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Violinist James Ehnes boasts an unsurpassed resume. He has recorded and performed Vivaldi, Bartok, and John Adams among works from every corner of the repertoire. His total published recordings now top 35 CDs, recorded as collaborations with various symphonies and his very own Ehnes Quartet. The Quartet has existed in a multitude of formations, until becoming solidified in its current from in 2010. Since that time, the group has toured and blown the top off venues from Montreal to Miami. Amy Schwartz-Moretti, director of the McDuffie Center for Strings at Mercer, is a violinist and distinguished member of the entourage. By nature of this fact, the Ehnes Quartet finds itself coming to Macon on a semi-regular basis. One of these rare but special visits took place this last week, as the Ehnes Quartet performed and worked with MCS students in masterclasses. The Wednesday night concert was a testament to the infallible mastery of these musicians. Regardless of their full-time occupations, each maintains their status as the most skilled and pristine players in the field. The program opened with the explosive Beethoven Quartet No. 11 Op. 95. The piece is fiery and exhausting for both the audience and performers. Beethoven was not a fan of empty time in music, and this piece is an acute example. The entire first movement, from the initial burst of energy never stops. Each instrument interrupts his neighbor before a line can end. It reminds one of a ferocious family gathering where everyone wants to talk over each other. The grace of this is that the music is thoroughly engaging, and interest never subsides. Beethoven holds the crown for composing groundbreaking works for small ensemble. His quartets are by far his most cherished works, and the Ehnes Quartet have faith in that notion. Including two complete Beethoven Quartets on one program is ambitious, both because it is physically taxing and that it demands the utmost of musical attentiveness and sensitivity. Yet, the understanding that the musicians have with Beethoven’s works is strong and even extraordinary. The nuances of each movement, of every melody, and even rests were executed with a mastery only evident in the most dedicated and accomplished musicians. The namesake of the program, the “Voces Intimae” Op. 56 by Sibelius, was an altogether separate but equally impressive entity. Prior to playing, Ehnes described the anxiety that the group had about performing the piece. So poetic and descriptive, the piece is enrapturing, evoking an existential feeling in the performer and listener alike. Whilst performing, it was clear that the members of the quartet had surrendered to the music. Each had become so involved in the music of Sibelius, that they seemed inevitably liberated from the notes on the page. Truly a masterwork to hear and a spectacle to witness, the Ehnes Quartet delivered a much-needed musical epiphany to their Macon audience. As if a demonstration of their uncanny chops weren’t enough, the group spent the next morning teaching in masterclasses. Cellist Robert DeMaine exhibited an inspiring maturity and wit to his class, one clearly receptive by the students. It is a talent of his to be able to pinpoint exactly what a player needs, and then communicate in a way tailored to the receptivity of the individual. Principal Cellist of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, DeMaine exposed the fact that great performers, however rare, can teach equally well. James Ehnes gave his own class, as just another example of his dedication to all facets of the musical world. It was an indubitable pleasure for the students to meet and work with such an esteemed professional. This year alone, Mr. Ehnes has been recognized by the JUNO awards, another accomplishment revealing his unprecedented success. No doubt his stop in Macon has given the students a chance to envision a similar path for themselves.
