Student unions feature lunchtime concerts

The Summer Noon Concert Series, sponsored by MPAC, features local artists.

by Diane White

The vocals of Caitlyn Smith boomed over the lunchtime conversations of students, faculty and staff on the fountain terrace at Coffman Union Thursday.

Some were drawn to the sound from inside, like sophomore Gerardo Bonilla.

Unaware of the concert outside, he worked on homework until he took a break from his studies to explore the music’s origin.

“I like the Southern sound Ö reminded me of Texas,” he said of Smith’s musical stylings.

Bonilla said he would like to see more concerts, even if it means paying more in student service fees, which provide the funds for most summertime University events.

Smith’s performance was part of the Summer Noon Concert Series held by the Performing Arts Committee of the Minnesota Programs and Activities Council, faculty adviser Tricia Schweitzer said.

The concerts are held once a week – Wednesdays or Thursdays – at the St. Paul Student Center and Coffman Union. The series runs through the summer class session.

The series is separate from the one taking place at Northrop Plaza, though they share funding, Schweitzer said.

“(The performances) provide entertainment Ö community and recreation,” she said.

Amy and Ryan Garvin, University alumni, met up to spend their lunch breaks listening to Smith, who they know through mutual friends.

“We’ve been meaning to see her,” Amy Garvin said.

The two didn’t recall going to many concerts during their years at the University.

Amy Garvin said during most summers, she didn’t visit campus and lived off-campus during the school year.

“We didn’t take advantage of stuff,” she said, reflecting on other resources offered through student services.

On the terrace, Smith’s crowd was relatively small, about 20 people.

But summer MPAC intern Nikki Koenig, a marketing and advertising senior, said when concerts are played near Starbucks in the Cube of Coffman Union, crowds tend to be larger.

Koenig said performers are found in a variety of ways – references, the Internet, local shows and direct contact.

She said performers are paid based upon their popularity, previous compensation and travel expenses.

Most performers are students or artists from the Twin Cities area, Koenig said.

Smith said she performs at universities often, since many of her fans are college-aged. This was her second time at the University.

The 21-year-old is no stranger to popular Minneapolis venues like the Varsity Theater, Club 3 Degrees, the Kitty Cat Klub and the Fine Line Music Café.

“It’s home Ö my friends are here,” the Cannon Falls native said.

Smith’s big break came after years of singing at church and performing the national anthem at Twins and Timberwolves games as well as at another Minnesota standard: the State Fair.

“I won the (State Fair) talent contest Ö in the teen division,” she said. The victory spurred the production of her first album. She has since released two more albums.

“I wouldn’t have been able to do it without my parents,” Smith said. Her parents financially supported her dream at the beginning and the decisions surrounding it, like bypassing college to begin her professional career.

Smith said someday she would like to pursue a degree in production and engineering, allowing her to own a studio.