26 Aug 2018

Backstage at the Utah Symphony: Guest Artists Galore!

by Shaundra Rushton

It’s time to share one of our secret weapons that helps us host amazing guest artists. Preparing for a guest artist to perform is more difficult than you might think. Artist logistics coordinator Erin Lunsford handles the exciting task of making sure guest artists have everything they need during their time with the Utah Symphony and is one of the secrets of the season’s success. Lunsford has met celebrities from around the world and has shared some of her experiences behind the scenes at the Utah Symphony.

The artist logistics coordinator is responsible for everything related to guest artists. Lunsford said, “During the Deer Valley® Music Festival, my job involves creating and processing artist contracts, discussing the upcoming production with tour managers, putting together transportation plans and itineraries, shopping for requested food and drink items, driving artists around, running artist meet-and-greets, and generally being on call during concerts to be the artists’ point person.” Each day brings a new challenge, and she loves the variety that keeps her on her toes.

Lunsford said her favorite part of the job is being an integral part of putting together the performances. She loves listening to the Utah Symphony and guest artists perform and enjoys getting to meet the artists. “I also truly love getting to know guest artists—these are people at the top of their craft, and they often have so much wisdom to impart. I love learning from the people I work with.” She enjoys her job, and also said that it comes with its fair share of challenges.

The most challenging part of guest artist logistics is trying to manage overlapping artist groups. She commented that during the Deer Valley® Music Festival, there are “two different large groups (anywhere between five and 15 people) for our Friday and Saturday mainstage shows. This means that on Saturday, we’re trying to get our Friday artist to the airport while also setting up the Saturday artist for rehearsal in Salt Lake and performance in Park City.” Lunsford’s weekends are jam-packed with coordinating the artists and making sure everything is going smoothly.

After learning the logistic ins and outs of her job, I asked her to describe a funny moment she has had with a guest artist. She said that most of her funny moments have to do with wardrobe malfunctions. “Just recently I had a singer who had a terrifying dress malfunction! The whole zipper broke and we could only find three safety pins. After a few attempts, I managed to get the dress to hold together just a few minutes before the concert began! I could barely watch the first piece she sang because I was afraid my safety pin setup wouldn’t hold.” The stressful moments of her job often turn out to be some of her funniest memories.

When a guest artist performs, they usually request specific items to be put in their dressing rooms. Lunsford has seen many unique food requests and makes sure the artist receives everything they need. “Artists, like of all of us, have specific food items they really like to have. It can be a real sense of comfort and stability before a show. Some of the unique items I’ve seen have been microwavable rice bowls, nori-flavored popcorn, alkaline water, roasted seaweed snacks, and goat’s milk yogurt.” Lunsford helps the artists feel ready for their performances, including going on extensive shopping trips to acquire hard-to-find food items.

As the artist logistics coordinator, Lunsford is in charge of everything to make sure a guest artist’s stay goes off without a hitch. She said, “It’s a challenging job but so deeply rewarding, especially on a sold-out night. I just love to see patrons enjoying a guest artist and the orchestra putting on a great show. It makes all the hard work we do in the summer more than worth it.” She is one of the secret weapons behind making each show a success and helps make it possible for us to put on a world-class performance.

The author, Shaundra Rushton, is a summer intern in the marketing department at Utah Symphony | Utah Opera. She is studying at Weber State University, and will soon graduate with her bachelor’s degree in communication. She is a singer, instrumentalist, writer, and loving wife to her also musically inclined husband.