To the Editor: As Director of the Recreational Sports and Wellness Department, I was surprised to see The Cluster's recent piece titled “Sprawl or nothing; where is Mercer wrestling?” that appeared in the sports section of The Cluster on February 26, 2015. I must say that I am disappointed that no one from The Cluster reached out to our office for comment as our department oversees the Club Wrestling program. If someone had done so he or she would have received a response that would have avoided clear factual inaccuracies that remained in your story. We cannot enter into this discussion without an understanding of the Club Wrestling status. Wrestling, since its inception, has been a Sport Club program housed under Recreational Sports and Wellness. The piece continuously and erroneously states that the wrestling program received cuts in funding and scholarships due to Title IX regulations once the football program at the university started. This is wholly inaccurate. Intercollegiate Athletic programs are entirely separate from Sport Club programs. The resumption of Mercer Football and Title IX implications had no impact whatsoever on Club Wrestling. Mr. Andres reached an agreement with the University to provide small academic subsidies to incoming wrestlers in approximately 2008. The program was initiated to increase efforts to recruit potential male students during a time when female recruitment was outpacing male recruitment. In 2014 -- in consultation with Dr. Douglas Pearson, Dean of Students, and Emory Dunn, Senior Associate Director of Admissions -- a determination was made to sunset the offering of these funds for two primary reasons. First, the need to increase male enrollment had dissipated. Secondly, these academic subsidies did not fit under the model of the “typical” sport club. There are currently 11 sport clubs taking part in activities through the Recreational Sports and Wellness office. Of these 11 clubs, only one – Club Wrestling – had ever received any type of scholarship support for their athletes. In addition, Club Wrestling was and still remains the most well-funded Sport Club we operate. The determination was made that to offer scholarship funds to one Sport Club while not offering to others was unfair and not in the intended mission of our program. Mr. Andres served numerous years at Mercer University first as the Director of Campus Life and then as Director of Recreational Sports and Wellness. He served as a volunteer coach and advisor for the program. His dedication to the team is even more inspiring as he did this for no financial benefit. As you can imagine, it’s incredibly difficult to find someone to dedicate as much time as he did as a volunteer coach. None of our other Sport Clubs have a coach. They elect their own officers and leaders, they schedule their own matches, they paint their own fields, and they schedule and operate their own practices. It’s incredibly time consuming work and I’m thankful for the student leaders that step up and take that ownership role. It’s also an incredibly rewarding developmental experience for those students. The article attempts to blame the departure of Mr. Andres for a lack of interest and participation recently. I find fault in that because I’ve seen every other sport club on campus increase participation numbers even in the absence of a dedicated coach. I’ve seen the Club Soccer team organize and host round-robin tournaments and compete in regional matches. I’ve seen the Club Tennis team travel to USTA Regional Tournaments while organizing a philanthropy tournament to take place in March. I’ve seen Club Volleyball travel both a men’s and women’s unit to Tulane and the Club Lacrosse team rise from non-existence to host and travel to their first matches. They’ve done all of these things without a coach or scholarships. They did it because they wanted their clubs to be successful. Finally, I’ll say that the Club Wrestling program has been provided with ample financial support and resources to compete at events they wish to attend. The team recently sent a roster of wrestlers to the NCWA Regional event in Orlando, Fla. At this event four wrestlers qualified for the NCWA National Tournament. We will be financially supporting the travel of all four of those wrestlers and two support staff members as they travel to compete in Allen, Texas. They’ve attended many other events throughout the region this year. What we will not do, however, is give financial or scholarship support to this club at the expense of the other sport club athletes that have worked just as hard to make their clubs successful. Going forward the club can be as successful as the club leaders work to make it. This is true not just for Club Wrestling but for all of our Sport Clubs. We’re excited about the growth in our program this year as we’ve seen an influx of new competitive clubs. Our office will always strive to support student leaders in this area but part of the experience of a sport club is operating from a student-driven model. We will continue to operate with that as our mindset. Sincerely, Todd Thomas Director of Recreational Sports and Wellness
2014 Season: 79–83 (T-2nd in National League East; no playoffs) Coming off their worst record since 2008 (72-90), the Braves went 7-18 in the final month of the season. The Atlanta Braves finished the 2014 season on a low note. Not only finishing under .500 and not making the playoffs, but what remains to be seen is that September baseball has not been a friend of this team. A lot of hometown favorites were relieved of their duties during the offseason. Key Departures: Evan Gattis, Justin Upton, Jason Heyward, Ervin Santana, Kris Medlen, Aaron Harang, Ryan Doumit, Gerald Laird, Anthony Varvaro, David Carpenter, Jordan Walden Key Additions: Shelby Miller, Nick Markakis, Alberto Callaspo, A.J. Pierzynski, Jason Grilli, Jim Johnson 2015 Forecast: The Braves are entering Spring Training, the projected starting-5 rotation is shaping out like this: Julio Teheran Mike Minor Shelby Miller Alex Wood David Hale Could this really be the year the Braves make it to the World Series? A World Series parade has not taken place in Atlanta since ’95… two decades ago. In fact, the Braves have not even been back to the World Series since 1999, when the New York Yankees took out the brooms and swept them away 4-0. To be fair, and realistic, the ’95 World Series Champion Braves had future Hall of Famers: Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, John Smoltz, Chipper Jones, and a guy by the name of Bobby Cox coaching them to it all. It is considerably inappropriate to place unnecessary expectations in late-February. But, is there potential? Absolutely. I don’t want to tell you to get your hopes up, because as we all know Georgia sports can be more than frustrating, but anything is possible.
