Show ‘Em How to Shake It!



Article from Campus Activities Programming® Magazine’s “Curtain Call” Jan/Feb 2016

Dream with me for a minute … . You are the lead singer in the coolest band in town. Yes, YOU are a rock star and tonight is your big show. You have been planning this night for a long time and you’re psyched that the day has finally arrived. You are ready to rock. You have practiced on your own and rehearsed with the band and they are ready to take the stage with you. Tonight, you will sing like you’ve never sung before. And, because you are a great performer, too, you will “shake your thing” like it has never been shaken! Oh yeah, you – will – be – AMAZING!

In your audience tonight, there will be a few people who have never seen your show, never been to the venue, and have never even seen a live band. They are curious, nervous, excited, and not really sure what to expect. They are the “newbies” and you are the “rock star.” And, you have the ability to rock their world!

Let’s take that relationship between rock star performer and brand new audience and look at it from the perspective of seasoned professional and brand new professional, or experienced student leader and brand new student committee member. One of them is the “experienced rock star” and one is the “audience.” And you, yes YOU, are the rock star and the new folks are the audience because they will be looking to you for guidance.

Just your action of opening this magazine and reading this column allows me to deduce that you are active and engaged in your profession and position. It also tells me you have already gained experience and knowledge in your field. After all, you made it to this page, deep in this magazine! Maybe it’s your first time opening up Campus Activities Programming® magazine or perhaps it’s your 100th. Either way, you are probably not the “new kid.” Not anymore. You have coordinated programs and have been on committees, you understand the roles and responsibilities of student and staff programmers, and you have most likely attended a conference or two. That knowledge and experience makes you a “rock star” in the eyes of your new “audience.”

So, now that you understand that the spotlight is on you, what will you do with your influence? The audience will be watching what you do, listening to what you say, and definitely looking at the way you “shake your thing.” So, be aware of how you shake it and embrace the idea that you truly have “rock star” influence.

I recently watched a Bruce Springsteen video for his 1984 hit “Dancing in the Dark.” It has received over 40 million views (I am not the only Springsteen fan). It’s a really catchy song. But the part that sticks with me is when, at the end of the video, he pulls a fan out of the crowd to dance with him on stage. It’s awesome. He actually reaches out and pulls someone up onto the stage. In so doing, he is including them in his experience. It’s a very cool rock star moment that he creates for himself and for his audience member. By bringing someone “in” and showing them how to “shake it,” he enabled everyone, band and audience, to have a bigger and better experience.

On campus and in our communities, this is exactly what we should be doing with our influence and our spotlight. We should always look for ways to reach out to the crowd and pull them onto our stage to share in our experience. Consider all of the opportunities you have to create these moments for others. Are you programming an event this month? Do you need to recruit new members to your team? Will you be attending a conference soon? Is there something you would like to share with the world? How will you positively impact their lives? Think about yourself as the “rock star” and then think of the act of recruiting, promoting, and teaching as “reaching out to the crowd.” After all, you are a rock star and the spotlight is already on you. The fans are looking to you for guidance, for inspiration, for education, and for the invitation to participate!

Remember the dream we had earlier? You are the lead singer in the coolest band in town. You, yes YOU, are a rock star! In your audience, there are folks who have never seen your show, never been to the venue, and never heard your story. They are curious, nervous, excited, and not really sure what to expect. Your new fans are eager to see where you will take them. Embrace your influential role, reach out to the crowd, and show ’em how to shake it!


Jason LeVasseur lives in Nashville, TN, and is one of the most awarded music performers in campus entertainment. He is also a keynote speaker, workshop facilitator, summer camp counselor, husband, father, and the creator of “The Rock Star Project.” Visit He is represented in NACA by Bass-Schuler Entertainment in Chicago, IL.

To see a teaser of one of my crowd ideas called “Twinkle” (just visual):

To watch the Springsteen video:

To learn more about NACA (National Association for Campus Activities)

The Paradiddle – Try Something New!


“Curtain Call” article from Campus Activities Programming® Oct 2015

I am a drummer. I love playing the drums. I am also a teacher. I love teaching the drums. Today, I want to teach you some drums. I want you to play along with me! All that I ask of you is that you have a great attitude, stay open to learning something new, and follow the instructions.

Ready to play along? Your answer is a resounding, “YES!!!” That’s great. Thanks for participating!

