Missouri Western welcomed new students to campus by hosting several events over the course of three days. These events were all a part of Griffon Edge, and included a block party, a glow party, a service project and a welcome fair. Dixie Williams, associate director of admission, explains that providing events like these can help students with the transition from high school to college, as well as introduce them to new people. “The purpose of the events is to put them through an orientation process that allows them to connect to the campus early on, so that they’re able to identify not only where their classes are, but people who are within their same major,” Williams said. SGA President and First Year Experience Student Director, Alec Guy, says the Griffon Edge program not only aids the new students coming to campus, but also helps the university. “From the university standpoint it’s important because it can be great for retention,” Guy said. “So this kind of creates that Griffon family that we love to see at Missouri Western, that we love about Missouri Western, to make everyone feel welcomed.” Speaking of the Griffon family, Events and New Student Program Coordinator Marissa Steimel explains that without the help of all organizations on campus, Griffon Edge wouldn’t be as successful. “The partnerships are the key,” Steimel said. “I came in to [Griffon Edge] July 5, and without the partnerships across campus, this never would’ve happened.” Center for Student Involvement Program Assistant Cecilia Tackett attended several of the events at Griffon Edge and said they helped her meet new people and see what organizations are on campus. “I think, honestly, my favorite part of Griffon Edge would have to be the glow party,” Tackett said. “It was really fun and just being able to experience college before you actually have to go in to the classes.” Griffon Edge counts as one credit hour for all students who participate and is a program that is held every year for new or incoming students.
After decades of instruction Western’s music department will say a final farewell to percussion instructor Dennis Rogers. Rogers came to Western in 1978, shortly after spending nine years teaching at the University of Missouri, Kansas City Conservatory. Although Dean of Fine Arts Robert Willenbrink was not at Western when Rogers was hired, he is grateful for the many years of service Rogers has given to the university. “He has worked here so much, perhaps you could call him an institution here. He has contributed a great deal with innovative programs and recruiting percussion students,” Willenbrink said. “He is very dedicated to students and what they desire to do, and he helps them. He has also contributed quite a bit to educators in the area. I just think his dedication to students really sets him apart.“ Rogers prides himself on teaching students about music as well as life. “The best part about teaching is that it gives a person like myself the opportunity to teach students more than just their craft. Our craft is percussion, but there is much more than that. The real joy that I have is teaching young people about every facet of life, like; ‘Wisdom is its own reward’,‘By watering others, you water yourself’,’The truth is neither mean, nor nice, it’s just the truth.' That goes on all day, everyday, between striking notes, and playing rhythms and having a lot of fun,” Rogers said. Junior Jack Malo has received private lessons from Rogers and feels he has benefited most from Rogers' personal and professional advice. “He’s been around the block for a very long time, and he’s seen a lot of things. He knows where success comes from, and he is very good at giving you the means of success through his wisdom,” Malo said. Rogers has dedicated his career to helping students succeed academically and better preparing students for their careers. “Probably the greatest joy I have is watching students succeed. First of all succeeding in their degree, [working] each day, finally ends up in a diploma.Then recognizing that they have value, and have earned value in education,” Rogers said. While Rogers anticipates a smooth transition into retirement, he is in hopes of remaining involved with music in the community.
