By Susan LeDoux
David Dunn, Director of Roberts Cultural Life Center and Conferences, told The Good News that people are discovering Roberts Wesleyan College’s “best kept secret” more and more. Attendance at the Center’s events has increased by 20% since last year.
There are reasons for that. Much has to do with the quality of the shows and the artists Dunn books. On February 17, America’s Got Talent runner-up, Cirque Zuma Zuma— an African acrobatic dance/music group often compared to the Cirque du Soleil— performed in the Hale Auditorium.
On March 16, the Brass Transit band will once again delight a lucky audience. According to Dunn, “They’re a CHICAGO tribute band and just phenomenal. People have walked out of concerts with them saying that they are better than CHICAGO. They are out of Toronto, Canada; they’re all over the place. We’re excited about having them here.”
Wrapping up this season, Allen Vizzutti, an internationally celebrated trumpet player, will perform with Roberts’ Community Orchestra on April 27.
“Allen’s a believer and just the most wonderful, kind, sweet man. We’ve had him before and he’s just a fabulous person,” Dunn said.
While Dunn’s many contacts with artists’ agencies enable him to book those big names from September through April, the summer season’s venue changes to provide opportunities that feature local talent. With musicians and performers from other local colleges, Roberts Wesleyan‘s music program, or the Eastman School of Music, quality performances continue to attract audiences. As an example of tapping into local talent, he said their recent Carpenters Christmas Tribute Show hired a reed player from the Eastman because their own musician was not available.
Dunn’s networking with agencies and other ministries has brought in well-known Christian organizations such as Kingdom Bound Ministries, The Lighthouse Events, Family Life Ministries, and even Trinity Broadcasting out of Fort Wayne, Indiana.
“Networking to me is a big thing. When you share responsibilities on a show with another organization, it really helps the risk factor. Then you also get the marketing expertise of those organizations as well as your own too,” Dunn explained.
May and June are months for graduations, and the Center hosts commencements as well as many dance recitals. This June will feature five such recitals.
Summer and camps go together, and the Center hosts many sports and church camps, such as the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA).
Dunn said, “We have different churches come in for different things. Church of God in Christ is going to be here. We’ve had United Pentecostals in the past. It doesn’t slow down in the summer around here. It’s a different busy…a nice switch.”
Before long, September returns and Dunn is booking those national/international artists, and he loves every minute of it.
“It’s cool planning the series because you never know who is going to be coming near you and trying to lock in certain dates, because we have a lot of events with our music department, community theater, and community orchestra.” It’s a fun sort of juggling act.
It is fun until Mother Nature decides it is time for a hissy fit and winter storms bring a deluge of people calling the box-office for refunds. With businesses like Ticketmaster, if you cannot make the performance, you sacrifice the price of the ticket. The Center’s policy is more understanding. Up to the day of the show, they will refund the price of the ticket, less a $3.00 surcharge, no questions asked.
“We want to be understanding about that need to request a refund because we want them to come back next time. To me, that’s good customer service where you’re creating a relationship with a customer,” Dunn said.
He spoke highly of the staff in the box-office. “If people are in great spirits because they love what they do and where they’re at, that’s going to translate to the customer’s experience as well.”
He summed up the Cultural Life Center succinctly. “I think the reality of the Cultural Life Center involves quality performances, in a quality theater, put on by quality people.”
Dunn believes their events are not just concerts, but experiences enabled by the best technicians for lighting, sound, and video that go beyond industry standards. The theater is capable of handling a full orchestra, such as the RPO. Even the back rooms, an afterthought in some theaters, are top notch from the dressing rooms to the green room and the scene shop. “All the spaces we have lend themselves to the ability to do more than some theaters around town,” Dunn concluded.
To scope out coming events, visit https://www.roberts.edu/clc/