One of the first steps in learning to play the drums is to learn the fundamentals. In the world of drummers, the basic drum patterns are called “rudiments” and I am going to teach you a rudiment called the “paradiddle.” A “paradiddle” is called a “paradiddle” because it has a pair of diddles! That’s a drum teacher joke. It’s funny to drum teachers.

Below is the pattern that you will play with your hands. Helpful tip: “Right” refers to your right hand and “Left” is your left. Please play along by beating on your knees or desk (or if there are people in your office, try quietly tapping the pattern with your feet on the floor). 


Try again slowly. 


The second time through, repeat it immediately. Keep going right back to the beginning (the first RIGHT) and do it over and over. 

Great job! I am sure some of you got it! Don’t worry if you haven’t. Please try a few more times. Just repeat it again, keeping a steady rhythmic pattern. Remember, when you come to the end of the sequence, return to the beginning so there is no beginning or end. Once you get in the groove of the pattern, you may begin to move your body a bit and get into it. Don’t forget to breathe. Now, pretend you are the drummer in your favorite band. You are a rock star! 

Still need help? To make it easier, you can say the corresponding RIGHTS and LEFTS out loud as you play the pattern. Many drum students find that helpful. Also, if you say it loud enough, you will entertain anyone within earshot! Perhaps your colleagues will become interested and you can teach them the paradiddle, too!

Many of you were probably able to play the pattern after one or two attempts. Some of you may have taken a bit longer to coordinate all of your movements. That is OK and normal. We all learn in different ways. That’s why this example works. Learning the paradiddle is a metaphor for all of the new things to which we are introduced every day. Some things make sense right away and are easily understood and some take time to understand. It is our attitude towards the new activity and our willingness to participate that is most important. 

We are advisors, educators and student leaders. And, as persons of influence on our campuses, we must always be willing to explore the new ideas and activities to which we are introduced, whether they come from new students or seasoned industry experts. Every day we will be introduced to “paradiddles” (ideas, activities, concepts) and we can approach them with an open or closed mind, to explore or not to explore. It is most important that we keep our minds always open to the possibilities. That is our secret sauce for growth and success!

What if the next semester’s big event is something you have never attempted on your campus? What if your biggest success as an advisor is helping a student with an activity you will soon learn about at one of the fall regional conferences. Are you open or closed to the ideas? Are you willing to try something new? Think back a few minutes: were you willing to play the paradiddle? 

Maybe you grumbled a bit to yourself just then. But as the “paradiddle” becomes more familiar to you, and you spend even a little time on learning the drum pattern, your attitude towards it will change. You can rock the paradiddle! And, you will rock every new metaphorical paradiddle that comes into your life. All the new ideas, activities, concepts, novelty games, bands, comedians, family programs, spiritual programs, and even mobile petting zoos may at first seem foreign and maybe even scary. But, as you familiarize yourself and begin to understand their “groove,” you will begin to understand what they can do to enhance life on your campus. Thanks for staying open to the possibilities. Thanks for playing along! 

P.S. Want another challenge? Try the paradiddle pattern below and play the BOLD ones louder by raising your hands higher and hitting the desk harder on just those beats. 



Jason LeVasseur lives in Nashville, TN, and is one of the most awarded music performers in campus entertainment. He is also a keynote speaker, workshop facilitator, summer camp counselor, husband, father, and the creator of “The Rock Star Project.” Visit

To see THE PARADIDDLE in action:

To learn more about NACA (National Association for Campus Activities)

“Top 10” for Artists & Agents attending college leadership conferences.

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Originally posted by NACA Northeast on September 13, 2014 

“Top Ten Ingredients for Associate Members” to have a successful conference experience… according to Jason LeVasseur… who has attended lots of conferences… and still loves attending conferences.

2014 NACA Northeast Conference Theme: “Mixing It Up”

Caveat: The “top ten” are truly not in any particular order, but are definitely important things to consider when “mixing it up” at NACA.  As an associate, there are so many things to think about when preparing and planning for the conference and this list could truly be a whole cookbook. But it’s a blog post, so let’s keep it concise like a PB&J sandwich. Throughout all of your experiences be sure to ask lots of questions and share your ideas with other associates. I guess that could be considered the first bit of advice… but I did not list it as one of the ten, although it’s still important and should really be in the top ten. By writing it here I was able to sneak 11 important things on my list. That was a daring move on my part. It was like adding an ingredient to my dish that was not in the recipe. It’s a tasty addition so let me sprinkle that idea back at ya, “ask lots of questions and share your ideas with other associates”.

