Full press access into one of Tampa Bay's biggest concert events is an opportunity even the most seasoned reporters feel privileged to achieve. Through the graciousness of their school and others in the community, two journalism students from Braden River High School were able to go backstage and work the red carpet at 93.3 FLZ's Jingle Ball.
Gaining their own first-hand experience of being a reporter, sophomore Katie Cafiero and junior Kelsey Lutzi went behind the scenes to interview and photograph some of their favorite artists.
Walking into media check-in, reporters gathered around and prepared to be escorted to the press room. Familiarity filled the hall as the reporters exchanged conversation and reconnected, while others introduced themselves for the first time.
Standing in a room full of strangers, Channel 8 news anchor Gayle Guyardo welcomed Lutzi and Cafiero with advice for their first-time reporting celebrities. Guyardo was impressed with the two students, and is even interested in running a segment of them on her show.
Once everyone had their press passes, the group was herded into the elevator. Packed in and cramped, the reporters and cameramen were relieved when
they reached the press room. Overlooking the arena, the press room gave an expansive view of the audience, the stage, and the workings behind the curtain.
The excitement of the night began when the first celebrity, up-and-coming star Ed Sheeran, made his way across the red carpet. Photographers crowded the ropes in front of the area and cameras were flashing by the milliseconds. The interviews took place within the adjacent lounge, where the sound of the concert would not affect recordings.
Sheeran approached Cafiero, and after introducing herself, he eagerly answered her questions.
"I'm a bit more fresh in the U.S., some people haven't seen my performance before so, I guess from an excitement level it might be higher here, I guess, but that will die down eventually," he said.
The atmosphere in the room was comfortable enough that Sheeran and Cafiero's conversation quickly transformed into a friendly banter. Being an avid fan for years, Cafiero was in awe of being in the presence of someone whose music she admires so much.
Other artists made their way through the press room, stopping for their photo opportunities and answering reporters' questions. After Sheeran, the ladies met electronic artist Zedd, a DJ whose hit single "Spectrum" hit the charts when it came out in early 2012. As a music producer and DJ, his set was very unique and different from all the other acts.
"My set is fairly short and as a DJ, you need some time, you need to develop a kind of set so it's a little more difficult when you have to play faster," Zedd told Lutzi. The artist was accompanied by singer Matthew Koma, and the pair brought a fun mood to the room with their charisma.
One of the less popular bands that made a large impact was the indie rock band Walk the Moon. Formed in 2008, these quirky guys brought a fresh atmosphere to the room. Being a favorite of Lutzi's from the beginning, the interview was one of the most enthusiastic and entertaining of the night. Having the chance to laugh and get to know the members of a band you admire in such an easy-going environment became a defining and memorable moment.
OneRepublic, who are responsible for chart-topping singles "Apologize," "Secrets" and "Feel Again," were very personable and down-to earth for such a popular band. Lead singer Ryan Tedder told Cafiero that if he could go and tell his 15-year-old self anything it would be to, "ask the girl out." OneRepublic also mentioned that their new song, "Feel Again" was released as a charity single. "The first three-quarter million singles that are bought go directly to Save the Children." Cafiero could not believe she had a conversation with the band whose songs she hears on the radio.
Other performers of the night included Ke$ha, Sean Kingston, and headliner Justin Bieber. The reporters were rushed into an elevator and headed below the stage to a different location to meet and photograph Bieber. When he entered, Cafiero and Lutzi couldn't comprehend the fact that they were standing a mere two feet away from one of the biggest names in the industry.
After photographing Bieber, Lutzi and Cafiero were escorted back to watch the rest of the concert. This finalized an unforgettable experience that will help to cement their careers in journalism in the future and made memories that will last for the rest of their lives.