Directing Jeff Stover is the Technical Director here at Missouri Western. He is in charge of directing basically everything except for the actors. For “Godspell”, the theatre departments latest production that premiered in early April, he worked as the Technical Director and on lighting design. There are a lot of things that go into directing. It entails working with everyone and every component of the shows. Directors have to work with everyone involved in the productions to accomplish the desired goal. “Basically the director's main responsibility is to be the artistic vision in the show. What is the message that the play write is trying to put out there. Then when that is determined they have to figure out how to tell the audience that,” Stover said. Directors also have creative liberties when it comes to deciding on the theme of the show. Some shows have to be done in the way they were written, but in some, like “Godspell” and “The Marriage of Figaro,” the directors were able to take them and alter them. “Godspell” was set in modern times so the costumes and set were all modern to 2016. The actors costumes were modeled off of what they normally wear on an average day. For “The Marriage of Figaro”, the theme was set in the 80s. Costumes, hair and music all celebrated the best of what the 80s had to offer. To Stover, theater is important because it is an art that has stood the test of time. “It's a 4000-year-old art form. When film came around, they said it was the death of theater. When TV came around they said that's the death of theater. Well then, why didn't theater die?” Stover said. He finds that it is a way to reflect society's actions back out to the public. “There's a lot of reasons why theater is important. I was taught very early in my career that theater is holding a mirror up to society. If you can have an audience member change their point of view on life by one degree you will have changed their lives substantially,” Stover said. Stover also believes that theater, like most professions, is a tool from which a person can learn life skills. "For me theater skills are life skills," Stover said. "So anything that you want to do in life theater skills can help you. Lets say you want to go out and be a sales person, well you're going to have to go stand up in front of people and talk, well that's acting." Acting Makenna Snyder has been acting since she was five years old. Her mother was a theater director and owns a theater company in Kansas City for kids. Because she was exposed at an early age, it has always been a big part of her life. Snyder has been involved in about 35 different productions throughout the course of her life. Here at Missouri Western she has acted in “Urinetown” and “Godspell.” For Snyder, theater started out as a way to see her friends, but she grew to love it because she could play characters and make people happy. She finds that there are multiple reasons why theater is important. “I think theater is important to do because there’s a lot of self expression involved, and you’re really able to understand yourself better as you try to understand the character,” Snyder said. Not only does she find it important for the people who are a part of it, but for the community as well. “I think its important to support, as in going to local theater productions, because it is an art form and it is a part of our culture, and I think its important to support people who are putting themselves out there like that,” Snyder said. Missouri Western's most recent production, “Godspell,” was a fun experience for Snyder, who was a part of the ensemble. She enjoyed working with the small close-knit cast. “This show was nice because we were all together all the time and it wasn’t just focused on yourself, it was focused on the show itself and keeping the show going and working together,” Snyder said. Costume Designing Linnea Edlin was the costume designer for the production of “Godspell” and this is her fifth year being a part of theater. Coming into college, she didn't have any experience with theater. As a freshman, she took Intro to Theater with Don Lillie. She didn't know it at the time, but his class changed the course of her life as she knew it. “I took Don Lillie's intro to theater class and he offered extra credit if you went back stage, and the first time I went back stage I actually freaked out and left because I was so shy my freshman year,” Edlin said. After her initial fear, she gave it a second chance and went back. “But then I went back and he told me to make a tree and he handed me plaster, a mortar, a paint scraper, stir stick and a wire brush. He showed me how to spread plaster and do all these things. I made a tree, and I was covered in plaster, and I loved it so I was like 'I'm gonna come back,' and I did,” Edlin said. Edlin eventually found her way into wardrobe and has stayed there ever since. Being the costume designer for “Godspell” was exciting for Edlin because this was her first show doing renderings. The creation process was very rewarding for her. “Basically I started with Tee's concept and researched and developed my own. Then go from sketching to painting, to realizing the actual costume pieces,” said Edlin. The show was set in modern times too, so finding costumes for the actors was simple. “People loved their costumes. They were organic and based off of what the actors usually wear,” Edlin said. For Edlin, the theater is a place that taught her the lesson of dependability. She explained that when you are given a task, it is yours alone. If you don't do it, it won't get done. Everyone has their own job and is expected to do it. She thinks that theater is important because of its connection to the other arts and its ability to reach people. “Theater is special because it combines the arts. It's the written, it's the performance because you're using your using your body as a medium, and it's also the music and it's dance. All of the different arts,” Edlin said.