Now to the 10. Here you go:

1. Attitude – The way you approach the whole weekend will have a huge impact on whether or not you have a successful conference experience. Believe this – The conference is going to be fun and productive. You are a nice person. You will make friends. Your business will grow. You will create a yummy networking cup cake filled with delicious and friendly ingredients. That might sound funny but I am trying to go with the “mixing it up” theme.

2. Stay Healthy – Rest up before you get to the conference. The weekend is a joyous marathon and you do not want to show up to the starting line already worn out. Drink lots of water. Eat good food. Take care of your body. Once the starting gun has gone off keep a healthy pace that is right for you. That was a running metaphor. Totally out of place here but still good advice.

3. Read The Program – Look at the whole weekend’s schedule and get an overall understanding of the event. A broad perspective of what everyone is doing and experiencing will help you understand the students and staff. Their conference is bigger than just the hours that we spend in the Campus Activities Market Place (CAMP). To the students and staff, this is more than just a “talent buying” conference. It’s a networking opportunity, an educational event, and professional development weekend as well. So, get to know what else is going on. You will gain some good perspective by reading the program.

4. Attend Everything – Your opportunities to build relationships do not start and end in CAMP. You can attend educational sessions, hang out in the lobby, go to lunch with a school group, and make yourself available to chat with whomever happens to walk by. You can even make new friends on an escalator. The thing to remember, so you don’t break the rules, is that you can only “sell” your products in CAMP. You can “mix it up” all day long, hanging out, chatting, and sharing recipes (as long as your recipe is the shape of a business card and you are only giving it away in a non-selling manner). Seriously, meet and chat with lots of folks. It will help broaden your perspective on what the schools really need. They want to create great events for their students and you can help.

5. Prepare Your Promo – This will lower your stress level. Make sure that you have everything “ready to go” before you arrive on site. Packaging, labeling, making copies, stuffing CD cases, and anything done ahead of time is smart planning. If you try to get it done while trying to set up your booth it can be stressful and prevent you from just hanging out and having fun. In addition, know your schedule ahead of time. Bring a prepared calendar, which includes the dates when you or your acts are available to perform. In short, show up at the picnic with your food basket well organized and prepared.

6. No Need to Give Your Promo To Everyone – Most school representatives are divided into committees. Some folks are there looking for lectures, some for comedy, some for novelty games, etc. It’s OK to ask a student if your material is relevant to their role on their campus. As an artist, if you are a “crooning Sinatra-singing stilt walker,” you do not need to give your DVD to the “movie chairperson.” They are not the ones who will bring you to campus. If you are a singing stilt walker… I would like to meet you. Your leg extensions are great tools when mixing up huge batches of cookie dough that we will then share with everyone at the conference. We should be friends.

7. Own Your Talent
– You are so amazingly talented. You (yes, you) will be the most talented and amazing person at the conference. The guy next to you thinks he is the most talented. But it’s actually you. It is definitely OK to talk big about who you are and what you have to offer. But find a humble way to do it. Use video, live recordings, or written recommendations to “show” what you can do instead of just “saying” what you can do. Definitely be honest and find a way to share your awesomeness while being humble all at the same time. Always remember that you are working together with the attending students to create great events on their campus. What can you do to help them? Why would your act be good for their campus?

8. Be Nice – Everyone likes nice. Make sure you ask questions and find out the needs of the schools. Even if they are not buying what you are selling you can still be nice. The students you are talking to will be talking to other people who will be talking about you if you are not nice. So be nice. You may get frustrated every once in a while because your dough is not rising as quickly as you had hoped. Save it. Vent to a friend when you are alone and far away from students and staff. I can be your friend. Complain to me. Remember what I said earlier about this being a marathon? Sometimes the delicious baked cake finish line can be 3, 6, or 12 months in the future. This is not a microwaveable hot pocket. It’s a slow cooker. You need to be nice to everyone so they will be willing to enjoy your cuisine in the comforts of their own campuses.

9. Accept Defeat Gracefully – When a student or staff member walks past your booth and turns the other way when you are trying to engage them, it’s not your fault. They probably have an allergy to the food you are making. Don’t take it personally. They will break out in a rash if they enter your booth. You would never give a peanut butter and jelly sandwich to someone who is allergic to peanuts. Would you? Be resilient and remember to focus on the folks who really love peanuts. Yeah, I know you are not actually making food but this works with the theme. The point here is to be resilient. Not everyone will love you and it has nothing to do with whether or not you are lovable. You know you are awesome. I know you are awesome. Why do they just walk by? Allergies.

