Someone asked me a few years ago, if I decided to be a teacher, what subject/trade or skill would I teach. At first I couldnt think of anything that interested me enough to learn, much less reach the level to actually teach the subject. Not only that, I would assume I would have to continue schooling in order to get my Masters degree in order to teach. But I was, once again, overthinking! After a few moments of thought, I told my friend that I think I would make a great Concert/Live Production Instructor!
One of my favorite classes while attending the Art Institute Of Fort Lauderdale, was Concert Production, instructed by Mr Peter Moran who’s resume includes Tour Manager for Judas Priest. For our class project, we would form into separate groups that make up the different aspects of Concert Production including Lighting, Video and Audio. Because the Vignette Theater, in Fort Lauderdale, Florida was an active theater, all rigging, gelling and focusing were done prior to our project start date. I dont recall my actual role in the project, but I do remember assisting in constructing the 2/O 3 phase 208v electrical cables and another role as “roaming camera” that was part of the video team. The band we booked were South Florida’s The Groove Thangs. We thought the group was great and a few of us were invited a couple of months later to attend their most recent CD release party. That was in 1991 so I dont know if theyre still around. Although I did learn quite a bit about concert production and what it takes to put on a show, one thing that always stuck out in my mind was that Pete had said, “you have to love the job! You cant be in it for the money”! And I thought to myself, “then why the hell would I get into a thankless job, doing laundry on the road, working ridiculous hours and getting minimal sleep, only to not get rich doing it”? I decided to pursue other avenues of the Music/Video Business.
Once Claudia talked me into getting my foot in the door, I took it upon myself to learn the world of concert production. Kevin would guide me and give advice all the while keeping an eye on how I progressed and how meticulous I was. I started becoming the back up Lighting Director for the Bears Den which held about 475 people. It was a small Greek Style theater and provided an intimate setting for those in attendance with the artists. I soon shared responsibilities with Mike Sr and learned how other aspects of the casino operated including Club 101 which provided nightly entertainment for the bar at the center of the casino.
The casino was in the process of expanding. It would soon become the Seneca Niagara Casino and Resort. Kevin was made Entertainment Manager in charge of production while his counter-part Karen would be responsible for booking bigger acts. There had been a multi-million dollar budget that would cover all peripheral equipment and a team to support the department. It was at that time Kevin hired me, along with 3 other individuals as shift managers to oversee all aspects of Hotel Entertainment. John was hired to oversee audio, Dave would oversee Lighting, Bob would oversee Rigging/Staging and I would oversee Hotel Operations and image magnification or iMag for short. During the transition of our expansion, Kevin had reached out to a few of his friends in the concert production industry while they werent out on tour. This is when I met Donny.
Donny was between tours and was part of the Lighting team for one of the world’s largest rock groups and it was from him that took my knowledge to new levels. Not only did he teach me how to program lighting consoles; he also taught me how to properly distribute loads onto the dimmers, build ACLs (Air Craft Lights), construct 24K lighting trusses for upstage, midstage, and downstage as well as focusing lekos and par cans. There were days we holed up at the Bears Den soldering socapex, male and female cable connectors or bundled miles of cable. He also taught me the basics of rigging; how to properly hang truss, steel cable, hoist motors and even P.A systems just to name a few responsibilities. Before I knew it, I had another year under my belt. Donny had spent that summer teaching me all he could without burning me out and it was then, Kevin had rewarded me by making me his right hand. He was promoted to Entertainment Director while I became Entertainment Manager. Together, we hired a great team of 40 specialists and technicians that we would be proud to call the Entertainment Production Department. We received many pats on the back by numerous tour and stage managers about how well the team worked together from load in to load out and I was proud to have reached such an accomplishment.
Sadly, as the saying goes, all good things must come to an end. At the end of my tenure, I was no longer happy. I never felt I was a casino “lifer”. I wanted to move on, tensions became high between Kevin and myself and eventually I was no longer the team leader I had previously been. I met a wonderful woman, put my house on the market and left the Concert Production lifestyle. I still miss the camaraderie I once had with my team but I especially miss the ladder I climbed as I had finally reached my pinnacle. I sometimes ask myself if Id revisit that lifestyle and I cant help but say “hell yeah”!!!