2/20/2015 9:28 AM
Millikin University's New Musicals Workshop is a program that provides theatre students unique collaboration opportunities to work with writers and build professional experience. During this year's workshop, held Jan. 16-18, students were coached and accompanied by guest artist Andrew Lippa, a Tony and Grammy Award-nominated composer and lyricist.
Lippa worked with 16 Millikin students on a variety of his own musical compositions. Throughout the workshop, Millikin students engaged in master classes and performed alongside Lippa during a cabaret performance in Kaeuper Hall on Jan. 18.
"The Andrew Lippa residency was Performance Learning at its finest," said Sean Morrissey, Millikin interim chair of the Department of Theatre and Dance. "Over a three-day period, Millikin students not only learned from, but also collaborated and performed with a world-class artist in a retrospective presentation of his work. Through these types of collaborations, students begin building relationships that will be invaluable to them when transitioning into the professional marketplace."
Lippa wrote the Drama Desk Award-nominated music and lyrics for the musical "Big Fish" which recently played Broadway's Neil Simon Theatre. Lippa also wrote the Tony Award-nominated music and lyrics for the Broadway musical "The Addams Family" which has appeared on tour in the U.S. and is an international success. Millikin's Department of Theatre and Dance will be presenting "The Addams Family" as part of its 2015-2016 production season in November.
"It's great to see the students really reaching for something a little bit deeper when performing and to find the emotional truth in themselves," said Lippa. "It's a gratifying experience to see the students working hard at growing and learning how to be better human beings."
Lippa's songs have been recorded by such esteemed artists as Kristin Chenoweth, Idina Menzel, Nathan Lane, Norbert Leo Butz, Julia Murney and Peter Cincotti. Lippa served as music director and conductor for Kristin Chenoweth's sold-out shows at the Metropolitan Opera House, Carnegie Hall (2004) and the Donmar Warehouse in London as well as with the San Francisco, Chicago, and St. Louis Symphony Orchestras.
Lippa added, "I want the students to learn that being an artist is a lifelong job and that you have to keep asking questions, reinventing yourself, and pushing yourself to be better."
"Something that Andrew emphasized several times while he worked with us was the importance of allowing the music to serve the acting choices within a song," said Ryan Hickey, a junior theatre major from Galesburg, Ill. "He said that the music comes second to the story, and coming from a composer, that was quite surprising. He said that he writes his music with as much freedom for the performer as possible. This served as a tremendous reminder to treat each song as a marriage of the acting and the musicality, creating something that best tells the character's and my own story."
In reference to the cabaret performance, Hickey says the students gained invaluable insight into the music from which it was created.
"The cabaret was a wonderful presentation of the cannon of Andrew Lippa material," said Hickey. "I loved that the songs he gave us to work with and those that we chose on our own really represented a great portion of the last 20 years of his work. Getting to work with a composer on his own work was both a daunting and exciting experience. He constantly challenged us to dig deeper and to find new things to play with in not only his songs, but in any songs we choose to perform."
Andrew Lippa's appearance was made possible by a Millikin University Performance Learning Enhancement Grant (PLEG). Performance Learning Enhancement Grants were initiated by Millikin University during the 2012-2013 academic year as a means of supporting new initiatives to identify and enhance Performance Learning within academic programs.
Lexis Danca, a senior musical theatre major from Crystal Lake, Ill., added, "The New Musicals Workshop is an incredible program. The fact that we are able to learn from artists, like Andrew Lippa, makes the workshop important in terms of building experience and connections."
2/18/2015 4:06 PM
Take songwriting, musicianship, engineering and marketing, and put it all together at once in a class setting and the result is Studio Pressure Night.
Millikin University's Studio Pressure Night course, led by Dr. David Burdick, associate professor of music, encompasses everything about the recording industry. The course provides real-world experiences for vocalists and commercial music majors, whether as songwriters, producers or artists.
Each class period is a recording session where students take on a particular role to produce a song and market a student artist. Referred to as the "Semester of Soul," last semester's class recorded cover songs from legendary artists such as Aretha Franklin, Diana Ross, Ray Charles and Otis Redding.
"The course is building into a production company that serves student artists," said Dr. Burdick. "Part of the experience is to build up the vibe factor, so that when students leave Studio Pressure Night and perform live, they would have already had an image."
