Last May, I visited a friend at Cornell University for their annual Slope Day event and saw hip-hop artist Drake perform. That same spring, my friends at Syracuse University were graced by the up-and-coming superstar’s presence at their MayFest, while another friend at Brown University enjoyed performances by MGMT and Snoop Dogg at Brown’s annual Spring Weekend.
Since the University has such an early end to the academic year, there was a noticeable group of Wolverines in attendance at Slope Day. As we all discussed our summer plans and waited for Drake to start his set, the same thought was on everyone’s mind: we could do this so much better — if only we had such an event.
Ann Arbor isn’t generally a stop on the tours of the majority of headline acts. Artists who choose to perform in Michigan typically stop in Detroit or at The Palace of Auburn Hills. For an act to play Detroit one night and Ann Arbor the following night doesn’t make any sense for an artist. Between the overlapping of ticket markets and the current struggling state of Michigan’s economy, artists don’t have any financial incentive to perform in both Detroit and Ann Arbor. This is an unfortunate reality that University students looking to attend concerts have had to accept. With the accessibility of mass transit into Detroit lagging far behind other major cities, traveling from Ann Arbor is often limited to driving or taking a costly taxi. For many students, these options are simply implausible — and the void of music continues.
But what if there is a way to make performing in Ann Arbor not purely a business decision? What if there was a systematic way to make seeing music easier for all Michigan students? If the University of Michigan, like Cornell, Syracuse, Brown and countless other schools around the country, created its own music event, more major artists would perform in Ann Arbor. An annual, school-run concert would transform Ann Arbor from its role as second fiddle to Detroit on the musical spectrum, to a city with a legitimate musical event with a massive and enthusiastic student audience.
Students who previously struggled with the logistics of traveling to Detroit would have the opportunity to see their favorite artists without having to worry about the difficulties of transportation. The economy in Ann Arbor would also stand to benefit because a music event would bring an influx of people to the city and to its local restaurants, bars and other establishments. But most importantly, an annual music event would give major musical acts a definitive reason to put the University down as a stop on their tours. I’m confident our student body would make it worth the while of any entertainer who comes to perform on campus.
Modesty aside, students at the University are pretty good at cultivating some of the most memorable experiences. We’re the school that puts on one of the most exciting athletic spectacles for seven or eight Saturdays every fall. We’re the school that had the president of the United States as its commencement speaker this spring. We’re the school that celebrates St. Patrick’s Day not just on the day itself, but also on the Saturday before. Simply put, students at the University are masters of magnifying every experience to the grandest scale possible. This attitude needs to transcend into the production of an annual campus-wide music event.
Over the summer, my friends and I routinely talked about various aspects of our college experiences. When we came upon the subject of spring concerts, my friends all asked, “Who performed at Michigan’s spring concert?” and not, “Does Michigan have a spring concert?” Like my friends did this summer, the University student body should expect the University to create a signature music event. As a university, we have proved throughout our rich history that we are capable of almost anything. An annual music event would not only give students a better opportunity to see major artists perform, but also would establish another memorable event as part of the impressive fabric of the University.
Zach Grant is an LSA sophomore.