Rock On!

Rock On!

By Rick Davis, BA’88

First-year law student pursues her educational dreams while continuing to work with major musical acts

To her Creighton classmates and professors, Marcia Kapustin is another hard-working first-year law student knee-deep in such foundational coursework as civil procedure, contracts and constitutional law.

But, in between classes and studying, the Philadelphia native has another foot solidly planted in the world of big-time rock ’n’ roll — working on stage productions for such artists as Paul McCartney and Metallica.

“It’s funny. I would say that most of my classmates have no idea of what I do,” Kapustin says of her rock ’n’ roll connection.

Kapustin is the owner of Kosher Pixels (more on the name later), which provides video content and live direction for large events such as live concerts. She has worked with a long list of major recording artists, including McCartney, Metallica, Bon Jovi, Aerosmith, Christina Aguilera, U2, Elton John, James Taylor, Brooks & Dunn, the Eagles and KISS.

She currently has a crew working with Metallica, the American heavy-metal band, on its world tour. She hopes to join McCartney’s new “One On One” tour — which kicks off in April — after completing the school year.

While the job has its share of glitz and glam, it also has its unrelenting routine. Tours can be grueling, with extremely long hours.

“My load-in usually starts at 8 a.m., the band doesn’t hit the stage until 9 p.m., we don’t get off the stage until after 11 p.m. and my load-out’s not done until 2 a.m.,” Kapustin explains. “And then we get on the bus …” ready to hit the next city and start the process again.

Kapustin says it’s important to keep in mind that it’s a business — a billion-dollar business, at that. But there are those keepsake, backstage moments.

“It’s pretty special,” Kapustin says. “You see him (McCartney) every day, and he comes up and gives you a hug and kiss hello. Even after so many years, every now and then, you go, ‘Oh, my God, I just got hugged by a Beatle.’”

So how did Kapustin end up at Creighton law school?

“It [studying law] was something I wanted to do for years,” Kapustin explains. “My father is an attorney; several members of my family are attorneys. About 80 percent of my friends from undergrad are attorneys.

“And nearly 100 percent of that 80 percent think I’m out of my mind for doing this. They say, ‘You had the job that we all wanted. We sit in our offices and dream of doing your job.’”

Kapustin says she’s loved traveling the world, but being on the road — working 80-hour weeks — can be a grind, especially now with a fiancé in Omaha. Her hope is to combine her entertainment experience with her legal education to carve out a new career path.

She envisions starting a business focused on helping entertainers structure their estates.

Kapustin was accepted into the University of Nebraska-Lincoln College of Law, but wanted to stay in Omaha, where she’s been living for the last seven years. “In the end, I realized I’m going to live here in Omaha, and I thought this was definitely a better fit.”

After her first semester at Creighton, she has not regretted her decision. “The availability of the professors, that open-door policy, is something I felt immediately. It’s pretty amazing how accessible everyone is.”

The Road to Rock ’N’ Roll

While a broadcast journalism student at American University in Washington, D.C., and following her graduation in 1991, Kapustin worked with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. It gave her a wide breadth of experience.

She worked on Nation’s Business Today, an hour-long news show produced by the Chamber that aired twice every weekday morning on ESPN, USA Network and ABC — eventually rising to be the show’s assistant director.

Following graduation, she left the Chamber to teach English in Japan for two years. “I then stayed in Asia for another two years and backpacked through Asia and lived in India, Nepal and Thailand.”

When she returned, Kapustin rejoined the Chamber. She worked on the event staff for several large Republican and Democratic political events. In 1996, she was a stage manager for a Republican National Committee (RNC) gala at the D.C. Armory during Bob Dole’s presidential bid.  

“Politicians want to look like rock stars and put on a glitzy show,” Kapustin says. “So they hired a production company [Nocturne Productions out of San Francisco] that worked in rock ’n’ roll.”

Like any show, backstage can be a bit chaotic. With nine stages to manage and a director yelling in her earpiece to keep things moving, the slight-of-build Kapustin took charge. She began pulling politicians out of the green room and getting them to the stage.

“The rock ’n’ roll people were like, ‘You’re insane. You need to come work for us,’” Kapustin says. “And I was like, ‘OK, sure.’ And the next thing I know, they sent me a plane ticket to go to San Antonio, Texas.

“I thought I had hit the lottery. The next thing I knew, I was being flown out to California and began working with U2. I ended up being the assistant director on PopMart, U2’s 1997-98 world tour.”

Sports Detour

In 1998, Kapustin stepped out of the music scene to work for the Baltimore Ravens, as the professional football team was moving into its new $220 million Ravens Stadium at Camden Yards (now M&T Bank Stadium).

“They decided they wanted to do cutting-edge video board technology, and luckily they found me on the road,” says Kapustin, who would serve as the team’s producer/director of stadium events for two years.

Kapustin convinced the Maryland Stadium Authority, the Ravens and owner Art Modell to move away from the established Jumbotron technology — which used large cathode ray tubes — to the more energy-efficient LED (light-emitting diode) technology. The Ravens would become the first professional football team to make the switch to LED for its stadium video boards. The experience also led to her future company’s name — Kosher Pixels.

Kapustin was in a meeting with the Maryland Stadium Authority and Modell, explaining the pixels that make up LED technology, when the Ravens’ owner stopped her. “Honey, just stop talking,” he said. “In my day, the only pixels we cared about were kosher pixels.”

Kosher Pixels

With Modell’s blessing, Kapustin named her company Kosher Pixels, and for the last 18 years the company has helped develop video content for large events, such as concerts.

Kapustin has worked with Metallica for 13 years, and has been an assistant director for McCartney’s tours for the past 15 years, including for his historic 2003 concert in front of more than 100,000 people in Moscow’s Red Square — his first concert in the former Soviet republic.

“When you direct, you are calling cameras. I know a guitar solo is coming up in eight counts, so I’ll tell camera two to stand by to go to guitar,” she explains. “As technical director, which is what I do with McCartney, I take all the content and playback for the screens and bring it in at the appropriate time. Give the screens a personality.”

Kapustin also worked on the Concert for New York City, the benefit concert held at Madison Square Garden on Oct. 20, 2001, in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the United States. The concert was organized by McCartney and included many famous musicians, including Eric Clapton, The Who, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, and Janet Jackson, among others.

“One of the shows that I always come back to is the 9/11 show,” says Kapustin, who served as assistant director. “The towers were still smoldering, and we came into Madison Square Garden. It was on VH1, and it was supposed to be three hours. And it went for five hours.

“It was so emotional. People were still hoping to find loved ones, and they were holding pictures of family members. For me, just being in the city at that time and being a part of that was pretty unbelievable.”

Kapustin, who earned her MBA from Portland State in 2009, says she enjoys being back in school, while still keeping a hand in the music industry.

“Things are going great. I am definitely enjoying it.”