Miles Wetzel (copy)

Miles Wetzel, bar manager of Ole Beck VFW Post 209, talks about the venue in December 2018.

Business school students will end the semester with an all-student-run show at the VFW, one of the few in recent memory.

“It’s really rare,” Switchback Records president and treasurer Mariah Karis said. “That’s a really unique thing that you don’t find on all campuses.”

“An Evening with Switchback Records” will feature Tiny Plastic Stars, Jordan Lane and Katie C from The Letter B, Jesse the Ocelot, Brad Schwertfeger (of Norwell) and P.J. Willet.

The night is an all-UM production, from Switchback, to the UM entertainment management students putting it on.

Four of those students are interns at the VFW this semester, learning to run various aspects of the club.

“It’s really cool that we’re now moving off campus,” Karis said.

VFW Bar Manager Miles Wetzel’s taken interns from the school of business’ Entertainment Management program for the last three semesters, after visiting class periods to give a run-down of the on-the-ground experience.

“It was soon after I got my certificate that I started running a venue in Missoula, which is really cool,” Wetzel said. “They’re helping me along as it grows from day-to-day operations.”

Interns focus on whatever area they’re interested in, from street-level promotion, like printing up posters and stapling them around town, or focusing on night-of-show management, by taking money and checking IDs at the door, then coordinating and paying the band at the end of the night.

There’s also interns managing public relations — running an Instagram account and talking with media — and doing in-house financing, analyzing what shows are most profitable on which nights.

“All this is leading to the student showcase,” Wetzel said, “which is essentially turning the whole venue over to them.”

Tom Webster teaches event management, a class that requires its 45 students to put in 50 hours over the semester in a hands-on environment.

“They can work at promotion, they can work at booking, they can work at venue management,” Webster said.

“You really can sit in the classroom all day and theorize,” he continued. “You’ve got to get practical experience before you can do anything.”

Karis said she’d like to establish at least one student-run concert a year going forward, in conjunction with the entertainment management program. This provides all-important hands-on experience and helps Switchback, in its third year, gain a foothold in the community.

“The more people that show up for it, the more opportunity they have to learn, cause they’ll be stressed,” Wetzel said.