Communications student attends 'Harry' taping, wins trip to New Orleans

Shoulder to shoulder with industry leaders

Mat Fortin '20 was one of a dozen accelerated School of Communications students to attend a taping of "Harry" in New York. At the taping, Mat won a trip to New Orleans. (Photo courtesy of NBC Universal.)

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welve students from the School of Communications got to be more than just spectators at a February 15th taping of Harry Connick Jr.’s show, “Harry” in New York City. The experience gave the students, all members of the accelerated 3+1 program, the opportunity to observe the many nuts and bolts of media production — and also to take part in the show itself.

Mat Fortin ’20 was selected in the holding room prior to taping to compete a special contest. When Mat was called to the main stage after the first segment, the freshman media studies major was ecstatic.

“When Harry told us that the prize was a trip to New Orleans, I very audibly gasped,” Mat recalls. “He asked me to repeat the noise because he thought it was so funny.”

Mat and one other contestant were taken to the street outside of the of the studio, where they decorated cars with streamers, beads and other Mardi Gras-themed adornments. Fittingly, Mat was the gold team. His car won, earning him a 3-day trip to New Orleans, and tickets to a future taping of Connick Jr’s show. For Mat, whose professional goal is to be a television personality, the experience far exceeded expectations.

“I went into this thinking that it would be great if I could at least meet a producer or Harry himself,” he said. “But never imagined that I would end up on national television when I woke up that morning!”

An active and ebullient host, Connick Jr. also performed with his band, sang with audience members onstage and fielded questions during set changes. Several students seized the opportunity to pick the brain of a celebrity and learn about the industry they hope to one day be part of.

While many of the students’ questions concerned life after graduation, film, television and media arts major Garrett Fenlon ’20 had his immediate future in mind. In a gutsy display, Garrett asked the award-winning musician and actor about the prospect of interning on his show. Garrett’s guerilla networking strategy move bought him some face time with the show’s executive producers.

“They provided me with their contact information, as well as a link to the application for NBC and the application for the show specifically,” he said. “I'm extremely satisfied with how everything unfolded.”

Connick Jr.’s executive producers, who also worked on such shows as “Late Night with David Letterman,” treated the entire group to a personal Q&A session following the show’s taping. They discussed the daily aspects of life on set, as well as the application process for interns and employees at NBC.

“Coming here was a really good way to start putting big dreams in their heads early on,” said Associate Dean of the School of Communications Terry Bloom.

Dean Bloom, who is also the director of the 3+1 program, sees trips like these as a way to illustrate to students what it really takes for all of the elements of a production to come together.

“It’s a reality check for sure,” she said. “They came out of it with a lot of newfound perspective, but also incredibly motivated.”

One feature of the accelerated 3+1 program is special programming for the students, including networking opportunities, professional interactions and field trips to studios across the Northeast.