Friday, October 20, 2023
Dedicated students, distinguished colleagues and dear friends,
Past was indeed prologue when we celebrated the S&T Archives and recognized our State Historical Society with exhibits and lectures these past few weeks. You see, October is American Archives Month and the National Archives, sponsor of American Archives Month, is a true treasure of documents and artifacts. Its National Archives Museum alone is a wonderful site to visit, whether in person or online. Imagine seeing the original, cool historic documents like our nation’s Declaration of Independence, U.S. Constitution or Bill of Rights, learning about the power of sports, viewing the works of pioneering photographers, or exploring the National Recording Registry for the most iconic American musical masterpieces.
Right here at S&T, a notable dimension of our history that is less frequently referenced is our own musical heritage as highlighted this month by the exhibition “On a Miner Note: Musical Miners and Missouri Sounds.”
Did you know that S&T has a rich historical connection to music and the arts, dating back to our earliest days as the Missouri School of Mines and Metallurgy? During this week’s “On a Miner Note” presentation, Dr. David Samson, assistant professor of music at S&T, discussed the history of the Western Conservatory of Music that was started by MSM Professor Robert W. Douthat in September 1882 in Rolla. Douthat was a Confederate Army captain during the Civil War and a part of “Pickett’s Charge” during the Battle of Gettysburg. Douthat imagined that the conservatory, along with a boarding house, would help enhance the position of the school and increase enrollment, which was 110 in 1883.
Music and theater at S&T began as university clubs, and an MSM band played for the dedication of the school. Numerous bands and orchestras were in existence from the start. The MSM ROTC band began in the 1920s and the MSM Glee Club and MSM Players followed in the 1930s. Today, S&T offers opportunities in choir, concert band, jazz, orchestra and marching band, just to name a few.
This past week, members of our Chamber Choir and Jazz Choir, under the direction of Lorie Francis, teaching professor of music, had the unique opportunity to perform with the Bach Society of Saint Louis as part of a special event in our Campus Performing Arts Series. The event provided a unique musical experiential learning experience for our students on our Leach Theatre stage.
In addition to other upcoming musical events, next week’s On a Miner Note finale will include Dr. Michael Bruening, professor of history and political science, who will perform songs including his viral (pun intended) COVID hit—a must-see about the ills of the pandemic-era online teaching transition.
As a trained engineer, and more specifically a mechanical engineer, my adult life and outlook have been focused on the design and physical realization of systems. How would a component fit a system and in what optimal arrangement? How would a new design ensure proper connection to perform a task? Just like the universality of engineering concepts, the universal language of music transcends cultural boundaries to connect people. The performances by the Bach Society of Saint Louis jointly with our own S&T choirs’ performance was a powerful expression that conveyed stories, thoughts and emotions. It was an enriching source of inspiration.
For 150 years here at S&T, music education, along with engineering, science, and art and humanities education, has provided our students with the ability to appreciate the relationship between matter and spirit, and has shaped our minds and souls to contemplate the beauty of harmony.
To the members of the Bach Society of Saint Louis, I say thank you sincerely for taking the time to perform on our campus to inspire our souls and to warm our hearts. To our student and faculty members of our choirs, I say thank you for participating, for sharing your talent, and for keeping our Miner note tradition alive.
Check out musical highlights and news from S&T:
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