Why Did ‘Stars’ Fall?

Samantha Midkiff, Reporter

The university can’t afford to keep the “Stars” on campus.

The cost of the “Under the Stars” summer concert event has increased over the years, and officials decided to cancel the event this year.

Dr. Thomas Botzman, President, said he’s attended every UTS event since he took the helm of the university five years ago.

“’Under the Stars’ has been wonderful for the campus,” said Botzman.

But as nice as it is to have the community come to campus for the concert, the mission of the school is to educate students, and the concert series was not student oriented, said Botzman.

The future of the event had been under discussion for the past few years.  The committee compared wages and costs with benefits last year and decided the concert’s price tag was too much and it was time to bring “Under the Stars” to an end.

“It’s not something I think anybody is happy about at all that we can’t do it. We simply have to make decisions on where we’re going to put our resources,” said Botzman. “I wish I had a better solution.”

Jeff Kelly, Manager of Cultural and Special Events and Theater Director, has worked the “Under the Stars” concert series since he was 12 years old and did the work with his sister. 

“I’ve been coming to Misericordia longer than I could remember,” said Kelly.

Many members of Kelly’s family have attended the university, and even though he looked elsewhere, Kelly felt drawn and decided to get a degree from the school as well. After graduation, he returned for graduate school, and he worked his way up through the ranks in both university jobs and on UTS. In 2015, Kelly was officially put in charge of the “Under the Stars” concert series. The band Kansas was the headliner.

The 2016 concert, with Peter Cetera, marked Kelly’s sixteenth year of work with “Under the Stars.”

Kelly’s love for the series did not fade throughout the years. Kelly would put in 250 hours of work, over three weeks, before each concert to make sure the event went smoothly.

“If it wasn’t an event that I loved dearly, and give my heart and soul for to commit that much to…it’s inhuman,” said Kelly.

Connor Swagler, senior mass communications and design major, has helped out with the concert series for the past two years.

Swagler was a work study student for Kelly during the summer, and he took on multiple jobs as needed.

“I got to work with talent I knew,” said Swagler.

“Under the Stars” used to be known as “Theater on the Green,” Kelly said. A Shakespeare production would come to campus for the summer event, until 2002 when “Jazz in July” was added along with the “Star Light Concert.” At first, officials tried to keep “Theater on the Green” to maintain tradition, but that event drew less attendance, and that, along with increased costs, forced officials to cut the event and rename the series to “Under the Stars.”

“I feel like I’ve grown with ‘Under the Stars,’” said Kelly. “You never want to see anything you love go away.”

Kelly says he was not part of the conversation about canceling the event. Although he had hints that the event’s days were numbered, he didn’t officially find out until Botzman announced it at the President’s Musings on Oct. 31.

“It’s certainly sad. ‘Under the Stars’ helped shape who I am, helped brought me to the seat I’m sitting, what gave the professional skill that I have,” said Kelly.

Kelly says he is realist and understands the reason for the cancellation, but he will still miss the event.

“June, July, that time frame, I will certainly, probably, be a little bit of a lost puppy on campus,” Kelly said. “I’m sure I’ll be a bit salty and sad at that time.”

It would be nice to bring back “Under the Stars,” he said, but he would like to generate greater  student involvement and attendance.

“Take advantage of the events,” Kelly advised students.  “Never be afraid to try something new.”