We idolize them when we are younger, and place them on a pedestal as we age. We view them as some sort of demi-god, as if they were born from some celestial body. We wear their jerseys, desire their autographs, and teach our children about them through folklore. In more ways than one, we live vicariously through their play on the field. It is so elementary to forget that athletes are human. We’ve grown so accustom to watching them in their natural, yet marvelous state. With the recent drug relapse of Angels’ outfielder, Josh Hamilton, it’s time that fans come to the reality – athletes are plagued with worldly problems too. Hamilton has a forgoing history of substance abuse problems that date back to his first years in the MLB. Hamilton was the first pick in the 1999 draft by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. He signed a then-record $3.96 million bonus. The organization was high on Hamilton, and analysts were predicting him to be a future Hall of Famer. His first years in the minors were anything but stellar. He started hanging around tattoo parlors, which eventually led to him experimenting with drugs and alcohol. From 2001 to 2004, Hamilton was in and out of rehab, as was even suspended for testing positive for drugs such as cocaine and crack. The next time baseball would see Hamilton was in 2007. After being used minimally by the Reds, Hamilton was traded to the Rangers. From 2008 to 2012, Hamilton would regain his once illustrious form that made him the #1 pick in 1999. In that span of time, Hamilton would be an MLB All-Star every year, even winning the AL MVP in 2010. He put up astronomical numbers every year with the Rangers, and it seemed that his past drug use was part of another life. Hamilton was set to be a free-agent in 2013, and he used his previous success with the Rangers to cash in on a mega-deal. Hamilton agreed to a 5-year contract, worth $125 with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Life was good for Hamilton to say the least. 2013-2014 were not the seasons the former MVP was hoping for. He was injury-prone for both years, and his team would end up finishing third in their division in 2013. But like all players coming off a dismal seasons, Hamilton was optimistic that 2015 would bear more fruit. Then February 26, 2015, reports came out that Hamilton suffered a relapse that involved cocaine and alcohol. Under his on freewill, Hamilton confessed his reversion to MLB officials. It is believed that he will banned for part of the 2015 season. As an avid fan I was completely heartbroken. I grew up marveling at his majestic swing, even going as far to mimic it during my years playing college baseball. He was an inspiration – a man who walked by faith, and night by sight. Hamilton has always attributed his journey back to the Majors as a gift from God, and his book Beyond Belief, demonstrates how important his walk with Christ is. It’s hard not to root for a guy that has a loving wife that he’s loyal to, kids that look up to him, and a fan base that he’s always been involved with. Many naysayers and villains will publicly come out to destroy Hamilton’s story. They’ll call him a hypocrite, and say that his story is fiction. Sure, it’s easy to beat a man while he’s down, but this gaffe doesn’t define him. If anything, this setback does nothing to discredit his testimony. It shows that he is in fact human. The real hypocrites are the ones who say they don’t have faults. We are all imperfect, including superstar athletes. We all deal with struggles, failures, and a reoccurring nature to deviate. What defines us is what we do when we fail and face adversity. I leave you with a quote that we can all find strength in: “Life is a storm my young friend. You will bask in the sunlight one moment, be shattered on the rocks the next. What makes you a man is what you do when that storm comes.” – Alexandre Dumas
I remember the day we met. I wore purple ribbons in my hair. They matched the baby bop t-shirt I was wearing. That we were wearing. We swore we would be friends until our hair were grey. Until old age made our voices shake. I remember when your grandpa died; we held hands throughout the wake. And when my dad left, you wiped away my tears. When we were 15 you fell in love with the preacher’s son. He stayed busy with church events like camps and youth meetings and soon enough, so did you. We hung out weekly and swapped stories. You about him and I about the silly high school social stuff. We graduated high school all bright eyed about the future. You were gonna travel the world to build schools and I wanted to do something in science. I see you once a year around the holiday season and we keep up with each other through social media. But it’s not the same no matter how many emails and birthday cards are signed with ‘Your Best Friend’ You only travelled once. It was brief and to somewhere tropical. I see pictures on your Facebook of your children; you are never in them. I wonder if you still dream of teaching orphan children. I wonder if you still dream. I wonder if you are happy. I think of you often. It’s funny, best friends can become strangers with no one to blame.
