Spending the day at Rock Lititz, Lancaster County’s premier live event production center, was an eye-opener for Conestoga Valley High School senior Yodhe Desta.
“I could not believe all of these opportunities were available (here),” said Desta, who emigrated from Ethiopia in 2010. “I thought it was just Amish farms.”
Desta and 126 other students from public and private high schools throughout the county Thursday got a rare sneak peek of how massive live events are created and the people working behind the scenes.
Students toured Rock Lititz’s 250,000 square foot work space, known as Pod 2, and learned from five of the live event vendors that reside there — pyrotechnics company Pyrotek, virtual reality startup MajorMega, rigging business Columbus McKinnon Entertainment Technology and live event professionals Clair Global and Tait.
From machinists and welders to programmers and designers, there are about 1,400 jobs within the 30 live event companies at Rock Lititz, according to general manager Andrea Shirk.
To participate in the event, organized by Rock Lititz, Lancaster STEM Alliance and Music For Everyone, students submitted an essay and filled out a contract stating they wouldn’t use their cellphones all day.
“It was really fun seeing the result of months of planning come to fruition,” Lancaster STEM executive director Sandy Strunk said. “The kids were engaged. The speakers were dynamic. It was just a wonderful day of everyone feeling energized and enthusiastic.”
‘A great experience’
Students got to step inside MajorMega’s Hyperdeck, an immersive, virtual-reality gaming experience equipped with a controller, headset and motion, wind and heat effects.
Presenters from Pyrotek shared a few strange requests they’ve received from performers, such as Metallica asking for 10,000 beach balls to drop after every show.
Clair Global and Tait showed off their audio technology and machinery, and CM-ET welcomed students inside its expansive rigging training facility.
Garden Spot High School senior Courtney Zwally said learning how glitzy live performances from the likes of Lady Gaga and Taylor Swift are created was “a great experience.” She said she hopes to work in the entertainment industry as a stage manager.
“I just love it,” she said. “I couldn’t imagine doing anything else.”
‘Wide and varied opportunities’
The tour concluded with a panel of representatives from Millersville University, Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology, Elizabethtown College, Pennsylvania College of Art & Design and Atomic, a production design company at Rock Lititz.
Panelists shared what it takes to be successful in the live event industry and others like it. Their advice: Be curious, embrace every opportunity and work hard.
Lancaster STEM chairman Bob Krasne concluded the event with some motivational remarks.
He noted the vast amount of opportunities not only at Rock Lititz, but at other local yet far-reaching corporations like High Industries and CNH Industrial.
“There’s a common denominator here, and that is you need to study hard and explore the wide and varied opportunities that lie before you,” he said.
The Lancaster STEM Alliance is funded by The Steinman Foundation — a local, independent family foundation that was funded by the companies that comprise Steinman Communications; those companies include LNP Media Group.
After Krasne spoke, Rock Lititz employees took the stage and captured a group photo of the students. As they took the picture, in pure Rock Lititz fashion, green and yellow flames shot up from both sides of the stage.