Dr. Burdick says the course has turned into a business, and includes teams of students that work on social media and marketing aspects as well as licensing and distribution.
"The students are researching all the commercial options for digital distribution of our product," said Dr. Burdick. "It's great to put student teams together to do this type of work. What you will find from the students is that there is only collective glory."
The social media and marketing students created a Studio Pressure Night Facebook fanpage that highlights the student artists and recording sessions through online video features.
"Studio Pressure Night is geared toward making a product," said Tyler Hollis, a junior commercial music major from Crystal Lake, Ill. "It's a fulfilling experience – the musicians, artists and producers get a lot out of it."
As a guitarist in Studio Pressure Night, Hollis emphasized the importance of creating a good rhythm section and performing well during recording sessions.
"In a literal sense of Performance Learning, we are performing and it's all about the artist," said Hollis. "The course has provided me a confidence boost in being able to sit down and provide a competent recording track. I'm glad Studio Pressure Night is able to provide the different avenues of either a studio musician or producer."
Historically, the course has been held at Millikin for over a decade and was initially for instrumentalists. The course has expanded into a training platform for artists. Last semester, over 20 Millikin students were enrolled in Studio Pressure Night.
"The course shows how complex recording can be, but it also shows how to make music professionally," said Jacob Dinardo, a senior commercial music major from Rochester, Ill. "It covers everything that we hear as musicians and we put it in motion. Thinking on the fly as a musician or using your arranging skills to put together a chart, this course takes all of it and puts it together in one night."
Dr. Burdick added, "We are building this course, and by building it, it's tailored to what we do, how we want to do it and what we want to be. We are reaching the public on our terms."
11/21/2014 11:08 AM
Developing and presenting research is all part of the Performance Learning experience for students at Millikin University. For senior Lindsay Tipsword, a social science secondary teaching major from Decatur, Ill., the opportunity to share her history research in a professional environment as an undergraduate was unique.
Tipsword presented her own original research in front of an audience of scholars and historians at the 16th annual Conference on Illinois History, held Sept. 25-26 at the Prairie Capital Convention Center and the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum in Springfield, Ill.
"Typically, students don't present at conferences until graduate school; she did a great job," said Dr. Dan Monroe, Millikin associate professor of history and chair of the Department of History and Political Science. "Presenting research can be difficult, but Lindsay went beyond expectations and even took questions from the audience."
The Conference on Illinois History is the state's largest meeting devoted to the history of the Prairie State. This year's conference included 20 paper sessions that featured topics such as politics, Abraham Lincoln, Route 66, archaeology, and the Civil War; one film; eight workshops; and three panel discussions.
Tipsword's research was featured during a panel discussion on "Millikin University in Times of War," moderated by Dr. Dan Monroe. She was the only undergraduate to present during the panel.
The panel discussion covered specific topics of research including "Millikin University and World War I" by Dr. Timothy Kovalcik, Millikin associate professor of history, and "The Growth of Political Consciousness on the Millikin University Campus" by Dr. Brian Mullgardt, Millikin assistant professor of history. Tipsword's work highlighted "African-American Identity and Millikin University" from 1966-1972.
"My research covers different issues on campus that happened during that time period with the African-American student population," said Tipsword. "It was very interesting to look through the archives to see what was happening back then. It was interesting to see how their philosophy on campus was growing."
Tipsword went through old issues of the Decaturian, Millikin's student newspaper, to gather her research.
In reference to working alongside Millikin faculty members, Tipsword said, "It was an incredible opportunity to showcase my work and collaborate with Dr. Kovalcik and Dr. Mullgardt. To be on stage and discuss the different aspects of our research was quite an experience."
Dr. Mullgardt added, "From beginning to end, Lindsay created the topic, performed her own work, and is being mentored in the process of becoming an historian."
"In essence, Lindsay is the perfect example of Performance Learning. She is working on real research," said Dr. Monroe. "Prior to the conference, Lindsay presented her research in front of fellow students and faculty, and they offered suggestions for improvement. It was a great way for her to become comfortable before presenting at the conference."
When asked what she learned from the experience, Tipsword said, "It was great to learn how to present yourself professionally, and also have the opportunity to hear from other historians and make connections. The more you're able to present, the more you're able to get your work out to the public. As an undergrad, an experience such as this stands out especially if you're preparing for graduate school."
