Thanks for Your Shoes!

Article written for Programming Magazine – Sept/Oct 2018

In the summer, I work as the program director of a residential summer camp in Maine. It’s located on a big clear lake and is beautiful. Counselors and campers live in rustic cabins, with the buildings connected by a maze of paths through the pine tree forest. All day, campers run from activity to activity along these trails, eager and excited to get from one event to another. They jump off big rocks and leap over tree roots as they scramble and race their friends to the next activity.

I was walking along one of the paths early in the summer and noticed one of our new campers walking slowly in my direction. He did not appear to be lost, as he wasn’t looking up and around, searching for direction. He was just plodding along, scuffing his feet along the path, looking down, and moving very slowly. He would kick a pinecone, pause, and watch it bounce until it stopped. He was in no hurry.

When the gap between us closed to a speaking distance, I greeted him with a big, “Hi Shane, where ya’ headed?” He lifted his arm out straight in front of him and pointed past me down the path and quietly said, “I’m headed that way.” Immediately, I knew something wasn’t quite right. After a brief conversation, I learned Shane was homesick and missed his dog and little sister. What a bummer. I knew exactly how he felt. I, too, had been a homesick camper my first summer at sleep-away camp. I had been “in his shoes”.

I told Shane the story about my first summer and my own homesickness and the things I did to help me get through. I talked to him about other counselors and older campers who had also been homesick when they were new campers. I let him know it’s OK to be homesick; it’s normal. I also talked to him about how helpful he was going to be someday helping out other first-time campers, as he was now an “expert” in homesickness. This made him smile.

Over the next few days, I checked in with him to see how he was doing. I let other older campers and counselors know about Shane and they all did a great job keeping him busy and having fun. Soon, he was bouncing along the path and running from activity to activity. Shane will be a great help next summer with our new campers as they experience sleep-away camp for the first time. He has now “been in their shoes.”

On your campus, in your residence halls, in your student center, walking across campus, there are students just like Shane. They may not be homesick but they may have some other challenge and could use your help and mentorship. After all, you are a student leader, an advisor, a counselor, a peer mentor, or one of the many other amazing people I’ve met through NACA®. That’s why you’re reading this magazine. It’s not your first day of summer camp!

But, you were once a new student. You overcame challenges and struggled through events. Your ability to share your unique story and connect with others is one of your most important jobs as a leader on campus. Your willingness to share your story with others is what makes you an influential life-changer to those you meet. You’re able to help so many new students simply because you have been in their shoes and are able to lend an ear or offer some insightful advice. You do not need a title, name badge, or a counseling degree to change someone’s life. You simply need to be yourself and be willing to listen to someone’s story and let them know they are not alone.

There’s a 98.7% chance you may have helped someone in a peer mentor role and not even realized it. Have you helped anyone find a tutor, make an appointment with the health center, register for classes or deal with homesickness? Have you given advice on time management or explained where to get a parking sticker? All of these actions put you in a mentor role. And the list goes on and on. You’re helping your friends and new students every day. You rock!!!

So, I offer up a big THANKS to you for giving back to your school through your service as a friend and mentor to those in your office or residence halls, in your clubs or Greek organizations, and even in the parking lot. You are influential everywhere on campus. Thanks for taking on that responsibility and accepting your role as an influential “I’ve been in your shoes” leader on campus. Keep up the great work!!!

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

person wearing red and white sneakers standing on withered leaves
Photo by Charry Jin on

It All Started with a Tambourine. 

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Article from Campus Activities Programming® Magazine’s “Curtain Call” –  January/February 2018 – National Conference Preview Issue 

T’was a Friday afternoon showcase at NACA® South in Winston-Salem, NC, and the band was an acoustic duo who had recently graduated from Wake Forest University (NC). I’d been introduced to them the previous year when they were seniors and I was a first-year student at the same college. I’d seen the band on campus many times as a fan, then played with them a few times as a percussionist, and then, in my sophomore year, they invited me to perform with them at their first NACA® showcase.

When they asked me to play with them, I had no idea what that meant. What was “NACA?” What did it mean to “showcase?” I didn’t have any clue how this moment would play a part in my future, my life and career. After all, it was “just” an afternoon showcase at a conference that was conveniently located in the town where I went to college. And, I was able to get to “the gig” and back to campus between classes!

On that day, I played the tambourine. I played the conga drums and shakers, too, but really it’s the tambourine that’s the most memorable. After all, that’s how I was introduced to the crowd. One of the singers said, “And this is our tambourine player, Jason.” And the crowd went crazy and cheered for me. They clapped and whistled and yelled, “WOOO!” It was my first showcase as a performer. Both the band and audience accepted me and made me feel like a rock star. It was awesome!

