Life Arts teams up with the Redbird Rookies 

Life Arts teamed up with the Redbird Rookies organization to put on an amazing three-day concert from June 26-28th where they invited hundreds of local St. Louis area children to The Sheldon Concert Hall.  

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The show began with Brian Owens and his band The Deacons Of Soul. The Marvin Gaye experience was in full effect as they performed hits from the late artist. Owens sang renditions of classics such as "I Heard it Through The Grapevine" and was joined by Malena Smith for a duet of "Ain't No Mountain High Enough."  

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Earlier this summer the Compositions for Life students were able to meet Cardinals Hall of Famer Bob Gibson. This was after they'd been commissioned by the St. Louis Cardinals to write a song for him that would play during the entire 2018 baseball season.  

The students created "Complete Gamer", a song about Gibson and his rise to glory. During this meeting Gibson mentioned that he enjoyed various styles of music. Afterwards the group took on the challenge of creating six more songs dedicated to highlighting his life, in different styles of music thus creating the Bob Gibson Suite.  

All of these songs were written, recorded and mastered by The Score. They were each written in the three weeks between having initially met Bob Gibson and the concert.  

The first song titled "Glory" was performed by Thomas Mack, Daniel Long and Christopher Daniel. 

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“We tell em' Glory” this is the chorus that the audience began to sing along with. "You can make it like Gibson get you head out of the trenches"  was an inspiring verse from Daniel Long. Thomas Mack took over as hype man encouraging the crowd to clap and sing along in-between his verses.  

Glory was followed by the song titled "YMCA" . The verse rapped by Daniel Long says, "We talk about Gibson one of the greats but not Josh that took his father's place." This powerful verse refers to Gibson's older brother Josh, who as an important figure in his life and the lives of other young blacks growing up in Omaha. Gibson often referred to him as a father figure. 

Justice Mack & Kalcia Saxton took to the mic to preform "1968." "1968 was a very hard time in this place racism depression and hard days," are the lyrics they sung. The song is almost sung in acapella as their voices were only accompanied by light keys and strings in the background. The lyrics highlight the struggles of poverty and racism during the time period and place where Gibson grew up.  

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Paco Lee then uses his guitar, and the stage dims. A spotlight shines down on him as he performs "Living in The Ghetto" alongside Christopher Daniel. "Living in the ghetto they tried to keep me low, used against myself to boost their ego."  

 
The Bob Gibson Suite is certainly a beautiful ode to Gibson. A series of songs that details his life from Ghetto to Glory. With tempos that range from upbeat to sweet melodies. "We came up with the beats and put our own feelings and emotions into each song.” says Kilicia Saxton. “We just chose from major events in his life and started making lyrics,” says Christopher Daniel. 

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There was a surprise appearance by the St Louis Cardinals Mascot Redbird. Prompting the crowd to sing a baseball classic "Take Me Out to The Ball Game."  

 To finish off the night "Complete Gamer" was preformed alongside the City of Music All-Star Chorus. The night was able to introduce a new generation of Red Bird Rookies, their parents , grandparents and mentors to the story and legacy of Bob Gibson through song. 

Brian Owens
Meeting The Complete Gamer, Bob Gibson
 photo credit: Ben Munson/St. Louis Cardinals

photo credit: Ben Munson/St. Louis Cardinals

After months of anticipation the day arrived for everyone involved in the creative process and creation of the Complete Gamer Song to meet the legendary Bob Gibson, former pitcher for the St. Louis Cardinals. Gibson played for the Cardinals for 19 years from the age of 21, eventually retiring at 40 years old.  

The original plan was to introduce the Complete Gamer song and award to Bob Gibson on the field before the first pitch. Unfortunately this had to be put on hold due to the weather. A more intimate award ceremony between the L.I.F.E Arts students and Bob Gibson was able to take its place, along with a question and answer session. 

Surprisingly, a sense of calmness filled the room instead of the anticipated nervous jitters. The students were mostly excited to ask Gibson questions that they had prepared for months. 

One student asked Bob Gibson what he thought about the Complete Gamer song, which was in the style of rap. "I thought it was wonderful," said Gibson "I don’t know much about rap, because I'm old, but I asked my son was it good and he said it was very good." "I think you guys put a lot of work into it and I couldn’t be happier." 

Everyone then had the opportunity to ask their questions, and they began spitting off like wildfire. 

 photo credit: Ben Munson/St. Louis Cardinals

photo credit: Ben Munson/St. Louis Cardinals

Q: How does it feel be commemorated by the Cardinals all these years later?"  

A: "It feels great to be honored. I was the first black player to play baseball and basketball at Creighton University. I played in little towns in Nebraska as the only black person. It was quite an experience.(in life) You must learn to lose the animosity to continue to go forward. I started off in the housing projects, I went through some rough times, but times are good now. When I first came to St. Louis it was difficult to find a decent place to live. I've seen the city go from nowhere to where it is now. It has a long way to go but it has come a long way, and I've been able to see it." 