Dr. Timothy Kovalcik says Tipsword's experience demonstrates the goal of Millikin's History program – wanting graduates to become professional historians.
"Lindsay is doing professional work and that's the key," said Dr. Kovalcik. "The whole point of Performance Learning is that a third party is invested and the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency has been very receptive to the work of Millikin students on different levels."
10/20/2014 3:30 PM
Creating furniture that is simple, practical, and original. That is the goal of Sincerely Pigeon Studio, a home décor and furniture business started by Millikin University alumnae Laramie Street '10 and Rayanna Martin '12.
Located in the Heroic Age Arts Center in Mt. Zion, Ill., Sincerely Pigeon was launched in June 2014. The studio creates handmade wood furniture and offers a variety of décor options from interior space design to commissioned artwork.
"I had always enjoyed home furnishings and Rayanna enjoys upholstering her own ottomans," said Street. "We became good friends after graduation, and we thought it would be a great idea to combine my welding work with her woodworking. We started coming up with end table and ottoman designs this past January, and then decided to start the business."
The most intriguing aspect of the business is the local connection. Street and Martin deny the use of prefabricated materials and composite woods, and instead use real wood from trees in Macon, Ill., to create their furniture. They also use raw steel and fabricate everything by hand.
"For every design we try to make, we put it on paper and then submit it to our customers, we try to make it as open as possible," said Street. "We want people to be able to interact with what we are doing."
Martin added, "It's great to be able to share our creativity with the local community and establish connections. When you work with local people and artists, everyone benefits."
In just a short amount of time, Sincerely Pigeon has not only earned local success, but has garnered national recognition. The studio was recently named a 2014 Design Finalist for Martha Stewart's 2014 American Made Awards.
American Made is a program made up of people and communities that have turned their passion for quality craftsmanship and well-designed goods into a way of life. The American Made Awards honor makers, small-business owners, and creative entrepreneurs in the fields of crafts, design, food, and style. The executive editorial team of Martha Stewart Living served as category judges and oversaw the selection process.
"We were shocked to find out that we were finalists," said Street. "We saw that many of the finalists were from the east and west coasts, and not many were from the central Illinois area. The support from the local community has been great."
Martin added, "With all the different businesses in larger markets, it was unbelievable that we were selected as finalists, it's really exciting."
Laramie Street earned her bachelor's degree in studio art from Millikin in 2010. While at Millikin, she studied drawing, printmaking, and metal sculpture. Prior to Sincerely Pigeon, Street worked for her family's business, a diesel truck and heavy equipment repair shop, which gave her access to metal and welding. She currently welds table bases and lamp bases for the studio.
Rayanna Martin graduated from Millikin with a bachelor's degree in theatre in 2012. While at Millikin, Martin learned about every aspect of theatre, from set design to costumes and make up. The woodworker of the business partnership, Martin builds ottoman bases, table tops, and benches.
Martin says their most popular products have been anything developed through live edge wood. "We've started to lean more toward developing furniture with live edge wood. We work with a local sawmill to pick out the trees that we want and have those lumbered for us. I think the customers enjoy the fact that the furniture they purchase comes from the local area."
When asked how her experience at Millikin played a role in her current business venture, Street says, "The tools that I got when I was in my studio environment at Millikin helped me understand what I needed to do to develop my career. There are many students in the studio art program that want to make their own job, and Millikin helps prepare students for those opportunities. Programs at Millikin, like Blue Connection, always encourage students that owning a business is possible."
For more information on Sincerely Pigeon Studio, visit sincerelypigeonstudio.com
10/3/2014 10:20 AM
Kevin Guarnieri, Millikin University's new director of Millitrax Studios, is one of several new faculty members on campus contributing to the institution's mission of Performance Learning. Developing a successful career as a studio engineer, Guarnieri is using his experience to teach Millikin undergrads music production through studio recording practicums.
"One of the things that I've noticed since I've started at Millikin is the great quality of students," said Guarnieri. "The students are willing to do the work that helps them grasp the technical side of recording music. The students seem eager and they are talented – it's fun."