10. Wear Comfy Shoes – You will be standing a whole lot over the weekend. Comfy shoes will make you more patient, happy, smarter, and open-minded. You will also be more considerate and respectful to those around you. If there is a whole lot of cushion in your shoes they will make you taller. Comfy shoes are good. When the “talented act” in the booth next to you has forgotten their comfy shoes you can cheer them up and say, “Hey, you should go change into your comfy shoes”, and then offer them a piece of candy. Wear comfy shoes. Comfy shoes help your attitude. Attitude is the first ingredient on the list. Comfy shoes moisten the cake. No one likes dry cake. Everyone loves comfy shoes. Have a great conference.

See you soon!



Jason LeVasseur lives in Nashville, TN, and is one of the most awarded music performers in campus entertainment. He is also a keynote speaker, workshop facilitator, summer camp counselor, husband, father, and the creator of “The Rock Star Project®.” Visit

Go Away! Please, Go Away!!

301617_10150348851571169_1394734657_nOriginally published in the May 2015 issue of “Programming Magazine”.

I like to take children into the woods. Really, I like to take children into the woods. In the summer, it’s my job. I’m a camp counselor, a wilderness guide and a trip leader. As a camp counselor, I have been very fortunate to go on hundreds of camping trips with different groups of students, campers and staff. I love it. We go to the woods to experience something new, to challenge ourselves individually, and to learn new ways to become better team players.

Henry David Thoreau “went to the woods” to get away from the everyday, to leave the big city, to think about where he had been in his life and to contemplate where he was going. He needed a place where he could escape and get a new perspective. He went on a “retreat.” That is what we do at summer camp when we go on guided camping trips. And it is what we do on our campuses when we “go away” with our teams, committees and fellow student leaders. We go away with the goal of learning more about each other and to learn to work together more productively. We leave the everyday routine to contemplate where we’ve been and to dream about where we’d like to go.

The one important thing we recognize in all of these examples is that we “go away.” We change the scene and experience something new. We do this because it is good for us; it challenges and stimulates the brain. It encourages everyone, teacher and student, advisor and committee, to look at things from a different perspective. When we go to a new location, our minds open up. The sights, smells and sounds of our new environment help to invigorate our senses, making us more alert and open to new ideas.

It’s also important for educators and advisors to learn to teach from a new platform, a new stage, a new pile of dirt in the woods. When we teach and facilitate in a new environment, we do so with a renewed energy, and we become more attuned to what we want to accomplish. This new space raises our awareness, as well as that of our audience. Perhaps we prepare a little bit more for these events when we know there is more at stake and when our audience is listening a bit harder and paying closer attention than before. In these moments, we also recognize that our message can be more impactful, because the listener is more in tune.

Retreats come in all shapes and sizes. I have hiked up mountains, paddled down rivers, climbed ropes courses and scaled rock walls. But I have also had incredible experiences inside heated buildings, in the safety of a well-lit multipurpose room, on the second floor of a student center. And, in this imaginary desolate and dangerous far-away place, I have stepped to the top of a four-legged chair, standing stoically upon the plush fabric seat, pretending to have no fear. From this elevated position in a colorfully carpeted room, I have crossed my arms in front of me, clasped my hands together, closed my eyes, and fallen backwards into the arms of trusted friends. In that moment, my mind was not in the room. I was not on campus. Sometimes, a chair can be as challenging and scary as a mountain.

The most important thing we can do when planning a retreat is make it happen, regardless of whether or not we have the budget to physically take ourselves anywhere. We need to “go away,” even if we stay on campus. It is the change of scene that is important. It is the feeling of “going away” and creating a new environment that needs to happen. Simply having a meeting in a new space offers the team a new perspective and the brain is forced to fire on more cylinders. It just takes a little creativity and the willingness to try something new.

Consider all the buildings and spaces on your campus. You can transform a meeting room, multipurpose room, or gymnasium into a completely new space that suits your needs – as long as there is a feeling something is “different” about the space you are using. You can do this by readjusting the furniture, decorating with a theme, and, more importantly, making sure the space is yours and yours alone, not to be intruded upon by the hustle and bustle of normal campus life. The retreat must be a retreat. It must be “away.” Remember, even if you do not have the budget to take your group on an overnight trip to an exotic location, there are still great ways to create the “retreat” feel in your own back yard.

