ’60s,” said Allen. “It was that person who brought those different acts onto the campus.”
No matter the setbacks that may appear to be in the way, the annual concerts at Rider have lived on and continue to build on the history of the university with the latest performance of Nardo Wick on March 24, 2023.
Bergmann shared that this concert tradition was a turning point in Rider’s atmosphere that delivered a vital change to the culture of campus.
“I mean everything evolved rapidly when I was there, you know, things change an awful lot,” said Bergmann. “But that was reflected pretty much in a lot of musical groups. … It was really remarkable.”