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Cortland Concert Legacy to be Explored by Panels

Cortland Concert Legacy to be Explored by Panels


Since the 1960s, students at SUNY Cortland have been involved in planning and booking some of the hottest names in the music industry to perform on campus. 

In the 1960s it was Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Judy Collins and Simon and Garfunkel. Big names in the 1970s included The Grateful Dead, Billy Joel, The Beach Boys, Jackson Browne and The Eagles. And the 1980s brought artists like James Taylor, The Ramones, Cheap Trick, Southside Johnny and The Kinks to campus.

The list reads like a who’s who of popular music history over the last 50 years, reflecting cultural change, the rise of student engagement and activism. 

At SUNY Cortland, this involvement gave many students a strong foundation for careers in music, media, marketing, education, public relations, event management and other fields.

Students, faculty, staff, alumni and community members can learn about how these concerts and their music intersected with great shifts in American culture and inspired a generation of college students to get involved while unintentionally setting themselves up for long and successful careers.

A panel discussion by former students involved with the classic concerts and experts in the music business will be held on campus at two separate times and locations on Thursday, Nov. 1.

The first, which will explore the history of SUNY Cortland’s impressive list of great concerts, will be presented as a sandwich seminar at noon in Brockway Hall Jacobus Lounge.

The second, which will additionally focus on how student involvement in booking and managing big shows was — and continues to be — a great career builder, starts at 7 p.m. in Corey Union Fireplace Lounge.

Both events are free and open to the public.

Speakers at both events inlude:

  • Kevin Pristash ’85 M ’91, director of campus activities and Corey Union at SUNY Cortland. Pristash has helped produce Student Activity Board concerts since 1985, bringing groups like Gary U.S. Bonds, Southside Johnny, The Kinks and Mike and the Mechanics to campus. His areas of expertise include technical production and contract negotiation.
  • Ken Barclay, director of College Activities and University Union at SUNY Cortland from 1970 to 1979. In that role, Barclay worked closely with students of the Circulating Fund and concert committees to hosts acts such as The Eagles, Linda Ronstadt, America and the Marshall Tucker Band. Since Cortland, he has had a distinguished career as a professor and administrator at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo.
  • Jack Samuels ’73, professor of recreation, tourism, events and sports management at Montclair State University.  As a Cortland student, he served in several leadership roles and was instrumental in bringing major concerts to campus such as the Beach Boys, Billy Joel and The Grateful Dead.
  • Ralph Shortell ’66, retired after a nearly 30-year career in student affairs administration at Ithaca College, SUNY Brockport and Tompkins Cortland Community College. As the East Coast Conference Chair of NACA (National Association for Campus Activities), he worked with students to bring top bands to each of those campuses. At SUNY Cortland, he was president of Delta Kappa Beta (1925-1991).
  • Thomas E. Matthews, former associate dean of leadership and service and director of the GOLD Program at SUNY Geneseo. Matthews was a key member of the early leadership of NACA the late 1960s and chair of its board of directors from 1970 to 1979. NACA was instrumental in creating a business model that gave students control over student government and set the standard for students working with staff to book concerts at colleges around the country.

They are part of a series of events planned by the SUNY Cortland Alumni Association’s Musical Legacy Committee. The first was held on Oct. 6, during the weekend of SUNY Cortland’s 150th Birthday Celebration.

For more information on the SUNY Cortland Sesquicentennial, visit