For 50 Years, The Honors College Pushes Students to Question, Explore, Excel
By Brian Heffernan
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Why ask why? A child incessantly asking why quickly annoys, but the curiosity to wonder why leads people to create and invent. Curiosity drives the world's innovations and history's grand discoveries. Without discipline, intellect and knowledge, however, curiosity fails to produce even the most menial results.
In the University of Central Missouri Honors College, students explore whatever path their curiosity takes - whether that's creating music with centuries' old instruments, interviewing a notorious serial killer, making a dress from stones or revealing the sex of a mysterious planthopper. Their explorations, known as capstone projects, are just one facet of what makes The Honors College the academic heart of campus.
The Essig Collection always intrigued Jennifer Newberry '08. It was a natural attraction for the musician and music education major, who says the collection piqued her interest in organology - the study of instruments. Housed in the UCM Department of Music, the Essig Collection includes more than 300 musical instruments from around the world dating back to the 18th century. With instruments such as the German fanfare bugle that looks like multiple horns sprout from its mouthpiece, a curved woodwind-tuba hybrid aptly named "the serpent" and a playable electric alarm clock, the collection is full of strange long-lost relatives of modern instruments.
While she was researching the collection, Newberry discovered an original score by its founder, Don Essig, a career musician and former band director at UCM. Titled Port Royal Gallop, the score is an example of Civil War era music. It features some Essig Collection instruments, such as over-the-shoulder brass horns, cornet and trumpet. Newberry transcribed the bygone score from the original instruments into a new arrangement for current instruments including two trombones, two saxophones, two euphoniums, a flute, clarinet, snare drum and bass drum.
For her capstone project, she directed a recital featuring UCM music students performing her score. To show the audience how the piece originally sounded, the musicians also played the score in its original notation with the centuries' old instruments.