So, please go to the woods. Even if “the woods” are a few rooms in a building you’ve never visited, or a professor’s back porch, or a piece of lawn near the science building. I encourage you to go away. For yourself and for your students, please, go away!!

Jason LeVasseur lives in Nashville, TN, and is one of the most awarded music performers in campus entertainment. He is also a keynote speaker, workshop facilitator, summer camp counselor, husband, father, and the creator of “The Rock Star Project®.” Visit

It’s Your Stage: Break a Leg!

11990424_10153107449351361_7773236514462656111_nOriginally published in the October 2014 issue of “Programming Magazine”.

As I write this, it’s the beginning of a new tour season and schools are opening up across the country. My days have been filled with flights, rental cars, hotels and a whole bunch of different “stages” on different campuses. It’s from these stages that a touring performer like me hopes to entertain, teach, amaze and inspire. There are so many different stages and possibilities. And we all have one or more of our own. What does your stage look like?

In August in Nebraska, I stood in the middle of a gym floor facing the bleachers on “move in day.” All of the first-year students and their parents filled the stands. The president of the college spoke first and closed with a big, “Go Bobcats!” I was next to the microphone. The smiling and expectant audience members looked down from their elevated positions on their wooden bleacher seats. They listened, sang along and participated in the orientation activities. The “stage” that day was the gym floor.

Later, in Indiana, I spoke in the academic building, where I presented from behind the lectern in the institution’s largest lecture hall. I played with the mouse from a computer that wasn’t being used and joked with the students that everything “would be on the final test.” It was a lecture hall, after all, and I was on the professor’s stage. (You had to be there. I was on fire.)

In Michigan the same week, I was in an old theater, looking out to a sea of yellow orientation shirts emblazoned with burgundy block letters. To differentiate the orientation guides from the new students, the student leaders wore orange shirts and sat up in the balcony. Way up there, they danced to my songs and cheered for their new student teams. The balcony became their stage. We all watched as they danced their funky, choreographed dances. The room was filled with electric energy.

This theater was built for performances. We had a great stage, a great balcony, and a great sound system. But that doesn’t happen every time. Sometimes the stage presents challenges. The very next day and two states to the south, I found myself with a small, portable sound system that sounded “muddy” and unclear in a 150-year-old chapel. It was not easy to understand what I was saying.

It’s in situations such as these that we entertainers need to adapt for our audiences. If an audience can’t understand me, why am I standing in front of them? I followed a hunch as I walked away from the microphone and unplugged my guitar. This particular chapel was built in 1864. It was constructed before electronic amplification existed. It was designed so that a voice could be heard from the pulpit. Why were we trying to improve on the original design? “So, preach!” I said to myself. The chapel was perfect for what turned into an intimate 300-person “unplugged” event. Everyone was able to hear me clearly.

Sometimes the stage surprises you with possibilities.

Whatever your stage, remember that you must always consider the audience experience first. After all, that’s why the event is happening – for the audience. Whether it’s in a cafeteria, an outdoor show, a theater show, or an intimate coffeehouse event, the “stage” is there for the audience. The only reason a performer is elevated or amplified is so that the audience can see and hear them more clearly. From ancient Greece and Rome to London and Tokyo, stages have always been created to better serve the audience experience. The positioning of the entertainer in relation to the audience is always with the audience in mind, to make it easier for them to see and hear the performance.

What is your position in relation to your audience? Where is your stage? Do you have a crowd watching you? Are you leading a team? Perhaps your stage is your chair at your desk in your office, or it’s on the carpet of a hallway speaking to a group of new student leaders, or in front of a classroom, in a boardroom, or at a banquet dinner table. Whatever your position on your stage, you are there to serve your audience. Can you be seen? Can you be heard? What are you saying? Remember that if you are a leader, your position was created to enhance the experience of those you serve. You are the performer.

College president, assistant dean, activities coordinator, treasurer, or chairperson, your title or leadership position is your spotlight. But remember you are in that light only because you are able to help others. What you do in your position matters. What you say matters. How you act matters. There is no doubt that you are a great performer on your stage and, in that spotlight, you have the ability to inspire and do great things. Wherever your stage, whether it be in Tulsa, Toronto or Timbuktu, you take the stage because you can make others’ lives better.

Break a leg.

Jason LeVasseur lives in Nashville, TN, and is one of the most awarded music performers in campus entertainment. He is also a keynote speaker, workshop facilitator, summer camp counselor, husband, father, and the creator of “The Rock Star Project®.” Visit