In that moment, I was younger than most of the students in the room, definitely younger than all of the grad students and advisors, but their response to me being there was unforgettably welcoming and inclusive. I was not being treated as “just the tambourine player.” I was being treated as “THE tambourine player.” It was personally uplifting to be recognized and applauded for my efforts. After all, I was the new kid. It was my first conference. But that big room full of people made me feel like I mattered and that was very important for the “new kid.”

I took a conference schedule home with me and flipped through it during my class and then looked through it again in my residence hall that night. It was then that I decided to go back. I wanted more! I wanted to see some more showcases! I wanted to meet more people! I wanted to go to educational sessions and figure out how to do “NACA” all the time. So, the next morning, I drove back over to the convention center and just walked in. It was 8 a.m. I had the whole day ahead of me.

It must have been a really good day, because I kept going back.

Fast forward 25 years: at this point in my NACA® career, I’ve attended hundreds of educational sessions and professional development luncheons. I’ve presented and co-presented and given presents to presenters. I have volunteered on a regional conference program committee – twice! I have showcased as a drummer, singer, guitar player, speaker, and even as a Master of Ceremonies.

Over the years, I’ve had the opportunity to perform in every region and have even been selected to showcase at a few National Conventions. Not only that, I have showcased in regions that aren’t even regions anymore! I’ve performed both with a band and also under my own name. I have worked with over 2,500 different colleges and universities across the country. I have grown as a touring artist, a speaker, and as a volunteer. And, it all started with a tambourine.

It really all goes back to that first conference where I stood on stage and was introduced to a welcoming audience. I was included in the community. I was invited into the “we.” One of the amazing things about my experience is that “we” continue to strive to make sure our newest members feel welcome as they walk into any of our rooms, whether it’s an educational session, a banquet hall, or a showcase. “We” have done a great job of passing that same feeling along to new students and professionals. “We” want everyone to keep coming back and to get the most out of the experience. And the way we’ve done that is by encouraging everyone to “play their tambourine” – to show up and be themselves, to let their personality shine as important and indispensable members of the community.

As we head into the 2018 National Convention, let’s be sure to help our newest tambourine players feel like rock stars. There’s no telling what potential lies within each individual. Let’s encourage them and support them so they, too, can become part of the “we.”

It all starts with a tambourine.

Jason LeVasseur lives in Nashville,TN, and is the most awarded music performer in the history of campus entertainment. He is also a keynote speaker, workshop facilitator, summer camp counselor, husband, father, and the creator of “The Rock Star Project® – Creative Leadership Development Programs”

Career Sticktoitiveniss!

Article from Campus Activities Programming® Magazine’s “Curtain Call” –– October 2017

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Dear Mom, 

Thanks for the great advice you gave me when I graduated from college: “Your first job is not your dream job.” That was very helpful as I struggled through the challenges of being the intern, the grunt, the roadie, the gopher, and the lowest person on the team. It’s been awhile since I graduated and I’m now in a career I truly love doing work I enjoy every day.

Yes, there were times when I would’ve quit were it not for your sage advice. In the first few years, there were days I felt “more important” than the work I was doing, that I was somehow better than the job and deserved more. Well, with perseverance and commitment, I now have the “better” and the “more.” 

Thanks for helping me realize that attaining my dream job was going to actually require hard work and dedication and a whole bunch of tough days on the job. 

Thanks for teaching me how to stick to it! 



This is the letter all parents, advisors, mentors and teachers want to read. We want our children, advisees and students to discover and pursue a career that best utilizes their strengths and allows them to grow. We want them to enjoy their work and find fulfillment. But we also need them to know their first post-college job is not their “dream job.” Their first, second and third jobs are more often steppingstones to achieving their goals. 

When you get phone calls and emails from recent graduates who, just months ago, were club presidents and organizational leaders and are now completely mystified that they are making copies, fetching sandwiches, and doing data entry, encourage them to hang in there! This is what must be done in entry-level jobs. Even though they were top dogs last year, they now need to work hard and stick to it to achieve their career goals!

Let’s consider Carlie’s story. I met her when she was a first-year student at an Indiana school. She always wanted to get involved in radio. As a first-year student, she joined the campus radio club. She eventually got her own show and chose to major in broadcasting and communications. By her senior year, she was the head music programmer at her campus radio station and president of the radio club. She was a well-known, popular student leader. In the spring of her senior year, she secured a coveted paid internship at a major Top 40 radio station in Chicago. Amazing! 

