Francis Cabrel, the iconic singer-songwriter, graces the campus of Swiss Hotel Management School with back-to-back concerts. His visit gives students an invaluable opportunity to practice running real events with high-profile guests and concert attendees, embracing the school’s approach to combining academic rigor with practical, real-world learning.
As Switzerland drifts into a white winter and Caux palace is decked in holiday decorations from the Christmas tree in the lobby to the colorful tinsel strung up around the walls, Swiss Hotel Management School (SHMS) prepares to receive guests for a historic musical event happening on campus. The picturesque Caux Palace Theatre, nestled in the heart of the SHMS campus, is transformed into a hub of musical festivity as French music legend Francis Cabrel takes the stage for two completely sold-out concerts.
Also called the “Bruce Springsteen of France”, Francis Cabrel is known for his melodic tunes and poignant lyrics, captivating audiences with his timeless charm. The concerts took place over two evenings and featured more than just his classic hits; up and coming artists from the region performed ahead of him, on the same stage that SHMS students had just performed on during their International Day celebration barely a month before. The inclusion of emerging Swiss musicians was an opportunity to showcase their talents, highlighting the diversity and vibrancy of the Swiss music scene and providing an invaluable opportunity for young artists to perform alongside an established star like Cabrel.
For SHMS students, these concerts are more than just a cultural treat; they are a professional challenge and learning experience. Tasked with running the concert’s cocktail event for the VIP guests, students applied their hospitality skills in a real-world setting. From planning the menu to managing logistics and ensuring impeccable guest service, every aspect of the event was a practical lesson in event management. The students’ event marketing team, for example, created a beautiful video in English and French detailing the history of Caux Palace and its place today as the campus of SHMS. Meanwhile, another team of students was in charge of the drinks, setting up a beautiful lit display to feature the non-alcoholic cocktails, which were served alongside local Swiss wines.
VIP guests were led by a lush red carpet to a photo booth before opening into the cocktail space, where students had set up impressive tables of hors d'oeuvres and rows of drink glasses. The attention to detail and guest attentiveness was phenomenal. Every tablecloth was immaculate, and every glass was shining. If a guest dropped a fork, someone was there with a new one before the guest even realized that they needed a new one. The Swiss Hospitality Touch was on full display that night, impressing some guests who may not have even realized until the nights of the concerts that the historic Caux palace was home to one of the best hospitality schools in the world.
Quality was really on display during those evenings. It was not just the students who needed to metaphorically roll up their sleeves for the evening. Bachelor of Arts Program Manager for Semester 2, Vanessa Mendes, mentored the students throughout the evening while Academic Chef Patrice Novel served as the culinary expert who advised the students in the kitchen and service teams in planning the menu and managing the logistics for impeccable service. The bulk of the campus Operations Team was also involved to make sure that the flow of guests was fluid, communication with the building owners Initiatives of Change and concert organizers Les Emergences Musicales was clear, and that all aspects of service were covered.
This experience epitomized SHMS’s educational philosophy, where learning extends beyond the classroom walls. Students leveraged their classroom knowledge in areas like event management, food and beverage service, and customer interaction, applying these concepts in a dynamic, high-pressure environment. This experience honed their skills in managing large-scale events, particularly those with significant cultural importance.
The concerts were organized by Les Emergences Musicales, which translates to “The Musical Emergences”, in coordination with Initiatives of Change, who manage the historic building. Les Emergences Musicales is a special program by the Montreux Seasonal Culture Foundation to support new talents in the French-speaking region. Francis Cabrel himself is considered the godfather of the program, committed to developing and guiding new talent for nearly 30 years with his association, “Voix du Sud”, or “Voices of the South”. Known for his melodic tunes and poignant lyrics, Cabrel's performances were a mesmerizing blend of classic hits and new releases, captivating audiences with his timeless charm.
Guests left the concerts having a great time and were impressed with the quality of the event. For many, it was their first time in Caux palace and the first time they have experienced an event run by hospitality students. Guest satisfaction is a source of great pride for SHMS students and demonstrates how important it is to have trained professionals running an event such as these cocktails and concerts.
Les Emergences and SHMS both value embracing cultural heritage while moving forward with innovation; while the concerts show this by featuring both new and old musical talent in a historic Swiss building, SHMS students learn the latest trends of events and hospitality while having a strong basis in hospitality traditions. These alignments of values show in how easily the cocktail and concerts work in coordination with each other, like a tried-and-true concerto with many moving parts coordinating at just the right tempo. Students were applauded for their professionalism during the event from several different guests expressing amazement at the quality of students’ food and service during the cocktail. The two evenings could only be summed up as a great success.
The presence of Francis Cabrel on campus and the successful execution of these events left a lasting impression on the SHMS community. Students reflected on the uniqueness of their education, where such high-profile events are part of their learning journey.
As SHMS looks to the future, the success of hosting Francis Cabrel and managing the events surrounding his performances sets a high bar for what can be achieved. It serves as an affirmation of the school's commitment to providing an education that is both comprehensive and practical, ensuring that students are well-equipped to meet the challenges of the dynamic hospitality industry, from small gatherings to large-scale events.
Francis Cabrel’s visit to SHMS was a harmonious blend of music and hospitality, creating a symphony of learning and real-world experience. It was a clear demonstration of the school's commitment to excellence, not just in hospitality education but in creating holistic and enriching experiences for the students. As SHMS continues to innovate and lead in hospitality education, the events and hospitality industries can trust that SHMS graduates are experienced and poised to deliver world-class quality of the highest level.
The Bachelor of Arts program at Swiss Hotel Management School includes a specialization in event management. Students learn the ins and outs of managing an event, learning with both academic theory and practical training such as the concert with Francis Cabrel.