Author: Andrew Wilder

KSTO brings “orchestral rock” band Miracles of Modern Science to the Pause

On Nov. 20, self-described “orchestral rock” band Miracles of Modern Science performed in the Lion’s Pause at the first-ever KSTO-sponsored concert. Calling themselves a “string-section in mutiny,” the band incorporates elements of rock and pop played with a “decidedly pre-rock” instrumentation: double bass, violin, cello, mandolin and drums.

The result is a refreshingly original sound that is appropriate for KSTO’s first concert, part of the student-run radio station’s effort to expand its presence on campus.

“Our primary goal with the concert was to bring KSTO out into the St. Olaf world a little bit more,” said Carolyn Bernhardt ’14, this year’s KSTO station manager. “Between tabling endlessly for weeks, our PR team publicizing the event really well and Miracles of Modern Science putting on a really fun and engaging show, I would personally deem the event a success.”

“Our goal, like that of any radio station, is to increase listenership,” said assistant station manager Mitchell Kampf ’15. “We believe hosting more live events in the future will further this goal as KSTO builds a more physical presence on the campus.”

According to Bernhardt, the concert was a happy coincidence.

“One of the band members from Miracles of Modern Science, Josh Hirschfeld, emailed me in October saying they were on tour and they wanted to play at St. Olaf between shows they had scheduled in the Cities,” Bernhardt said. “I presented this possibility to the staff at KSTO, who met it with great enthusiasm. We then set the ball into motion, getting their contract drawn up, booking space in the Pause, etc. It was a great learning experience for all of us.”

Students may wonder why KSTO is putting on concerts when there are other organizations on campus whose main mission is to bring live music to campus. Bernhardt responded that she does not see any conflict of interest.

“Nationwide, radio stations work to shed light on the great music that is being made today,” Bernhardt said. “Part of that responsibility is hosting live concerts to showcase the kind of music the station supports. The Current [from Minnesota Public Radio] does this quite eloquently all the time, as do most radio stations. We’d really like to be people’s go-to for either finding new music they love, or thinking about music in new ways, and we think doing so in a live concert setting is a great way to do it.”

KSTO’s plans for the rest of the year reflect this focus on reaching out to listeners.

“We plan to expand on the Beck Song Reader concert that was held last year,” Kampf said. “More details to come.”

“And hopefully we can put something else together this Spring as well,” Bernhardt added. “We’d like to plan one more big hurrah before the year ends.”

KSTO will not just be holding concerts and events.

“Coming second semester, KSTO will have a mobile app for the first time,” Kampf said. “You’ll be able to stream right from your mobile device and even set alerts to be reminded when your friends’ shows are on the air.”

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International Food Night rounds out week of education

The Multicultural Affairs office MCA, International Student Organization ISO and Diversity Celebrations Committee DCC sponsored International Awareness Week from Nov. 4-8. The week’s events, which included panel discussions and a display between Boe Chapel and Buntrock Commons, ends Friday with International Food Night. Groups representing various cultures and ethnic groups will be serving their respective cuisines in seven honor houses.

International Awareness Week is “an opportunity for the student body to become educated about some aspect of international affairs which the committee – the International Awareness Week committee – has decided to talk about,” said Nathan Detweiler ’16, co-chair of ISO and an event coordinator for International Awareness Week.

The week relates to the ever-popular spring semester event “International Night,” though, according to Detweiler, “International Night celebrates cultures and ethnic groups from throughout the world, and International Awareness Week focuses a lot more on an issue that not only relates to the international community but to humanity at large.”

The theme for International Awareness Week this year was “War and Footprints of Reconciliation: Moving Beyond War.”

“As the International Student Organization, we think it’s important to talk about something universal,” Detweiler said, “so we chose human suffering and reconciliation.”

Each of the week’s events focused on that theme, and included the discussion “Reconciliation: What Has and Has Not Worked in Somalia,” which took place on Nov. 5 and the faculty panel “Footprints of Reconciliation,” which featured Professors Charles Huff psychology, Steve Soderlind economics and Amine Bekhechi French and took place on Nov. 6. On Nov. 7, another panel, “MISS[ed] SAIGON,” featured Assistant Professor of English Jennifer Kwon-Dobbs and David Mura, a novelist and former instructor at St. Olaf. The events all sought to point out shared experience and common ground.

“I think that’s the strength of the whole week,” Detweiler said. “International Awareness Week is much more global in that the appeal of the theme is not limited purely to an international perspective but relates back to humanity as a whole. We can all relate to overcoming adversity; we all have stories like that, and it’s important to take stock in that common heritage rather than separate ourselves by divisions that have no truly significant bearing on who we are as humans.”

International Food Night ends a week focused on suffering with a happier note.