Carlie started her internship in June, but quit it two months later! In a Facebook post on the day she left the radio station, she wrote, “They did not utilize my talent.” Seven years later, Carlie is no longer working towards her chosen career. She has a “job” in a field that doesn’t interest her. What if she had stayed at the radio station? What would her job be now? We’ll never know because she lacked “career sticktoitiveness.” 

Now, let’s consider Angie’s story. I met her when she was a senior and president of the student programming board at a rural Pennsylvania school. She was a hard-working, popular student leader. Her dream was to be the tour manager for a major music act. Upon graduation, she moved to Charlotte, NC, and worked as a waitress. After a few months of knocking on doors and showing up to interviews, she secured an unpaid internship at a major outdoor music venue. Her first “job” was being the assistant to the backstage production manager. She performed this role an entire year! But during that year, she met bands and tour managers, building a network of contacts. 

Angie made it a point to meet every single band and its management team. She let each of them know her dream of becoming a tour manager. In the 14th month of her internship, she was asked to be assistant to the stage manager for the upcoming Dave Matthews tour. She said, “YES!”

To date, Angie has toured the world with The Dave Matthews Band, NSYNC, Madonna, Guns & Roses and Justin Bieber. We last saw each other backstage in Nashville, when she was Imagine Dragons’ tour manager! She’s living proof of the great value of “sticktoitiveness.” Angie is living her career dream. 

What will you tell your students? How will you instill in them the value of perseverance and hard work? It’s never too soon to share your own stories of how you achieved your current position on campus.

“Your first job is not your dream job.” That’s great advice! Thanks, Mom!

Perhaps you’re currently in your first post-college job. Congrats! It’s probably not your dream job, but you’re moving in your chosen direction. Don’t quit! Persevere, work hard, and show the world the value of “career sticktoitiveness!” 

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

Leadership Legacy or LEADERSHIP LANDFILL?

What Does YOUR Band Look Like?

Article from Campus Activities Programming® Magazine’s “Curtain Call” –  March 2017

Screen Shot 2017-10-23 at 9.03.12 AMOnce upon a time, four friends formed a band. They became a band because they looked similar, all played the guitar, all sang, and all dressed in the same style of clothing. When they began playing together, they played the same notes, and when they sang, they sang the same words. They spent all their energy trying to be like each other, trying to sing like each other, trying to look like each other, and even trying to think like each other. The music they created wasn’t very interesting. It was bland. Boring. Emotionally, it moved no one.

Down the street, another group of friends formed a band. These four friends wanted to create something new and exciting. They came from different backgrounds and looked different from each other. They each played different instruments and wore different clothes, and when they sang, they sang different notes. They learned how their notes and sounds were able to complement each other. They discovered interesting melodies and harmonies and were able to perform the most amazing and beautiful new music. It was exciting and inspiring. And, emotionally, it was powerful and moved everyone.

What about you? What does your “band” look like? Who’s in your circle of friends? Who’s in your group, your club or your organization? Your band can be you and your roommates, your athletic team, your church group or your student activities committee. You are, most likely, in more than one band. Are your bands more like the first band in the story above or more like the second?

When you think of your different groups as bands, you can think of the individuals in each as your “band mates.” It also allows you to celebrate their unique contribution to the group. I call this the “instrument.” Bands are composed of different members, each playing their own instrument.

You also play a role in your bands; you bring a contributing instrument to each of them. Your instruments are your talents, skills and even your unique personality traits. You are an important member of all of your bands because of the instruments you play in each of them.

When you begin to accept your friends and colleagues as band mates, you’ll be able to see them in a new light, not just because they share your interests, but also for what they bring to the band – their unique talents and quirky personalities, and even their own ideas and beliefs. When you celebrate them for who they are and what they contribute to the band, you’re making your band better – better with different instruments in the mix!

It’s in the coming together of the different instruments, and allowing individual members to share their individual and unique contributions, that you’ll be able to create more interesting and exciting music! You’ll be able to accomplish more as a group when everyone contributes their individual strengths.

What about you? Are you a good band mate? Are you encouraging and helping your band mates play their instruments? Are you able to celebrate your friends for who they are and what they contribute? Are you encouraging your friends and colleagues to be great at their respective instruments and talents? Do you celebrate their sometimes-quirky personalities, their strengths and their unique gifts?

Or … do you just want them to be more like you?

