By Daniel Strawhun, Opinions Editor
The University of Missouri-St. Louis’ College of Arts and Sciences (CAS) hosted its annual “Arts, Sciences, and All That Jazz” meet and greet on August 31. The event was held in the CAS office in Lucas Hall room 303.
A conga and keyboard duo was assembled in the hallway to greet students and faculty as they wandered in. The space had been transformed into a makeshift jazz lounge, complete with standing-height cocktail tables and pamphlets detailing the various programs and resources offered by CAS. CAS, which comprises 21 departments, is the largest at UMSL. It includes among others the Department of Math and Computer Science, the Biology Department, the Music Department, the Philosophy Department, the Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice, and the English Department.
Sean Chism, the Student Retention Coordinator for CAS and the coordinating director of “Arts, Sciences, and All That Jazz” explained the purpose of the event. He said, “‘Arts, Sciences, and All That Jazz’” is our campus welcome for students, and so the point is to connect faculty, staff, and students on campus… Oftentimes students see us on campus and I think they think we’re like aliens, or like we’re not real people. So the point is really to just engage them in a very low power distance way, where they feel comfortable talking with us. We invite folks from around campus to come in and talk about their office, what they do… in a very casual, networking/mingling type of way.”
There was, to be sure, plenty of mingling happening amongst students, faculty, and staff, especially in the main office of CAS. There, people held plates piled with pizza and drank from plastic cups of lemonade while they chatted. But the main attraction was the music that filled the space, emanating from a live jazz ensemble situated in the middle of the room.
Chism said, “The musicians are all UMSL students in our Fine Arts and Music Programs here on campus. We usually connect with Professor Jim Widner and Professor Jim Henry, and they work with us to find students who are the best of the best to come in and play for us. It’s really cool because sometimes it’s improv, so you will maybe see four or five students who may not have ever practiced together, and they all come together and play off the cuff…the band that’s playing right now, they didn’t practice together at all. They’re just playing off the cuff.”
But attendees would have never guessed that the music was completely improvised. The notes and transitions were smooth and deliberate; the band seemed relaxed and in control. Readers who would like to know the names of the musicians who made the “Arts, Sciences, and All That Jazz” event possible can contact Sean Chism at email@example.com.
Despite its name, Chism explained, “Arts, Sciences, and All That Jazz” is not limited to only jazz music. “It’s called ‘All That Jazz,’ but it’s not just about jazz,” he said. “We’ve had hip hop, a live DJ, soul music, folk, country, pop.”
Students who are interested in learning more about CAS can visit the college’s web page at umsl.edu/divisions/artscience/index.html or stop in to Lucas 303 during normal office hours.