Smile Politely

Over a century later, Star Course still going strong

ILoveMakonnen, famous for the ubiquitous single “Club Going Up On A Tuesday” is coming to campus in march courtesy of Star Course. The Registered Student Organization (RSO) has been bringing performers to campus for over a hundred years — and it’s the oldest RSO at U of I, and Makonnen isn’t the only awesome act they’ve brought here recently. Last fall, Star Course brought Sky Ferreira, Mac DeMarco, Hoodie Allen, and Bo Burnham to perform at Foellinger Auditorium.

Its original name was Star-Lecture course, and it brought lecturers to campus. According to Star Course’s website, the RSO began its ventures into music when it brought its first orchestra to campus in 1912. Now, 102 years later, they had Bo Burnham performing a bit about what it is like to make a sandwich high on marijuana.

A Star Course advertisement in the March 30th, 1912 edition of the Daily Illini.

The RSO evolved along with the music industry bringing jazz, rock, hip-hop, and comedy artists to campus. It has remained independent and is entirely student run.

Monte Carlo Ballet Russe brought to the U of I by Star Course, photo from the December 12th, 1934 edition of the Daily Illini

Every year, there are two Senior Managers in Star Course, and fourteen Junior Managers that are in charge of putting together the shows and leading the other staff.

This year one of the Senior Managers is Hannah Ahn, a senior Engineering student. To become a member of Star Course, students must go through an interview process. However, Ahn said this is not really an application but more of a chance for the managers to get to know the staff before they join. The time commitment really depends on how much the members want to give to the club.

Ahn said she joined the RSO her sophomore year because she had a bunch of friends who participated and it seemed interesting. She said growing up she was always interested in music, and had so much fun that her junior year she became a Junior Manager and was in charge of public relations. Becoming Senior Manager just seemed natural.

Ahn said the experience has helped her gain leadership skills, but she does it for fun instead of as a resume booster. She admits the music industry doesn’t have much in common with engineering.

This year the club has been more active, hosting four big shows and selling out the Bo Burnham concert. However, Ahn says Star Course had been kind of slow over the past ten years or so.

Ahn’s sophomore year there were only two shows a semester, one smaller show and one larger show. Before Bo Burnham, Star Course hadn’t sold out a show since its 2001 John Mayer concert. Ahn said over the past two years Star Course has really expanded.

Star Course staff with comedian Bo Burnham.

Ahn credits the success to last year’s Senior Managers and the commitment they had to Star Course.

This year, the Senior Managers are looking to grow Star Course even more.  Ahn said they have been talking with the Illini Union Board and the State Farm Center to possibly work with them next semester.

“It’s so hard to gauge who you think the university wants to see because we’re such a big campus,” Ahn said.

The Senior Managers talk to the staff about who they think their friends would want to see when deciding who to book. Ahn said the club decided to book ILoveMakonnen because he has been gaining momentum and members expressed interest in his music.

Star Course normally works with middle agents to bring artists to campus. Occasionally, they contact the artists directly or the artists contact them.  The biggest obstacles to overcome when bringing artists to campus is Star Course’s limited budget, said Ahn. She also says it is difficult because the size of Champaign doesn’t compare to big cities like Chicago.

During her years in Star Course, Ahn said her favorite show was the Phantogram show at the Virginia Theatre last spring. She really likes Phantogram, and that it was a very intimate show. The Virginia Theatre was a nice change in venue. Star Course normally hosts shows in Foellinger Auditorium because they have been working with them for a long time. Ahn said they are easy to work with.

Star Course is currently working on a show that will probably be their biggest of the year. She couldn’t tell me much, but she did say they are working with several other organizations for the show.

Pictures from old Daily Illini Newspapers were found with the Illinois Digital Newspaper Collections

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