Recently, I not only attended the National Association of Campus Activities (NACA) Northeast convention in Hartford CT; I also had the privilege to volunteer as part of the stage crew. This was honestly one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, but also the most rewarding. As a member of the Lesley University campus activities board, my job is to do the booking of music and variety acts and bring them to our campus. I had been to one NACA convention last year, which was a fun and interesting experience, but working it was a whole new beast.
NACA is a student activities conference attended each year by Lesley’s Campus Activities Board (CAB) and the activities boards of Northeast- based schools. The conference is a mix of educational sessions, showcases, and camps. Educational sessions entail speakers talking about a variety of topics related to making programming great at your school, and discussing how your board can achieve success. A Showcase includes around 7 performances from different acts that each had 15 minutes to give the audience a taste of what the do. The audience was made up of students from different activity boards that could then go book the acts they liked for their schools. Camp takes place after each showcase so schools can go talk and book artists.
Being on the stage crew, I arrived a day before the convention was set to begin; the 5 other student volunteers and I were led into a large hall that had the basic bottom of a stage set up. We spent the next 5 or so hours building all of the other elements that were needed to go into the showcases. Show equipment was wheeled in and set up, as were lighting rigs, and more cables than I’ve ever seen. We put up curtains and at the end of the night it looked like a real concert stage and not just an empty hall.
The next few days were complete madness, as we arrived early each morning to sound check the artists that were going to be performing throughout the day during the different showcases. While the showcases went on, the members of the stage crew, like me, were getting ready for the next act, making sure everything was in place and sounding good for the next act. This went on for 3 days, working different showcases all day, everyday. I learned more than I thought I ever would about the actual production of a show: I have done the booking side of it, and some easy stage set-ups for things like open mics, but never anything as intense and high stakes as this. Having little to no actual sound experience made me wary of going into the performances, or even applying to do stage crew in the first place. But I’m glad I decided to do it: I’m incredibly proud of the work I did there, and all I learned from the experience.