Guarnieri brings a wealth of studio recording experience to Millikin's School of Music. Since 1999, he has worked as a studio engineer with several critically-acclaimed recording artists including 'NSYNC on their 2001 album "Celebrity," Mariah Carey, Mick Jagger and Randy Jackson. His most recent work was with Travis Tritt in 2013 on his album "The Calm After…"
Guarnieri is currently teaching Studio Techniques I and Engineering Practicum in the School of Music.
"Just looking at my end of the spectrum and the School of Music, I've been impressed with the depth and breadth of knowledge that Millikin has to offer," said Guarnieri. "The instructional staff does a great job, and the programs offer great experiences for the students."
Guarnieri graduated from Radford University in Radford, Va., in 1991 with a bachelor's degree in business management. In 1993, Guarnieri, along with his sister, started a design company that became a successful business. Four years later, Guarnieri decided to follow his passion for succeeding in the music industry and attended the Full Sail Center for the Recording Arts in Orlando, Fla. After one year, he earned an associate degree in recording arts and sciences.
"At that time, I was given an introduction to the technology and the production procedures of a recording studio," said Guarnieri. "It helped me get my foot in the door."
After graduating from Full Sail, Guarnieri left Orlando for Los Angeles to find an opportunity at a recording studio. Guarnieri found that opportunity at Westlake Audio where he worked for close to three years. Guarnieri's biggest opportunity at Westlake happened while working with bassist Randy Jackson during sessions for 'NSYNC's "Celebrity" album.
Guarnieri added, "About six months after we finished the 'NSYNC album, I was lucky enough to be hired regularly to engineer sessions Randy produced."
While working with Randy Jackson, Guarnieri put in many hours of session work with Mariah Carey on several albums. He also worked on albums for the Backstreet Boys and Whitney Houston.
Shortly after, Guarnieri started to get involved with teaching recording classes and being a guest speaker at institutions such as UCLA and the Los Angeles Film and Recording School. He would speak with students about their interest in music production. After developing a new passion for teaching, he landed a position at Madison Media Institute in Madison, Wis., teaching studio production.
"I wanted to make the transition from working in the studio to instructing," said Guarnieri. "I ultimately wanted to work at a regionally accredited university and that's what led me to Millikin."
An Avid Certified Instructor, Guarnieri hopes Millikin students learn and appreciate the newer production styles and classical techniques of recording.
"How do you go into a session? How do you track drums? What's the process? – those are the questions I want the students to think about," said Guarnieri. "I want to teach them all the basics but also provide them a lot of insight. There's a lot of opportunities for creativity."
When asked about incorporating Performance Learning in his classes, Guarnieri says, "A lot of what I'm going to do will apply to the Performance Learning standard. It's not just about learning how to record vocals, it's also knowing when to play something through someone's headphones. To me, the School of Music is a place where we're trying to train students to become professionals."
8/25/2014 9:02 AM
Living roof ecosystems, also known as "Green Roofs," have been increasing in popularity across the United States. The roofs help maintain a cleaner environment, add a living vegetation layer to an urban area, and are aesthetically pleasing.
Such positive attributes are why Millikin University student Jessica Kerr, a junior biology major from O'Fallon, Ill., and Dr. Judy Parrish, professor of biology, are finding the best technique for the construction and maintenance of a living roof ecosystem on the rooftop of Leighty-Tabor Science Center on Millikin's campus. The ecosystem research is part of Kerr's James Millikin Scholar (JMS) project.
"By adding a living roof ecosystem, we hope to bring a more environmentally friendly aspect to the Decatur community as a whole," said Kerr. "Living roof ecosystems are not only aesthetically pleasing, but they have shown in past research to aid many issues the world around us faces today."
As part of their research, Kerr and Dr. Parrish are conducting experiments with different heights of soil, ranging from four to 10 inches in height, and types of medium to find which is most efficient for growing a green roof.
Throughout the summer, Kerr and Dr. Parrish constructed six planting boxes and monitored the growth rates and characteristics of six species of native Illinois plants contained in the boxes. Along with testing the abilities of the plants, the pair hopes to determine a strategy for layer insulation on the roof.
"It's a project that we started researching back in January, and we are using a certified, lighter medium that is meant to go on a roof," said Kerr. "Each box also contains tomato, pea, and bean plants. It's nice to be able to compare and contrast."
