Long before he put on “Oklahoma" and “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” at the Virginia Theatre, Todd Salen proved himself to be a results-getting producer while still an undergrad.
“As a student, I had the chance to meet and talk with singer songwriter Harry Chapin, best known as writer of ‘Cats in the Cradle’ and ‘Taxi,’” says the 1979 advertising grad, now a Champaign Realtor.
“This wide-eyed freshman was encouraged by Chapin to organize a benefit concert to support his charity, World Hunger Year. I spent the next year and a half working with his agents, record company, local governments and tour organizers to book Chapin for two concerts at the UI Auditorium.
“In addition, as Harry would be named to President Carter’s World Hunger Commission on the day of the concerts, the local mayors agreed to present him with keys to the cities at a press conference in town. The concert was scheduled for February, and a few months prior I got a call to meet with the assistant dean of students.
“In that meeting, he told me I needed to cancel this event, as a student was not ‘permitted to sign the contracts with a performer’ for an event such as this.
“Heartbroken, I sought out a means to appeal this decision, eventually resulting in a meeting with the vice chancellor of student affairs, Stan Levy. Levy patiently listened to my story. Amazingly, he said: ‘If university policy prevents an event as meaningful as this to be scheduled, there is a problem with university policy.’
“Levy taught me no matter the road block, we should find a way to accomplish our goals, a lesson I have tried to pass on the hundreds of students I have mentored myself over the years.
“The concerts happened and we raised nearly $30,000 for World Hunger Year, a significant amount for 1978.”