Some of entertainment’s most beloved artists performed at Geneseo. Students who helped book them remember the experiences.

By Annie Renaud ’19 and Kris Dreessen

View our photo gallery of celebrity performances. 

Before Steve Martin was a household name, he performed stand-up at Geneseo in 1976. Tom Clyde ’76 will never forget it. 

“At the end of the show, he’s playing the banjo and walks from the back of Wadsworth Auditorium outside and the whole crowd follows him,” says Clyde, who was chairman of the Activities Commission. “There’s 800 people outside and he’s still doing comedy. Somebody goes by on a bicycle and Steve Martin has these balloons on his head and he grabs the guy’s bicycle and starts riding it around, and people are running behind him. Then Martin goes back to the auditorium stage to do another 15 minutes. It was amazing!” 

Martin’s performance a year later sold out in 20 minutes. 

Student leaders in the Activities Commission and later the Limelight and Accents Performing Arts Series have planned entertainment for classmates for 50 years — with a knack for choosing artists and speakers who were, or would become, worldwide celebrities, from Eagles and Billy Joel to Ray Charles. 

Tom Matthews, retired associate dean of leadership and service, helped initiate the Activities Commission. His entertainment knowledge was a reason for such great lineups, says Craig Schlusberg ’90, a past Limelight chair who helped bring Charles and Wynton Marsalis to campus. 

“Tom knew the agents. He knew many of the performers,” says Schlusberg. “Band after band, musician after musician, show after show, we managed to book the best stuff in Geneseo.” 



“As the ticket holders were filing into the concert, I noticed that some of the students had their instruments with them. They knew Wynton came out after shows and talked and played music with students. And that was what he did. He talked, played trumpet with them and told stories. Here’s a Grammy winner, Pulitzer Prize in Music winner and one of the greatest musicians in the world, sitting on the stage, laughing and playing jazz trumpet with Geneseo students.” 


“That show was all glitter, big smiles, great music. If you weren’t sitting in a metal folding chair in the bleachers, you would think it was Las Vegas.

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