According to Kerr and Dr. Parrish, green roofs also play a major role with storm water management, increasing biodiversity, and lowering costs in building maintenance.
"I've always enjoyed gardening, but there are so many benefits that come with a living roof," said Kerr. "Imagine having the opportunity to garden on the roof with produce, and teachers using the area for readings on genetics. This has been the most hands-on project I've ever taken part in. As a sophomore, when I first started the project, I had no expectations that I would ever be able to do something like this."
Dr. Parrish added, "I've been hoping to try to do something with the rooftop for quite some time, and I was excited that Jessica wanted to take on this project. Jessica has certainly taken the lead on this project and did a great job with developing all the necessary preliminary research."
With the addition of the living roof ecosystem on top of Leighty-Tabor Science Center, Kerr and Dr. Parrish also hope to create a safer habitat for the urban wildlife of central Illinois. The objective can be achieved by including a wide-range of plants and structures that can provide food and shelter for many birds and insects.
"The hope is to get as many people as possible interested in this project," said Dr. Parrish. "The roof is already used in a variety of ways with the green house and the observatory, and to build an ecosystem that can be beneficial in terms of research and beautification would be great."
With the data they've already collected, Kerr hopes to make the living roof ecosystem a larger project with additional funding through grants.
8/1/2014 8:32 AM
Millikin University undergraduates and faculty are spending the summer engaging in research projects as part of the Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) program. The program pairs a student with a faculty member to perform in-depth research throughout the summer months. An example of Performance Learning, the signature of a Millikin education, the research is one of the "graduate level" opportunities undergraduates experience at Millikin.
The 2014 SURF program features Millikin students and faculty across multiple disciplines conducting research and collaboratively building new academic ground. This summer, three SURF fellowships were granted.
Dr. Timothy Guasco, assistant professor of chemistry, and Christopher Potter, a junior chemistry major with a philosophy minor from Decatur, Ill., are performing research on the significant rise in the average global temperature, and the development of energy technologies that will help maintain a fossil fuel energy economy.
"Most of the world knows that global warming is a huge problem, and one of the main contributors is carbon dioxide," said Dr. Guasco. "We are trying to convert carbon dioxide, that is being produced right now, into something that won't reach our atmosphere and continue to cause a global warming issue. We are looking at the heart of the chemical processes at the molecular-level to see exactly what is going on."
Dr. Guasco and Potter are exploring the carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) methodology, and characterizing the interactions between carbon dioxide, a catalyst, and solvent molecules relevant to the chemical conversion of carbon dioxide. As part of the research, Chris and Dr. Guasco have spent significant time this summer at Washington University in St. Louis, Mo., using the institution's VMI-PES instrument for experimental purposes.
"This is a very worthwhile experience and something I feel very privileged to have," said Potter. "Not many undergraduates nationwide have an opportunity like this. In terms of Millikin, the SURF program only allows so many research opportunities so having the honor of receiving one is very encouraging. This experience has helped me fulfill my dream of one day becoming a Ph.D. graduate student."
Dr. Guasco added, "I look at science research as a perfect example of Performance Learning, and for Chris, this has been his first opportunity of performing the exact work of scientists."
Dr. Kenneth Laundra, assistant professor of sociology, Keyria Rodgers, Millikin adjunct instructor, and Maizee Lamb, a junior sociology major from Greenfield, Ill., are once again working on an ongoing research project between Millikin's sociology program and the State's Attorney's Office/Macon County Juvenile Justice Council (MCJJC) in Decatur.
Last summer, Maizee spent time creating databases in Microsoft Access for the purpose of helping Macon County develop data reports for the Macon County Juvenile Justice Council. These reports are created to give each council member a visual of data collection and analysis. This summer, her duties include updating the 2013 Juvenile Delinquency Database, gathering all information about each individual case, and creating a final data report for the 2013 year. She is also creating the 2014 Juvenile Delinquency Database.
"I've enjoyed the opportunity of collecting data and creating something important for the Juvenile Justice Council," said Lamb. "It's certainly a learning experience, and it helps because I'm interested in pursuing a career in restorative justice and sociology."
Lamb also helped coordinate the first Juvenile Justice Forum for Macon County on June 25. The purpose of the forum was to raise awareness about truths and myths behind juvenile crime. The forum featured keynote speakers and allowed participants to create action plans to reduce juvenile crime.