“It’s a more universally appreciable event because it’s not education, it’s food,” Detweiler said, “but at the same time there is interaction between the people who are cooking and the people who are visiting and getting food from them.”

The organizers of the events hoped to facilitate interactions between the different cultures that are represented in the student body.

“The cooking teams, the honor houses and the guests hopefully get to know each other in a way they wouldnt have otherwise and experience each others cultures in a casual, fun setting,” said Vashti Daniel ’16, the event coordinator.

“On the surface,” Daniel added, “it might seem to contradict the theme of International Awareness Week, but we think that Food Night fits in perfectly because not only does it spread awareness about different cultures, but it does so in a setting that is minimally artificial.”

International Food Night occurs in the Rose, Thomson, Huggenvik, Felland, Schmidt, Holstad and Larson Houses from 7-9:30 p.m. on Friday. The groups involved include the Korean Culture Association, Talking Circle, Hmong Culture Outreach, Karibu and ISO. Students may begin at any time, but the event coordinators recommend that they attend each house in the order listed above.

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“Ole Home and Garden Club” connects art and domestic life

This semester’s Topics Seminar in Studio Art class is in the midst of presenting the Ole Home and Garden Club, a series of four free events that teach participants practical life skills ranging from changing a tire to repairing worn-out clothes.

The first two events, titled “Change Your Tire. Change Your Life” and “How to be a Careful Pyromaniac,” were held on Oct. 21. At “Change Your Tire. Change Your Life,” the class parked a car in Buntrock Plaza for an hour and demonstrated to passersby how to properly change the vehicle’s tire. They also taught participants how to correctly repair a bike tire or tube.

Later that night, at “How to be a Careful Pyromaniac,” they demonstrated how to safely build a bonfire at the firepit behind Thorson Hall, providing s’mores for the participants who came out in spite of the cold.

The two remaining events, “Quick Curry” and “Sewing 101,” will take place on Nov. 4 in the Dittmann Center atrium and Nov. 11 in Crossroads, respectively. “Quick Curry” aims to teach students how to prepare an easy-yet-healthy meal. At “Sewing 101,” participants are encouraged to bring their sewing projects or worn-out clothes for repair.

The Ole Home and Garden Club is only one component of the Topics class, a 300-level course “organized around an interdisciplinary theme set each year by the instructor,” according to the course’s description on the Student Information System. Students in the course explore varying disciplines to create a body of work in response to the theme. For this year’s version, taught by Visiting Assistant Professor of Art Michon Weeks, the topic is “The Domestic Realm.”

“Michon came up with this [theme] through her own interest in the artwork of Fritz Haeg and his show at the Walker entitled ‘At Home in the City,'” said Kurt Schroeter ’14, one of 12 students taking the course. According to the Walker Art Center’s web site, the purpose of Haeg’s exhibit is to “encourage us to reimagine our everyday relationships to the land, the home, the city and each other.”

Similarly, Weeks’ theme “is an expansive topic that can relate to just about anything inside or outside the home,” Schroeter said.

“Students in our class have interpreted ‘the domestic realm’ in many different ways,” said Madeleine Senko ’14, another student in the course. “The show of our work at the end of the semester promises to be very intriguing.”

“The idea behind [the Ole Home and Garden Club] is also very similar to Fritz Haeg’s work,” Senko said. “We wanted to hold small events where we could share domestic skills with our peers. We spent a long time brainstorming the different skills that we have and ones that we could share with the campus at large.”

“It’s a very practical sort of art that is practiced nearly every day by most everyone,” Schroeter said.

According to Senko, the Ole Home and Garden Club “connects to the idea of skills and craft as art” and teaches “the concept that everyday activities, both the pleasurable and the tiresome, have an element of skill and expression to them.”

“Someone who loves to cook may find extreme joy in preparing a beautiful meal for family and friends,” Senko said. “This is the same as the joy a potter or sculptor gains from creating beautiful wares for people to use and admire.”

Seen in this light, the Ole Home and Garden Club seeks to redefine the relationship between artistry and craftsmanship.

“I think that art has become so accessible and can be found everywhere we look, even in the home,” Senko said. “Now we are coming to the point where we must ask, why is this art? When is an object or activity no longer art? That line is becoming harder and harder to draw.”

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Regimental Brass re-enacts Civil War music

Students and faculty gathered in Crossroads on Tuesday afternoon, where St. Olaf’s own Manitou Regimental Brass Band performed songs from the Civil War era under the direction of Associate Professor of Music Paul Niemisto.

The band, dressed in Northern uniforms and bearing Civil War-era American flags, played well-known pieces like “The Battle Cry of Freedom” and “Dixie,” as well as more obscure numbers such as the 1865 version of “The Star Spangled Banner” and “John Brown’s Body,” a song which later evolved into “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.”

