RUSSELL — Record crowds flocked to the Laurel School Butler campus for the third annual LaureLive music festival this past weekend.
Organizers estimated more than 20,000 people visited the campus this past Saturday and Sunday.
The large crowd purchasing tickets at the gate combined with the absence of three food vendors and other vendors running out of food during the dinner rush proved problematic last Saturday. Organizers adjusted for Sunday by permitting guests to bring their own food.
Despite those issues, Laurel Head of School Ann Klotz said this year’s LaureLive was another success not just in terms of the execution of musical entertainment, but for the impact it has on students who help put the event on.
Each year, Elevation Group – the company that organizes LaureLive – partners with Laurel School based in Shaker Heights to include a group of students in just about every aspect of festival planning during a class at the school. Students also work during the fest. This year’s class had 25 students including Jaina Utrup of Willoughby and Victoria Hagen of Cleveland Heights.
“We feel like for the girls, their experience each year has grown,” Ms. Klotz said. “They feel so valued and so essential. And for us, that music with a mission part is what it’s all about. This is an extension of our program.”
LaureLive can serve as “a springboard for real world life experience,” Ms. Klotz added. “It helps them get jobs. It helps them get paid internships. And it demonstrates the value added of this experience that has a pay off as they get older.”
Victoria, a 15-year-old sophomore at Laurel, was working stage management at LaureLive, shadowing the stage manager. Attending a past fest convinced her to take the class, Victoria said.
“It really interested me to see the behind the scenes and what goes into creating a music festival like this. I wanted to learn about how everything comes together.”
She said the most enjoyable part of the semester-long experience, which began in January, was the day of the event.
“It’s really interesting to be back (stage) and see everything come together. And it’s super chaotic too. But watching everything that we’ve been talking about come together has been great to see,” Victoria said.
“It’s really been a great experience and something I’d definitely be interested in doing again either next year or my senior year. So I’m really hoping I get that opportunity to participate in the class again.”
Jaina, 15, is a freshman at Laurel and said she took the class “to get involved and learn about the production, everything that goes on backstage, how to set up the stage, how everyone has to work together. Really I wanted to see everything involved in putting on something so big.”
Her day-of-the-event task was helping run the on-site VIP area. What interested her most during the five-month course was working on marketing the event. It was important to find ways to promote the event to people both old and young.
“I think what stood out was that we had to make sure that it was family friendly, but it also had to appeal to older generations too,” Jaina said. “So having alcohol, but not really advertising it too much, things like that. We wanted to make it appeal to everyone and be an event enjoyable to everyone.”
Trey Wilson, director of strategic planning at Laurel School, applauded Steve Lindecke and Denny Young, co-owners of Elevation Group, for the curriculum they’ve established for the girls taking the class.
A big part of that, he said, is getting the students engaged in all areas of the festival process. One way in particular that stood out to him, he said, is using the girls as a focus group and getting their ideas and perspective on topics like marketing and what acts to sign.
“They’re doing everything from managing the stages, to doing interviews with the media, to helping with the VIP tent, to selling merchandise, to working with the talent backstage,” he said. “That’s an experience that isn’t replicable in any sort of school environment.”
Last Saturday’s performances included Foster the People, Fitz and the Tantrums, X Ambassadors and Daya.
“We’re excited to have Daya this year, because she’s a young woman role model for our girls,” Ms. Klotz said.
Many of the songs Daya performed Saturday, such as “Sit Still, Look Pretty” and “Back to Me” are themed around empowerment for girls and women.
Torie Martin, a 2013 Laurel School graduate, has attended all three LaureLive festivals and said it has become a great venue to meet people. “I saw three of my old teachers and a bunch of people from my class and classes before me,” Ms. Martin said.
Ms. Klotz said she wants the festival to serve as a place where the community can come together. “I love having Laurel and this festival being a convener for Northeast Ohio, and having Laurel School be the sponsor of that kind of family friendly event. That’s really important.”