Q: Theoretically, if other songs were made about you what milestones would you like to be highlighted?  

A:" I would have to sit down and think about it, you guys pretty much captured everything in your song, all the big milestones." 

Q: If it wasn’t a rap song what genre of song would you like to be made about you? 

 A: "I'm a huge jazz fan."  

Q: What kind of music did you listen to, to get you hyped up for a game?  

A: "Well, I love all kinds of music, especially jazz but usually the game was enough to get me hyped. I didn’t need anything extra." 

 photo credit: Ben Munson/St. Louis Cardinals

photo credit: Ben Munson/St. Louis Cardinals

Q: What was the biggest takeaway you learned playing for the Cardinals that you kept for the rest of your life? 

A: "I learned how to interact with people, the more people you encounter the more you learn about life. It's about learning why people are the way they are. Its not all about you, sports forces you to meet other people from all walks of life." 

Q: What do you want your legacy to be?  

A:" I want to be known as a person who gave 100% of myself towards what I loved, the driving force for me was always trying hard." 

Bob was then presented with a commemorative bottle of wine, engraved with the words Complete Gamer Bob Gibson. "Another thing sports taught me," Gibson said jokingly when presented with the commemorative bottle, "was drinking some of the finer things in life." 

Zach, who plays Gibson in the Complete Gamer music video took the opportunity to let Gibson know how much he inspired him. "It was an honor, I used to mock your style playing t-ball growing up, it was amazing being you for a day." 

The final question asked of Gibson was "what would you say to someone to help them push through hardships in any avenue?" 

"Try to be the best that you can possibly be." Gibson said,  "I strived to be the best, I didn’t get there but I sure tried. I had a brother who expected me to be better, when you grow up and you have someone pushing you it inspires you to be better." he goes on to say, "It takes a lot of hard work, it’s a cliché that says - you can do whatever you want to do- well you can't really do whatever you want to do, but if you put in a lot of work your chances are a lot better." 

 

Brian Owens
UMSL Host Hamilton Lunch & Learn

Students from North County schools were able to experience a once in a lifetime opportunity to meet the cast of the hit Broadway Show Hamilton. This was made possible in part to Brian Owens and Michael Smith, who were able organize the event as a Lunch and Learn on UMSL's campus.  

Hamilton is an American Musical that is sung- and rapped about the life of American Founding Father Alexander Hamilton with music and lyrics. It is based on a book by Lin-Manuel Miranda, inspired by the 2004 biography Alexander Hamilton by historian Ron Chernow. 

Steve Erwin is a teacher at McClure High School. He took his students to see Hamilton at the Fox the day before the Lunch and Learn. He describes the Lunch and Learn as an authentic assessment. "It gives our students the ability to apply things to the real world and brings social studies to life, it parallels what's going on in the world today." 

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Enthusiastic cheers filled the room as the cast of Hamilton descended from the stairs to take their seats on stage. The cast took their seats and introduced themselves by name and character that they play. Austin Scott who plays Alexander Hamilton, Chris De’Sean Lee who plays Marquis de Lafayette, Raymond Baynard who is part of the ensemble, Amanda Braun who is a swing, Jennifer Geller who is part of the ensemble and Jennifer Locke who is part of the ensemble. 

The questions asked of the cast were based on the L.I.F.E ARTS acronym. L-Leadership, I-Innovation, F-Faith, and E-Excellence, and how these factors played a role in getting them where they are today and how they use them now in their professions. 

Throughout the Q&A much advice was given. The audience would nod in agreement and applaud in sync to the answers given. 

A few gems included: 

"Every single one of you has something that the world needs and it's up to you to give it." said Austin Scott. 

When the cast was presented with the question "How have the leaders in your life helped and positioned you for the role in your life?" 

Raymond Benard answered, "Surround yourself with people who can push you and help you and not just tell you everything you're doing is right, look for leaders in your life who take on that role." 

"Pay attention because the best leader is a better follower, learn how to follow a good leader." said Chris De'Sean. 

The last audience question came from, Tammy Williams, a student from McClure High School within the Ferguson-Florissant School District, she asked "how does the cast feel performing this show in St. Louis knowing the background of this city's history and its racial tension?" 

A look of understanding fell across the faces of the cast. It seemed as if they had a complete understanding of the city's history and why a play like Hamilton would have an impact on a city like St. Louis. 

"They need to see this, considering what America is now they need to see this energy on stage."  replied Chris De'Sean. 

"There's a line in the show that says scratch that, this is a movement not a moment and that's what we are here for, a movement." said Jennifer Gellar "it's amazing to be somewhere like this and to show people what we're doing and why we're doing it."  

The lunch and learn ended with each school being able to take group pictures with the cast and introduce themselves personally. "It’s a day I'll never forget" said one student. 

Brian Owens