Director of Hall of Music Productions
When he looks back on his time at Purdue, Stephen Hall hopes to be proud of the legacy he has created.
Since becoming director of Hall of Music Productions in 1990, Hall has led the program through its evolution from managing the performing arts venues on campus to running a full-scale production company that produces customized event venues across campus and provides students with hands-on, professional production experience.
What is your role as the director of the Hall of Music Productions?
Overall, I am responsible for all activities of the department, such as fiscal accountability, executive management and people support for our technical staff and guest relations area. Metaphorically, I'm the "captain of the boat" and I steer the ship to where we're going without running us into the ground. As the head, I also interact with other directors and manage the interactions between departments.
One of my other roles as director is to act as the executive producer or producer for many of our productions and events. That is, I work to set the course or the direction for a video, as well as manage the financial arrangements with our clients. While I try to give the creativity team as much flexibility as possible on projects, I mostly just work to guide their plans in order help turn our customer's visions into reality.
How has Hall of Music Productions evolved during your time as director?
When I first began working for the Hall of Music, the department had approximately half the number of employees that it has today, and we were primarily responsible for only events that occurred within our facilities — Elliott Hall, Loeb Playhouse, Eliza Fowler Hall and Slayter Center for the Performing Arts. We provided the technical support and guest relations for only the events that we hosted, with about half the amount of people we do now. We did not focus on many events outside of our buildings.
When we began to expand in the mid-90s, we also grew out of our venues; we began offering production support for events wherever Purdue needed us. Now we provide portable lights, sound and staging anywhere on campus. Currently, we produce over 1,000 events annually, with our largest client being the intercollegiate athletic programs. For football and basketball games, Hall of Music Productions produces the video board content and operates the HD video board cameras and control rooms at Mackey Arena and Ross-Ade Stadium.
As live event video continues to evolve, in the early 2000s we added pre- and post-production services to our production support capabilities. We can now provide full graphical support as well as the ability to create and edit video clips or features for a production.
What current challenges are you facing?
All of our facilities are in need of an update. Although they were respectable when they were built in the 1940s and '50s, they are now not as accessible or accommodating from an audience standpoint. For example, Elliott Hall's gathering space is not nearly large enough to comfortably accommodate guests. While the theater can seat 6,000 people, the lobby area only accommodates about half of that number, and the audience amenities like restrooms and concession areas are noticeably lacking. Backstage, we're finding that we are lacking in support space for many of our productions, and we have to make compromises in areas such as dressing room availability.
However, these changes are incredibly large and expensive; we have done a feasibility study for bringing Elliott Hall of Music up to date. Although every president during my time as director has understood the need for a renovation, tough budget times and competing priorities for limited resources within the University has made it difficult to "sell" a multi-million dollar renovation to the Hall of Music. However, currently I am making a strong effort to refurbish the seating in our theaters in order to make our audiences more comfortable.
Of course, it is always a challenge to keep up with technology, which is constantly changing and improving. We're always working to stay on top of technology developments and to train our staff on new equipment.
How do you work to involve students in the functions of the Hall of Music Productions?
To me, one of our most important challenges for the Hall of Music is to find ways to align ourselves with the main goal of Purdue, which is to serve students. We've taken great steps to tie with the academic side of campus and help teach students. We have partnered with the College of Liberal Arts and its Office of Interdisciplinary Studies, and dedicated many of our resources and personnel in order to teach classes on video production.
Additionally, we are partnered with the Big Ten Network and Intercollegiate Athletics to stream Student U sports events. Through this program, students shoot, produce and announce for Purdue sports, and the programs are streamed on the network's website, and some even air on television. We were one of the first universities in the Big Ten to set up this program as part of an academic program in experiential learning.
Although our first role at the Hall of Music is to be the production company for the University within and outside of our facilities, I truly feel that our second role is to tie with the most important goal of the University — student involvement and learning.