When you think of school spirit, the first things that pop into your mind are probably pep rallies, marching bands, homecoming games, and cheerleaders.
And, in our case, you probably think of St. John’s phenomenally skilled men’s soccer team, Anthony Mason, Jr., and perhaps even living legend Lou Carnesecca.
But how many out there identify school spirit as a concept encompassing every aspect of the University – from its academics all the way to its arts?
From what I’ve seen, hardly any.I came face to face with this realization a few weekends ago at a performance of the Chappell Players’ Urinetown: The Musical, a rather odd but entertaining comedy.
The performance was excellent and by far the best show I’ve ever seen at St. John’s, but you would never have been able to tell that from the size of the crowd. I could count around 45 people at the show, many of whom appeared to be family members of the cast.
From what I saw, hardly any students and faculty members came out to see the performance, and no administrators were present.
When all was said and done, members of the Chappell Players informed me that, on average, around 70 people came to each performance; the Little Theatre seats over 400 guests.
The Urinetown performance, however, was not my first experience with the St. John’s community’s seeming lack of regard for the arts. Last year, I made a similar observation during the Chappell Players’ performances of Bat Boy: The Musical.
Additionally, I attended the one and only performance of the jazz band and mixed chorus last year and found that there were far more empty seats than filled ones. Once again, I could see no administrators present.
There’s something horribly wrong about this picture. Do St. John’s students and administrators not care about the arts at all?
Granted, St. John’s is not exactly known for its artistic endeavors. After all, we don’t have a theatre major, we have no music major, and the number of fine arts majors is not incredibly high compared to some other majors.
But still, the artistic students we have here on campus who play in the jazz band, perform in musicals, and submit their work to on-campus art shows work incredibly hard and deserve as much respect, recognition, and school spirit as we can give them.
The performances of the Chappell Players have lately been excellent, the jazz band and mixed chorus put on great shows, and the student art galleries are some of the most interesting events on campus.
So why exactly do these artistic programs on campus generate such small crowds? For starters, it’s the lack of support from administrators. School spirit, after all, comes from the top down, and unless administrators start supporting the arts, students never will.
During the jazz band and mixed chorus’ sole concert last year, I expected to see at least a handful of University higher-ups, possibly even Rev. Harrington himself, out to support the groups, but was sorely disappointed.
But there are certainly other reasons at work here. I believe there is a stigma associated with the arts at St. John’s, a false notion that just because we are not a musical or theatrical school, those programs must be terrible.
This could not be further from the truth, and perhaps more awareness (including even more prominent advertising from the school) could fix this problem.
School spirit is not just about sports, and it’s a shame that the packed crowds found at recent men’s soccer games can’t also be seen in other University programs.
The Chappell Players and the St. John’s jazz band may not be as well-known around the country as the nationally-ranked Red Storm, but their performances are on par with the best of them, and deserve more support.
So consider this a challenge to the administrators and students of St. John’s University: I hope to see as many of you as possible out supporting the jazz band and mixed chorus next semester during their one and only concert of the year. And that means everyone, from lowly freshmen to Rev. Harrington himself.
Don’t worry – you won’t have a hard time finding a seat.
Let’s just hope that changes in the next few years.