"The chance to work in this type of field has been very eye-opening," said Lamb. "By working on current projects and initiatives, I feel that I've made a difference in the State's Attorney's Office and that's the best part of the entire experience."
Dr. Sangeetha Srinivasan, assistant professor of biology, and Jenna Farquhar, a junior double major in philosophy and biology on the pre-medicine track from Ledyard, Conn., are researching antibiotic resistant bacteria. Antibiotic resistance in bacteria has grown in the past few decades and is becoming one of the serious problems in public health microbiology. Farquhar's goal is to study antibiotic resistance in the local community using microbiological and molecular tools.
"There hasn't been too much research conducted on this particular case so we are trying to compile all the preliminary aspects of the research," said Farquhar. "When I started at Millikin, I was interested in studying pathology and microorganisms, and to work on this type of research with Dr. Srinivasan is very exciting."
As part of her research, Farquhar is studying the prevalence of Multi-Drug Resistant (MDR) bacteria, and Carbapenem Resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE) in raw sewage, creek/stream waters, and lake waters. She is also studying the effect of waste water treatment in these bacteria as well as in the genes that code antibiotic resistance.
As an undergraduate on the pre-medicine track, Farquhar says this research helps her see another side of medicine. "This opportunity helps broaden my horizons in terms of medicine, research, and viruses. There's a lot of hands-on work with this type of experience, and I'm glad I'm able to learn the techniques now as an undergrad."
Dr. Srinivasan added, "This is graduate-level experience for Jenna and she's developing the tools that will help her with further research after Millikin – it's a great example of Performance Learning. The goal for Jenna will be to present her research on a regional and national level, which puts Millikin's name out there in terms of the SURF program."
7/23/2014 3:05 PM
Millikin University's Summer Immersion session offers a wide range of courses for students to experience. One of the unique experiences offered this year was a sociology course titled Chicago Communities & Cultures, developed in collaboration with the Chicago Center for Urban Life and Culture. Taught this past May, members of the Millikin Sociology Club spent a week at the Chicago Center facilities in Hyde Park and experienced Chicago in a whole new way.
"This course, like most Millikin immersion courses, offers informal and unique learning opportunities," said Dr. Kenneth Laundra, Millikin associate professor of sociology. "For example, our experience at a spoken word event in South Chicago, that allowed us to see inside the lives and minds of young adults in the inner city, could not possibly be experienced in a classroom. To actually hang out in a neighborhood we only read about and talked about in the first week of class was a powerful moment for all of us, and not something any of us are likely to forget soon."
The course focused on the ethnic, religious, economic and lifestyle diversities of Chicago's neighborhoods and the social dynamics of the city. The students visited city neighborhoods, major political and economic institutions, and met with community leaders. The students also studied the role of artistic expression in community development, including blues and jazz music, museums, poetry, art galleries, dance, film and theater.
"I really enjoyed visiting different Chicago neighborhoods and meeting with the community leaders because each place had its own little story," said Iman Egwaoje, a sophomore sociology major from Matteson, Ill. "It was interesting hearing from the community leaders."
One of the first stops during the course was the Pilsen neighborhood, a predominantly Hispanic community. The students took a walking tour led by guide, Jose Guerrero, a local artist and activist, who showed many of the neighborhood's famous outdoor murals that represent the stories, lives and people of the neighborhood. The students also experienced Paseo Boricua, the largest Puerto Rican neighborhood in Chicago.
"I think the most significant thing we all learned about these neighborhoods is that they exist, and are amazing public spaces to visit," said Dr. Laundra. "When most people go to Chicago, they go downtown to the Magnificent Mile area. We were given tours of several ethnic neighborhoods and spoke with community leaders in those neighborhoods. You can't directly observe the effects of gentrification on a neighborhood by reading the textbook."
The Millikin students continued their experience by visiting People for Community Recovery (PCR), an organization that enhances the quality of life for residents living in communities affected by pollution. The students also worked with Growing Home, a local, non-profit organization whose mission is to operate, promote, and demonstrate the use of organic agriculture as a vehicle for job training, employment, and community development.
