Students try life on the road with Happy Together tour

Finals were right around the corner, people had started packing up their dorms, and for most, summer plans were pretty much set. Like other students by this time, then sophomore Molly Cotter was packed and ready to head home to New Jersey for a summer of working and visiting old friends.

Until, she got an unexpected phone call.

“Hi Molly. This is Lucas Boto with Belmont. I was calling to let you know that one of the 10 students who were selected to go on the Happy Together tour dropped out, and you are next in line to go,” said the voice mail.

Three weeks later, Cotter was standing on the corner of Belmont Boulevard in front of a tour bus with a duffle bag full of belongings to last her three weeks.

“I was so excited when I got the phone call. I felt so accomplished because I had made it a goal. I knew about it before I even came to Belmont,” said Cotter.

She wasn’t the only one.

Every year, 10 students interested in touring are selected to try out life on the road. Thanks to the experience amongst the expertise of the crew, the students get the feel of what they described as a “legitimate ‘60s tour.”

Instead of working a summer job or perhaps taking classes like other traditional college students, these select individuals have the opportunity to travel across the East Coast for three weeks.

Rotating positions everyday, students learn everything from sound staging to merchandise selling from industry experts.

What kind of band would want a litter of clueless college kids tagging along on the road, you ask?

Look no further than The Turtles, a popular ‘60s rock band.

They have Mark Volman, Belmont professor and founding member of the band, to thank for the experience.

In fact, according to Boto, who manages tour logistics for students, the students are who make the tour so fun.

“Students bring energy to the crew because they’re new to the road. For most people on the tour, they’ve been traveling for so many years that it’s the typical grind until new and excited faces show up ready to help and learn,” said Boto.“It’s not hard for it to be memorable when the students have never experienced working with legendary talent, traveling on a bus and seeing cities from Jacksonville, Florida to Hampton Beach, New Hampshire. It’s pretty unforgettable.”

For most, this would be a dream come true. But for Katherine Donaldson, the idea of being a tour bus with strangers was far from exciting.

“Though I knew in my heart this experience would be spectacular and unlike anything I had ever done before, I was terrified. The week before we were set to depart, I did everything to keep my mind from wandering to the worst-case scenarios or to thinking about the tour in general for that matter. Nonetheless, I found myself crying to my mother in my bathroom surrounded by tiny, travel-sized toiletries as my sister told me I was being ridiculous,” said Donaldson.

Little did she know a week later, those strangers wouldn’t seem so scary.

If there was one thing these strangers had in common, it was that no one knew what to expect.

“Learning new things can be hard, especially when you have no clue what you are doing and are surrounded by professionals. But at the end of the day, we were in it together, and that made it a lot easier,” said Cotter.

In the course of the tour, students attended every show, learned every aspect of what goes into making it and even squeezed in a little sightseeing from time to time.

But in the end, it was all about the music experience.

“I learned so many things, from being able to tune a 12-string guitar to actually controlling the lights in the show. The learning never stopped,” said Donaldson. “Touring contributed to my education by giving me a hands-on experience, the ability to pick the brains of seasoned performers and professionals and also by putting me in the shoes of a real life, day-to-day professional in the music industry. “

This article was written by Paige Atwell. Photo courtesy of Molly Cotter.

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