The performance was a prelude to a lecture by Dr. Christian McWhirter titled “Music and the Meaning of the Civil War,” which immediately followed the performance in Viking Theater.

“The Civil War [was] essentially a war fought to music,” said McWhirter to an audience of students and faculty from the music, history and American studies departments. “You’d be hard-pressed to find another war with as many anthems associated with it.” An assistant editor for the Papers of Abraham Lincoln, a project compiling all documents written by or to Lincoln in a single database, McWhirter published his book, “Battle Hymns: The Power and Popularity of Music in the Civil War,” in March of 2012.

2011-2015 marks the 150th anniversary of the American Civil War, commonly cited as the bloodiest war in American history. Over the four-year course of the war, approximately 625,000 soldiers were killed fighting for either the Union or the 11 Confederate States of America. This total comprises almost half the number of U.S. casualties from the Revolutionary War to the present day.

McWhirter looked at the music of the Civil War from a historian’s perspective. He showed how, due to the availability of instruments and the burgeoning U.S. music industry, an astonishing number of songs were written about the war – so many that one publishing company reported that they were receiving “50-70 new submissions a day.”

“Once the war begins, there is an explosion of published and amateur music,” McWhirter said. “By the best estimations we have, something like nine or ten thousand different songs were published during the Civil War.”

But why was music the dominant art form during the war between the states?

“What’s interesting is that music, unlike other literary forms and other ways of expressing yourself culturally, did not require literacy,” said McWhirter. “You could spread music by word of mouth, you could pick it up by hearing other people sing it and that made it more democratizing and more easy to master than other ways of communicating.”

But it wasn’t just its ease of transmission and publishing that made music so ubiquitous during the Civil War; it was also its ability to carry “meaning, emotion and ideological weight.”

“People want ways to understand the war,” McWhirter said, “ways to make sense of the war. And so a place they naturally turn to is music. What I think people were looking for was a way to define for themselves what they were fighting for and why they were doing it and to communicate those ideas to others.”


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Homecoming weekend celebrates life on the Hill

Homecoming and Family Weekend at St. Olaf is a traditional celebration of our elders, whether returning alumni, the parents of current students. As the first major event of the year, the weekend is filled with a diverse array of events for current students too, some of which, like the Homecoming Dodgeball Tournament, Affirmation Day and the sale of Homecoming T-Shirts, have already passed. However, the majority of Homecoming happenings are still to come:

Friday, Oct. 4

Dance Department “First Glimpse”: At 4 p.m., get a preview of dances choreographed by St. Olaf students in Dittmann Center, Studio 1.

King of the Hill: Gather in the Pause Mane Stage at 7:30 p.m. for King of the Hill. Half talent show, half beauty pageant, this event features eight Ole men competing for the title of Mr. St. Olaf by displaying their fashion skills and personal talents. The winner is determined by a panel of judges made up of well-known St. Olaf administrators and this year it is rumored that a special guest will crown the victor.

Scared Scriptless Performance: After King of the Hill, St. Olaf’s own Scared Scriptless will take the stage with uproarious, improvised comedy with a “heroic” twist in honor of this year’s Homecoming theme, “Super Ole.” The troupe will perform at 9:30 p.m.

Ghosts of St. Olaf College: At 8 p.m., gather on the steps of the Speech-Theater Building, where Greg Kneser, vice president of student life, will lead a tour of St. Olaf’s haunted places and tell the stories of our school’s apparitions. A much-loved event, the tour will end behind Thorson Hall at 9 p.m. with a bonfire, hot chocolate and s’mores. In case of rain, the event will take place in the Black and Gold Ballrooms.

Saturday, Oct. 5

Homecoming Festival: Saturday from 11 a.m.-12 p.m., meander over to the Quad, where musician Nelly’s Echo, who appeared on the popular television show “The Voice,” will perform along with several campus bands. Bon Appetit will cater lunch and many student organizations will be tabling for parents and alumni.

Flaten Art Barn Open House: Head towards the wind turbine where the doors of the newly rebuilt and renovated Flaten Art Barn will be open from 3-5 p.m. A presentation at 3:30 p.m. will detail the building’s iconic architecture and the new “green” elements that have been added since the renovation.

St. Olaf Band Concert: The St. Olaf Band performs in the Skoglund Center Auditorium at 7:30 p.m. The concert is free and not ticketed.

Homecoming Dance: DJ Drip Drop presides at this Superhero-themed dance in the Pause Mane Stage from 10 p.m. – 1 a.m.

Sunday, Oct. 6

Family Weekend Concert: The Manitou Singers, Norsemen Band, Philharmonia and Viking Chorus each take the stage in the Skoglund Center Auditorium at 3:30 p.m. This concert is also free and no tickets are necessary.

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