In your different bands, you must celebrate your fellow band members. It’s possible you have a crazy combination of instrumentalists – with the loudest of “drummers” and the softest of “violins,” a “trumpet” and a “flute,” a “singer,” a “tuba player” and a “poet.” All these players make the band better, the tall and the short, the extrovert and the introvert, the social media guru and the gregarious promoter, the first-year student and the seasoned leader. They all have their own unique way to contribute to your group. Every member of your band is important.

To be a great band member, your goal should be to show up ready to rock with your band, ready to play your instrument, to be a positive force. Additionally, your role is also to encourage and elevate those in your group to be at their best, to show up ready to rock their own unique instruments. The more you encourage, the better.

What do you want your bands to look like? More like the first band in the opening story or the second one? Are you celebrating the diversity in your group and encouraging unique skills and talents? Are you helping your band? Are you making your band better?

Once upon a time there were four friends who formed a band … . What does yours look like?

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®.”

Super Soaker or Super Hero? Your Network Can Save the Day! 

Article from Campus Activities Programming® Magazine’s “Curtain Call” – Back To School Issue  – 2016

Screen Shot 2017-10-23 at 8.53.37 AMA few years ago, at Minot State University in North Dakota, I was performing on an outdoor stage on the quad for a back-to-school activities fair. It was a beautiful sunny day and the fair was packed with new and returning students. Everything was going great until the automated sprinkler system turned on and began to shoot water in every possible direction. There were hundreds of students at the event and all of the tables were covered with giveaways and brochures. This was going to be a disaster!

What would you have done in this moment? Would you have known who to call to get the key or the code to turn off the sprinklers? How long would it take to soak all of the tables, the students, and the school’s new sound system? Five minutes? Twenty minutes?

Well, on this day, it took 47 seconds from the first little sprinkle to the shutoff of thousands of gallons of potentially drenching water. Thanks to Leon Perzinski, the quick-thinking and well-connected student center director, the disaster was averted. He knew exactly who to call. And Leon was not even coordinating this event! He was just stopping by to say “hi” to me. What if he had not been there and this had been your event? Would you have known who to call and what to do? 

How did Leon go from “just a guy walking by” to “super hero” in a few short seconds? What made this rescue possible? Leon’s network!!! Quite simply, Leon has taken the time and made the genuine effort to get to know everyone on campus! He knew exactly who to call. And, how did he get to know everyone and understand their roles and responsibilities? By networking right where he works, by meeting folks in other departments, by introducing himself to his colleagues and learning about them and what they do.

Even his decision to stop by and say “hi” to me was an example of his genuine efforts to stay connected to the folks he knows. Before the “great sprinkler fiasco,” I had worked with Leon and his students in the Union and we had become part of each other’s networks. We would see each other at conferences and chat about the new events going on in each other’s lives and careers. We had become friends. And, it was Leon who recommended me to the advisor who was coordinating the back-to-school fair. He was able to help a new colleague by making real connections. Leon was not only connected and well networked on campus, but was also connected off campus. And, because he is a super-networker and cares greatly about his campus, Leon’s off-campus connections were in place to help serve his own campus community.

Like Leon, I understand the great value of networking. I meet professionals and students on all of the great campuses across the country, at regional and national conferences, and even in professional online groups. Yes, you can build a network of colleagues on the Internet! Leon and I have been Facebook friends since August of 2010. But it all comes back to how you use your networks to serve your campus community. There are lots of great ways to meet and stay genuinely connected. These conference and online connections can help you solve problems, introduce you to new ideas, speakers and performers, and these connections may lead to great friendships!

But, I repeat, your network off campus can greatly benefit your network on campus. Before you build your off-campus community, though, you must begin to practice the art of face-to-face networking right on your own campus. Your role as part of the bigger team is incredibly important to the people with whom you work and you can better serve your campus community by connecting, engaging with, and understanding your own campus community.

How many different people come into play to make colleges and universities run smoothly? Have you taken the time to meet folks in other departments? Do you know the building maintenance staff? The groundskeepers? The security officers? What about the professors? Do you understand what they do in their roles? Whether you are a student, faculty member, administrator, or staff, it is important that you make a genuine effort to get out and meet as many people as possible. They may need your expertise someday soon. And, you will benefit greatly by being connected to more than just your office colleagues.

Will you know who to call when the sprinklers come on?

Be like Leon and become a super hero! Don’t soak your clubs and organizations! Network! Network! Network! 

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 The Rock Star Project® in Nashville, TN – 

“Curtain Call” is a regular feature of Campus Activities Programming® in which performers or agents who are members of NACA share anecdotes that help illuminate their perspectives and experiences in the college market. 

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)