SOUTH ORANGE, NJ – To attract performers to SOPAC, programming consultant Steve Lurie said he will be relying on his years of experience in the music industry.

Lurie knows a lot about music. As the president and founder of Music Without Borders, he has produced thousands of concerts throughout the country and has consulted for labels, artists, and film and television directors. He also co-owns a record store, has taught music in schools including New York University and has contributed articles about music to a newspaper and magazines.

As a voting member of the Recording Academy, he even helps decide who wins at the Grammys.

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Lurie said having built up relationships with agents and the media and knowing the area and its residents will help him succeed in his job at the center.

The position was created as SOPAC moves in a new management direction. While Executive Director Mark Packer will handle the venue’s business operations, Lurie is responsible for booking the shows. And though he only started the job in mid-January, he already has a clear vision in mind for the performing arts center.

“My plans are to bring in a diverse roster of artists that speaks to many different demographics in the surrounding areas,” Lurie said. “I want to rebuild the brand to have… varied programming that people in the northern New Jersey area and New York City area will be interested in seeing.”

Lurie said he has about 15 shows confirmed so far including comedian Paula Poundstone, folk artist Loudon Wainwright III and singer Southside Johnny. Plenty of family programming has also been booked. He said he wants to bring back past shows that have been successful in addition to attracting new talent, especially big-name performers who wouldn’t normally play smaller venues.

Echoing Packer’s wish, Lurie also said he hopes to establish SOPAC as a niche for singer-songwriters and has already moved to do so by booking Steve Earle and the Dukes and Son Volt. He said performers of the Americana genre will do well in South Orange.

“I want to provide a steady diet of those types of artists because in the tri-state area that style of music has got a strong fan base,” he said.

Assisting him will be Packer, who will help Lurie decide which artists to bring in to SOPAC. Lurie said that though he only met Packer for the first time recently, he’s eager to start their working relationship.

“Mark’s got a wealth of experience,” Lurie said. “I’m really looking forward to working with him to make SOPAC a wonderful and dynamic venue.”

Lurie is additionally looking forward to accomplishing one of his biggest goals for SOPAC – making nearby residents realize “there’s this great theater right in their own backyard.” He said that performing arts center and the surrounding neighborhoods are reasons why he’s happy in his new job.

“It’s a very lovely area,” Lurie said. “The theater’s very nice. So I’m excited.”  

The reporter is participating in a hyperlocal journalism partnership between The Alternative Press and Seton Hall University's Department of Communication & The Arts.