It was a farewell to remember Friday night at the opening performance of Missouri Western’s 14th annual Extreme Percussion Show. Dr. Dennis Rogers, the director of percussion studies, will be celebrating his retirement from Western this May after 37 years of teaching, 47 years total. On Friday, not only did guests get to enjoy an energetic performance of talented percussionists, but they got to witness the incredible legacy one man has made on generations of students. Every year the Extreme Percussion Show highlights the unique musical abilities percussionists have here at Missouri Western, whether it be the type of instrument they play or the rhythms they beat out. This year there were a variety of music styles, song selections and performances to entertain even the hardest to please at the crowded house on Friday. The show opened with the MWSU Large Percussion Ensemble, which utilized instruments like marimbas, chimes, the triangle and the classic snare drum. There were also performances from two drum set ensembles, the MWSU drumline, the Park Hill High School Percussion Ensemble, the Mystic Dance Team, various soloists and, probably the crowd’s favorite, the Steel Pan Band. With Deir Montiel aiding on vocals, the Steel Pan Band brought a fun Jamaican flare into the mix. The band played traditional songs to popular tunes, like “Under the Sea” and “Hot, Hot, Hot,” that left no foot untapped. Rogers even helped out on the bongos, which made the ensemble more entertaining as he cracked jokes and poked fun at the students. Putting on this show every year is no easy task; it takes a lot of preparation, dedication and coordination between the individual percussionists. “I would say that the show takes two semesters to truly get ready for. Between marching battery, individual groups, pan band, and all the other variety of percussion features that we put on… we have to take a lot of time to get all of that ready,” said percussionist Jack Malo. According to Malo, this preparation comes in many forms, from a designated class that meets twice a week, to individual and group practices held on students’ personal time which are necessary for great performances. While the percussionists did fantastic, the show this year was centered around Rogers and his retirement. But more importantly, the night celebrated the upstanding man and example Rogers has been over the years. “He has touched so many lives in Park Hill, this region, and all over the country, whether he’s realized it or not,” said Brian Burlingame, the director of bands for Park Hill High School and former MWSU percussion student. “He has been a mentor, a friend, and a father to me, and I would not be doing what I am on a daily basis had it not been for Rogers.” Several other former students share this same love for Rogers, and surprised Rogers with a video tribute during the show. Multi-generational alumni from across the country came together to record their personal testimonies about Rogers along with one of his famous pieces titled “Flitation.” Nearly every testimony spoke to Rogers’ faith and guidance. Recent graduate Jonathan Hobbs talked about Rogers’ strong faith and positive attitude within his teaching style. According to Hobbs, Rogers provided advice and real-world learning that taught him to give back after graduation rather than just take. “Rogers has influenced generations of drummers technically, which are skills I’m still using today. But he has also influenced them spiritually towards the Lord, and that has been by far the most memorable,” said former student Jim Wagy. When asked, Rogers’ humble response showed his true character. “My favorite part of my time here at Missouri Western has been helping others to find and develop their love in life, building young people essentially. When you water others, you water yourself,” said Rogers. While Rogers will surely be missed as a full-time teacher this coming fall, his legacy will not be forgotten. Still today his words of advice are being echoed by generations of students, and will for many years to come.
By Justin Janorschke For many students, scholarships provide a way to relieve the financial burden that comes with paying for their education. Missouri Western’s nontraditional students, who often have to support themselves and family members, make use of these scholarships so that they may earn an education without having to work another job to pay for it. Luckily for these students, there have been many scholarships that have been set up specifically to help them. The Ambassador’s Scholarship, which has given aid to Western’s nontraditional students since 1989, is one such scholarship. Since the scholarship’s founding, it has given out nearly $400,000 in funds, much of which is generously donated by the Saint Joseph community. To bring awareness to the scholarship, attract more donors and thank the community members who have made the scholarship possible, the Ambassador has held annual events such as this year’s Picasso’s Night at the Ritz. Diane Holtz, University Liaison, described the event that has helped make the scholarship possible. “It’s a very fun event, and it raises money for scholarships for nontraditional students,” Holtz said. “All the items in the silent auction are donated, all the raffle items are donated and we have a lot of sponsors. All the proceeds go [to the nontraditional students]; we usually make anywhere between $10,000 and $15,000.” To help staff the event, Western has continuously recruited help from its students. Reyhan Wilkinson, a member of the Student Ambassadors, was among those who volunteered their time. He helped coordinate the online silent auction. “Missouri Western has a lot of nontraditional students,” Wilkinson said. “[Night at the Ritz] is a nontraditional fundraiser for the community, alumni and things of the such. It’s an event for them to go to and get them all together.” The reception included the silent auction, catering, a wandering musician and even an activity where patrons could “paint” with light using long exposure photography, just as Picasso himself had done. Centerpieces made by Western art students were also available for sale. Among those who attended were several recipients of the Ambassador’s Scholarship, such as Stacey Southard, one of Western’s nursing students. “I was asked to volunteer, and because they helped me out, I volunteered to come help,” Southard said. “It’s a good opportunity to meet the community.” While the Night at the Ritz’s theme may have been “Picasso” for 2016, giving thanks to those community members who have generously given so much to Western’s nontraditional students has been an underlying theme since the scholarship’s conception.