Veteran concert promoter introduces students to the profession.
By Rex Rutkoski
Published: Friday, Sept. 14, 2012, 8:58 p.m.
When your job used to be giving artistic satisfaction to the Rolling Stones, Bruce Springsteen, Paul McCartney and other superstars, it might seem that anything that followed would pale in comparison.
No so for Ed Traversari, veteran Pittsburgh concert promoter who is reinventing himself in a way he finds decidedly satisfying — as a fulltime Point Park University assistant professor introducing a new generation to the joys and challenges of his chosen profession.
The McCandless resident and Charleroi native has begun his fifth year in the university's innovative Sport, Arts and Entertainment Management program, which itself is celebrating its 10th year.
The growing program, with an undergraduate and graduate track, trains students from more than 20 states to become sports agents, theater managers and concert promoters, as well as explore other possibilities related to those areas. Faculty members work in the fields they teach.
Traversari, 59, brings more than 35 years of experience and thousands of concerts to his classrooms at Point Park's Downtown campus and the city's newest venue, Stage AE, on the North Shore. He teaches venue and facility management, the business of live entertainment, advertising and public relations and event management.
Stage AE, with its active concert schedule, is a very practical laboratory for translating that learning into practice. “We are very pleased with the relationship we have with Stage AE. The venue has produced some amazing shows,” Traversari says.
Amy Cooper, director of marketing for PromoWest North Shore, Stage AE, says the academic partnership with the university is “a unique and hands-on way for the students to learn about our business, and it allows us to have our own focus group. It allows us to mentor the future generation employees of our industry and for them to have more of an inside look at how things operate in different departments and get their foot in the door.”
Traversari had never considered teaching until the opportunity presented itself after the Chevrolet Amphitheatre (formerly I.C. Light Amphitheatre) at Station Square, of which he was general manager, lost its lease in 2007.
Since 1975, he had been a mainstay, rising to partner, at DiCesare-Engler Productions, which became Live Nation. He oversaw production of concerts at Pittsburgh area and tri-state venues, including the Bryce Jordan Center in State College; handled artist-promoter financial settlements at shows; and acted as talent buyer and director of marketing, overseeing the allocation of $1.5 million in annual advertising.
For 25 years, he was the voice of live weekly concert updates on WDVE-FM and other stations.
He knew immediately that he was going to like teaching. “Soon after I began, I realized that our students really wanted to be in class and learn from us. They appreciate the real-life experiences that we bring to the classroom,” he says.
Traversari is “a great asset,” says associate professor Steve Tanzilli, a sports agent/lawyer who serves as the program's director. Traversari is effective “because he cares,” Tanzilli says, spending countless hours with each student, helping them in and out of the classroom.
“Ed's reputation in this business is something I strive to have,” Cooper says. “He is a vault of knowledge and relates well to everyone, from the students to industry veterans.”
Being able to provide students with fundamental information that should help them have an advantage when competing for jobs is very satisfying, Traversari says. “I think of myself when I'm teaching and wonder how good it would have been if I could have taken music management classes when I went to Robert Morris (Class of '74), but there was no such thing at the time.”
Faculty colleague Teresa Gregory says Traversari is well known throughout the entertainment industry as a consummate concert and event promoter who has worked with many legends.
“He has the ability to pick up the phone to connect students, alumni and the faculty to industry leaders,” she says. “You just can't read a textbook and learn what he knows. He also is very laid-back and humble.”
Traversari says his approach is “to tell plenty of stories,” as they relate to what he is discussing, and to invite guests, such as musicians, venue general managers, marketing and public relations specialists and others to speak to his classes. He regularly takes students on behind-the-scenes tours of Consol Energy Center, the Benedum Center, Heinz Field and various recording studios.
Traversari has provided a number of opportunities for students, involving them in some of the events he continues to assist at and stage in the region, from festivals at Seven Springs and music at the guitar exhibit at Carnegie Science Center, to “Roots of Rock” PBS tapings and Henry DeLuca's annual Roots of Rock 'n Roll concerts at the Benedum, to special concerts at Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hall featuring friends Bruce Springsteen and Pittsburgh's Joe Grushecky.
“He goes out of his way to interact with people and not only take in what they are saying, but show genuine interest in everything,” Varnish says. “In an industry that moves at light speed sometimes, Ed seems to take the time to not only enjoy the work around him, but make time for all the people involved.”
Musician Greg Joseph of The Clarks says Traversari has always been “a great ambassador” for Pittsburgh music. “The music business is filled with egos and personalities. Ed has risen above that. He relies on people skills and great relationships to make things happen.”
Joseph loves speaking to the classes. “It is the first time you see passion in their souls, and when students show a passion for my professional field, it gets me excited to share my knowledge.”
A drummer in several local rock bands in the late 1960s and early '70s, Traversari knew he wanted to be involved in some aspect of the music business as a career. He credits his role as student activities president at Robert Morris for his start on the promoter path, booking Roy Buchanan, Seals and Crofts and Spirit.
“It has been a satisfying choice, the best I could have ever had,” he says. “The unbelievable opportunities that Rich Engler and Pat DiCesare gave me is something that I still cherish today.”
DiCesare, who brought the Beatles to Pittsburgh, praises Traversari as one of the best hires he and Engler ever made — thorough, dependable, “doing whatever was needed to get the job done.” He became a “main asset” and “the voice of DiCesare-Engler Productions,” DiCesare says.
“He learned the business literally from the bottom up, every little facet. He was so energetic, totally invaluable,” Engler says. “He is a natural for teaching. I would have loved to be in his class.”
Point Park junior Max Kovalchuk of Pittsburgh, who hopes to go into artist management or work for a record label, considers himself fortunate to be a student of Traversari. “He really cares about getting students to where they want to be in their careers,” he says.
“Ed is the man,” says Megan Jones of Pittsburgh, who works in marketing at Heinz Field. “He was my professor and remains a part of my life as a mentor and friend. He has a gift for guiding students.”
“I tell my classes to leave their music opinions outside the door and be prepared to promote, manage or book what makes the most sense based on their research,” Traversari says. “I point out that the entertainment business is just that, a huge multi-billion-dollar business and they need to be prepared if they want to be in the business.”
His guidance has made a significant impact, says Caroline Bovalino of Hopewell, a former student in public relations at MARC USA, Pittsburgh.
“Ed entered the door of opportunity a long time ago and keeps it open for his students, helping them realize their potential,” she says. “That's not something you see everyday.”
Rex Rutkoski is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-226-4664 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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