Former Gap Band lead singer Charlie Wilson, neo-soul vocalist Joy Dennis and award-winning R&B singer Musiq Soulchild performed to an audience of around 2,000 students in the Al Lawson Center at the 2010 homecoming concert.
The event was so poorly attended that concert-planners eventually began allowing people to enter for free.
The concert-goers who bought tickets and free attendees filled approximately 10 percent of the venue, which is designed to seat more than 9,500 people. Last year’s low student turnout played a large role in homecoming planners choosing not to have a traditional concert this year.
Director of Student Activities Marvin Green said there were several factors contributing to the lack of student attendance at the 2010 homecoming concert, including scheduling it after the homecoming game and relying on artist prominence to help rally student interest. This year, he said, the focus will be on the homecoming events with artists performing as an added bonus.
Also, since the three events featuring the artists are free, students won’t have to pay to see them perform. Green said he believes the price of student tickets for the 2010 concert, $20 for students and $35 for all other ticket buyers, was a deterrent for students to attend.
“A part of what FAMU’s homecoming has been is a feeling and a spirit,” Green said. “If you put a lot of stake in one artist to make the event lively, then you’re doing yourself an injustice because you’re counting on the artist to raise the event. That person is coming in to perform, leave and make some money. No matter what the event is…it starts with school spirit.”
This year’s artists will perform at three major homecoming events: the birthday bash, which will feature rapper Ace Hood; the fashion show, at which R&B singer Miguel will perform and the crab boil after the homecoming game, featuring Doug E. Fresh.
Green said he, Student Government Association Vice President Troy Harris and other homecoming event planners chose Doug E. Fresh in an attempt to give older FAMU alumni the opportunity to listen to artists they recognize.
“We want homecoming to be a time where old rattlers and current rattlers can feel like they’re at home,” Green said.
Harris agreed, adding that the artists chosen this year came from a variety of musical genres in an effort to appeal to all FAMU students, instead of only to a small portion of homecoming attendees. While he said he is not a fan of Ace Hood, he said the artist appeals more to the “typical Florida environment that a lot of FAMU students come from.”
Associate Vice President of Student Life and Dean of Students Henry Kirby said the only artist he is familiar with is Doug E. Fresh. Homecoming planners were allocated almost $14,000 more than last year by the Student Senate, Kirby said. The overall budget, including security, the fashion show, parade, health fair and booking artists is $194,800.
Harris said he would love to plan a homecoming with an all-star list of popular artists, but they would be difficult to hire with such a tight budget.
“In all honesty, that’s all the money we had and that’s all we could do. It’s tough when you have such tight restraints and tight boundaries,” Harris said. “Growing up, I heard that no one does homecoming like FAMU. When you have such high expectations to live up to, it’s a hard situation.”
Harris also emphasized, however, that students and alumni shouldn’t focus on the artists, but about homecoming as a whole. Attendees should make their own fun, he said, regardless of who is performing.
“Homecoming is about the alumni and the student, about culture and loving FAMU,” Harris said. “The budget cuts might have been a blessing in disguise, because we can put emphasis on every single night and make every night an experience.”