Aug. 18, 2015
By Brad Muller | More Features
Turning in an essay for “What I did on my summer vacation” might be a little more fun for senior Alaynie Page. Accustomed to being in the spotlight for the Gamecocks, the South Carolina softball student-athlete worked behind the scenes at concerts performed by Paul McCartney and James Taylor as part of a summer internship at the Colonial Life Arena.
“I enjoy music, and I really like going to concerts,” Page said. “It was really cool to go behind the scenes and see how it developed into the concert. It’s neat to see the arena being bare at 8 o’clock in the morning, and then it’s full for show time.”
This was the first of two required internships for the sport and entertainment management major, who will graduate next spring. Page is no stranger to putting in the hours to get results, evidenced by a stellar season last spring in which she earned First Team All-American and First Team All-SEC honors after hitting .436 with a school single season record 15 home runs. Working with the events department at the Colonial Life Arena, Page found out that there was no such thing as a typical day.
“It was a lot going on,” Page said. “I’m used to just showing up on game day. You realize you really don’t see what goes into an event. It was a learning experience for everything. It might be an 8 p.m. concert, but you have to be there at 7 a.m., preparing and making sure everything is right.”
There is also a lot of work that goes into an event prior to the actual day of the event, and many times there are events that nearly overlap, meaning the work isn’t done once the event is over. Page learned that this was similar to being a student-athlete; there are a lot of hours of work leading up to game day, and then you have to be ready to do it all over again.
“For the Paul McCartney concert we had the ‘load out’ at around 12:45 in the morning, and then Jehovah’s Witnesses came in at 7 a.m.,” Page said. “There are long hours that I didn’t know you had to put in. It’s not a 9-to-5 job.”
Despite a few long days, there are certain perks with being in that sort of business as well.
“I had backstage passes for the Paul McCartney and the James Taylor concerts,” Page said. “They were completely different in terms of what we had to do. Paul McCartney had a lot more needs for his set up, while James Taylor was more like, ‘we’re just going to show up and play.’ There was nothing too dramatic, but it was definitely different from what everyone else would see.
“I didn’t meet Paul McCartney, but James Taylor was just walking around a lot. I passed him a bunch of times and didn’t know it until somebody told me. I was working with VIP’s at the Paul McCartney concert, and once they had all taken their seats, one of his body guards called me over and let me stand right there by the stage and watch the concert. It was really good.”
I’m sure it’s chaotic with 80,000 people there, and you have to perform under pressure. But those are the moments you look for. When an event is over, you feel rewarded that everything went OK.
Page knew she was witnessing something special even if neither of the two song-writing icons were on the top of her current playlist.
“I knew a lot of his (McCartney’s) Beatle’s songs, but I don’t know much about Paul McCartney’s solo songs,” Page said. “He was a little bit before my time, but he’s 73 years old and played for three hours straight. That’s a good concert. I didn’t really know who James Taylor was. I mean, I knew his songs, but I didn’t know that he was the one who was singing them.”
Page discovered that some of the logistics for the large events can get tricky as it’s not always easy to acquire all that is needed to meet the group or talent’s needs.
“For some shows, we needed to go find a bunch of refrigerators, and there aren’t a lot of places around here where you can just rent those for a week,” Page said. “So just finding the bits and pieces like furniture that they needed locally was a challenge sometimes. A lot of big concerts will bring their own stuff, but some don’t, so you just have to go out and find it.”
Not all of the events are star-studded concerts, but they all require all-star treatment in the preparations and execution of set up and take down.
“We had freshman orientation for the university there for seven weeks, Monday through Thursday,” Page said. “It was long. For some of the smaller events, you also have to do a lot of playing it by ear based on what they need as the day goes on. So if you’re the point of contact, you’re on-call all day.”
Page hasn’t decided on a career path yet, but the on-the-job education she received over the summer peaked her interest in other areas surrounding event management. For starters, she wouldn’t mind going behind the scenes of a major sporting event.
“I’d like to work a football game and see how all of that works,” Page said. “I’m sure it’s chaotic with 80,000 people there, and you have to perform under pressure. But those are the moments you look for. When an event is over, you feel rewarded that everything went OK.”
While the internship is over, it won’t be the last she sees of many of the event staff who also work at the other sports venues on campus. After a record-breaking junior season, Page is looking forward to her senior year next spring, where she is more likely to notice some familiar faces at Carolina Softball Stadium at Beckham Field or other South Carolina athletics venues.
“I’m coming in there like I own the place,” Page laughed. “I already told them that everyone in this place better be coming to our games. I’m saying ‘hey’ to everybody. I think it will be more apparent to me about what’s going on when I walk into any game now. I’ll be more aware of security protocols and things like that than I ever was before. It was a really a fun summer.”
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