The students spent a day with Growing Home gardening and learning about "Food Deserts," which are low-income urban areas without access to a grocery store or fresh fruits and vegetables.
"While working outside thinning the carrots and cutting strings for the tomato plants, it made me think about the workers that do this on a daily basis for their community," said Taana Latu, a senior sociology major from West Bountiful, Utah. "You appreciate the workers who spend their time picking vegetables, it was eye-opening."
Dr. Laundra added, "The day of urban gardening was a nice break from city tours. It was a chance for us to work with a community to help provide a real benefit to real people. The Growing Home garden project we worked at provides the only fresh fruit and vegetables that residents in the community can find for miles around."
The students finished the week by exploring the historic sites of South Chicago, as well as attending an open mic night at a community center in Hyde Park called KLEO (Keep Loving Each Other).
"This course was a remarkable experience for me and it makes me appreciate Chicago a lot more," said Latu. "I got to experience all kinds of new food from every culture and also got to experience most of all the cultures that are established in the United States. Sociology is all about finding the truth and I found some truth on this visit to the city."
7/3/2014 11:52 AM
As an undergraduate at Millikin University, Jake Widenhofer '12 enjoyed the hands-on experiences of the Millikin School of Music while studying for his bachelor's degree. He understood that hard work and determination would help him make it as a professional musician. His hard work paid off as he recently became the new lead guitarist for Matthew West '99, an award-winning Contemporary Christian musician, and fellow Millikin alum.
"I had my first show with Matt in Decatur," said Widenhofer. "From here on out we will be playing festival shows for the majority of the summer; it's exciting."
Jake graduated from Millikin University with a degree in commercial music. While at Millikin, he studied and played many different styles of music. He performed with a variety of groups at Millikin including Jazz Band I, Guitar Ensemble I, OneVoice, and participated in recording sessions with other student artists. After graduation, Jake moved to Nashville, Tenn., to pursue a career in music.
When asked about how the opportunity to work with Matthew West came to be, Widenhofer said, "About two years ago, my Dad (Dr. Stephen Widenhofer), who taught Matt while he was at Millikin, thought he would be a good person to connect with since I was moving to Nashville. I ended up meeting with Matt at a show in the Quad Cities, and I had a chance to meet with his guitarist at the time. I happen to fill in during a few shows this past March, and when the time came for Matthew to switch things up with his band, I got the call."
Being put in many different musical situations is what helped make Jake a well-versed musician. Since moving to Nashville, he has had a lot of opportunities to play nationally and regionally. Jake has played with Melissa Greene, Griffin House, Carl Cartee, Denver and the Mile High Orchestra, SaraBeth, Gwen Sebastian, Matt Wertz, and Carrie Manolakos. He has also played in the studio on projects for Griffin House and other regional artists.
West, who, like Widenhofer, also graduated with a degree in commercial music, has released five studio albums since 2003. He has been nominated for eight Dove Awards, winning once in 2003 for his album "Happy." West won the 2013 American Music Award for Best Contemporary Inspirational Artist.
"Just a couple of short years ago, Dr. Stephen Widenhofer was telling me about his son who would soon be graduating from Millikin and making the pilgrimage to Nashville," said West. "He's one of the best young musicians I've heard in a long time, and I look forward to traveling around the country with another Millikin graduate taking the music to the people."
When asked about the opportunity to tour with West, Widenhofer said, "It's definitely a huge leap in my career from what I was doing to now – I really am living the dream. To get paid to play the guitar and to see the country is a pretty amazing thing. As a musician and especially as a songwriter, Matthew's songs are great."
Widenhofer says his time at Millikin helped him develop into the musician he is today. "Being at Millikin was great because of all the opportunities that were offered. For me, getting to play a lot of different musical styles and getting to play in the studio helped my overall guitar playing. From the academic side, I learned a lot in terms of reading music and thinking quickly."
West added, "My experience with Millikin University has truly come full circle. Dr. Widenhofer and the rest of the faculty in the School of Music helped to shape my love for music in the early stages of my development. Now, I have the honor of making music alongside the Doc's talented son."
Widenhofer went on to add that aspiring undergraduate musicians should take advantage of every opportunity available. "I tried to diversify myself as much as I could with music while I was at Millikin. Try to do as much as you can, and try to establish connections."
- 10 ||