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SAEM program immerses business students in real-world education

Sport, Arts and Entertainment Management Program Celebrates 10 Years

Traversari students Stage AE

Assistant Professor and concert promoter Ed Traversari (gray shirt, foreground) with students at Stage AE on the North Shore.

The Point

Fall 2012

Nicole Bozeman has no doubt her son Ezekiel Marshall is bound for the NBA. The 7-foot star center at the University of Akron, who holds the school record for blocked shots, has attracted the attention of pro scouts.

But Bozeman doesn’t want to leave her son’s promising basketball career to a manager or agent. Believing a mother knows best, she wants to become a knowledgeable intermediary between her son and an agent.

That’s why the 46-year-old mother is one of 250 undergraduates enrolled in Point Park University’s Sport, Arts & Entertainment Management (SAEM) program, and is scheduled to graduate in December in time to become her son’s manager for the 2013 NBA draft.

“I love the program,” Bozeman said.  “It gave me a whole new perspective on the business of athletics. I am learning about the life of an athlete, the physical challenges, the mental challenges, the pressure to produce – time and time again. I am learning how to promote and brand my client. “

Now in its 10th year, with both an undergraduate and graduate track, the growing SAEM program trains students to become sports agents, theater managers and concert promoters by providing business courses, internships and mentorships with people working in the field.

During the first few days of class, Stephen Tanzilli, director of the program, always asks students why they enrolled in the program.  “I love baseball and want to work for the Pirates,” some say.  Others might say they love music. 

“Wrong answer,” Tanzilli tells them. “You don’t want to be fans. You want to make money. You want to be in sports, arts and entertainment to build a brand and generate revenue.

“The ones who succeed understand it is a business. There is not a big difference between selling tickets to a theater or selling tickets to a Pirate game.”

Tanzilli said though students are being prepared for careers in the diverse worlds of sports, the arts and entertainment, the program teaches every student a set of core business principles that can help them make money and smart decisions in any field. 

“If you don’t get your dream job with the Steelers or Sony Records, you will still have your business courses,” said Tanzilli, a sports agent.

Other professors in the program have their specialties such as the live music world, grant writing for nonprofits, arts management organizations and social media marketing. 

For example, Ed Traversari, an assistant professor and concert promoter, teaches his students what it is like to be a band manager, an agent, a member of the technical crew, a tour accountant, etc. and brings in guest speakers in those professions. “I love teaching in this program. I always tell students I wish there was a program like this when I graduated from high school.”

He and Paige Beal, an associate professor who teaches new media marketing, hold classes in a conference room at Stage AE , a North Side concert venue.

“We can stop the kids in on the way in and talk for 20 minutes on what is going on before a big show,” Traversari said.

The professors use their contacts in the real world to place undergraduates and some 20 students in the graduate program in internships and opportunities to shadow professionals. Said Tanzilli,  “It’s a roll-up-your-sleeves kind of program.”   

“All of us are so connected,” said Beal. “We can call people and say, ‘Hey, what do you have going on? Can one of our students come intern or shadow?’”

Sometimes the program helps students sharpen their skills in existing jobs. Nicholas Gigante graduated with a master’s degree in the program in 2007 and it helped him with his job in the development office at the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust. Gigante, who had received an English and history major as an undergraduate, liked the flexibility of the program.  

“I really liked learning from people who actually lived it and worked it," he said. "They gave me an idea of how a real budget and a show come together.”

The business savvy Gigante learned at Point Park is still paying dividends. It recently helped him get promoted from director of development to vice president of development at the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust.

Other alumni have landed in prestigious jobs.  For example, Melissa Brozeski is coordinator of community relations for the Pittsburgh Pirates and Erin Cappiccie is an executive producer’s assistant on the hit CBS television show The Good Wife.

Nicole Bozeman, the mother of basketball star Ezekiel Marshall, said  the program has steeped her in the lingo of sports representation so she will be able to discern what is best for her son. “I will be the buffer between him and agents. I will know the verbiage. If something is off, I can ring the warning bell.”

Bozeman also says the program will help her guard against the pitfalls that befall so many pro athletes who make unwise investments after they retire from athletics.   “I don’t want my son to fall in the category of athletes who are bankrupt. I want to make sure what he does will sustain him for years to come.”

Text by Cristina Rouvalis

Photo by Ian Bradshaw

The Point is a magazine for alumni and friends of Point Park University.