An impresario promotes local culture


Photo by Daniel R. Burke

What do MTV Online’s list of top local music events of 1999, Benjamin Netanyahu’s October visit to campus, Def Comedy Jam’s sold-out December show, and the 1999 Spring Fling concert have in common?

The fact that they may never have been possible without the involvement and dedication of Jon Herrmann (W’00).

Herrmann serves as the president of the Social Planning and Events Committee (SPEC), as well as co-director and one of the founders of The Foundation, which promotes local arts and culture in the West Philadelphia community. Herrmann also helped develop the Penn & Philly Web site.

He hardly takes credit for these innovations, though, saying, “I devote 75 percent of my time to SPEC; I do the other two things on the side.”

Herrmann, who joined SPEC in freshman year as a member of the concert committee, has long worked at bridging the gap between West Philadelphia and Penn students.

“We don’t live in a bubble as students,” he said. “We live in University City. And if our events are going to get better, then they’re not going to be events that just students care about. ... Penn should be involved in the city in meaningful ways on all levels.”

This ambition — fueled by his participation in the Urban Universities-Community Relationships course taught by Center for Community Partnerships Director Ira Harkavy — is also a driving force behind The Foundation, which Herrmann co-founded with Andrew Zitcer (C’00).

For something that’s only a sideline, The Foundation’s list of accolades is not too shabby. A nonprofit sponsor of weekly nonalcoholic musical acts usually housed in the Rotunda at 4012 Walnut St., The Foundation was recently named 11th Top Local Music Event in the country last year by MTV Online, and was featured in stories in both City Paper and Philadelphia Weekly. On Jan. 21 it sponsored the Philadelphia Music Conference’s Urban Music Showcase. The Foundation showcases a variety of genres, including rap, classical music and spoken word.

Herrmann said future plans for The Foundation include finding it a permanent home and developing an after-school program for elementary students.

The Wayne, N.J. native, who is also a brother in the Pi Lambda Phi fraternity, used his skills as a marketing major not only to help promote SPEC events more widely, but to develop the Penn & Philly Website campaign with classmate Emily Pollack (C’00). “The purpose of the campaign is to really promote the city as a complementary resource to life at Penn.” Herrmann said that although the Web site is a work in progress, he plans on launching a publicity campaign in February to increase awareness of the site.

One glance at his resume and it’s no surprise that Herrmann hopes to land a job in the music industry in events planning. Besides his work on campus, Herr-mann has experience working for New Park Entertainment and Mercury Records.

Although Herrmann hasn’t yet secured a job, he hopes to by graduation. “The only way the music industry works is if you know people. I know a few but I don’t know as many as the finance people,” Hermann explained, adding that music companies “don’t recruit on campus.” But he has proven he knows how to get beyond the Ivy walls.

Originally published on February 3, 2000