In deciding to pursue pharmacy, I had to address many of my friend’s misconceptions of this field, such as “Why do pharmacists need that much schooling to just bag pills?” and “Couldn’t a machine just do that job?” Likewise, I initially had perceived that pharmacists had minimal patient interaction and simplified their role to be merely proofreaders for doctors’ mistakes. However, after researching healthcare structure and shadowing pharmacists, I now realize the important role pharmacists fulfill in ensuring quality care for patients. The mechanized image of pharmacists arises from the fact that people mainly interact with pharmacists in a retail environment. Increased healthcare coverage, while making medications more accessible, has transformed retail pharmacists into machines that whirl around and fill increasingly higher demands for prescriptions. Mercer’s College of Pharmacy’s Video contest winner coined this portrayal of pharmacists as “Script Baggers,” whose goal is to fill prescriptions quickly in order to get their paycheck. However, a closer examination of pharmacist’s role within the healthcare system reveals that pharmacists fulfill their goal— to improve patients’ health— through communicating with patients, other healthcare professionals, and healthcare panels. From shadowing a hospital pharmacist, I realized that pharmacists do not just proofread prescriptions but communicate their expertise with doctors and other healthcare professionals to determine the best options for patients’ health, a decision that is not always clear-cut. For example, a pharmacist on the Pharmacists and Therapeutics (P&T) committee presented me the research data that revealed misleading drug promotion by Big Business. The data compared two drugs from the same pharmaceutical company: one currently supplied at the hospital and one advertised as being less harmful, though more costly. Breaking down the figures and calculations behind this improvement, he explained that the new drug only induced fewer side effects because the researchers had lowered the dose. After this pharmacist presented his analysis to the committee, the committee decided to keep the hospital formulary and scrutinize further drug marketing from this pharmaceutical company. Antithetical to being proofreaders, pharmacists play an active role in determining healthcare quality and have the expertise to evaluate drug treatments. However, some people believe that drug evaluation lacks critical decision-making, given that online programs claim to complete the same task. For example, some patients and even healthcare professionals, rather than consult a pharmacist, choose to use sites such as drugs.com, which searches for drug interactions. Also, hospitals are adopting interfaces that can correct for common drug misspellings and input errors and send alerts for patients with abnormal vital signs. Yet, these advancements are resources and tools for both patients and pharmacists but are faulty replacements for a pharmacist’s expertise; no writer would rely solely on a word processor to autocorrect all possible language errors. Therefore, these people oversimplify the critical thinking that characterizes drug evaluation. Given the importance of pharmacists and their role in healthcare, the question remains: how can pharmacists better communicate their expertise to improve patient health? First, the physical distance between prescribers and pharmacists is still prevents patients from perceiving pharmacists as a part of the healthcare team. Retail pharmacies have started to address this issue by opening locations inside and annexing hospitals and healthcare facilities, and this structural change has allowed pharmacists to better communicate with patients’ doctors and nurses and to better know their patients’ condition. In addition, pharmacists are now assuming more counseling and interpersonal responsibilities; for example, most people now go to their local pharmacy for immunization, a role that doctors used to exclusively fulfill. Pharmacy schools are likewise incorporating more patient-care courses into their curriculums. Therefore, in the future, pharmacists will be expected to counsel patients in long-term therapies and follow-up on patients. Contrary to its mechanized misconceptions, pharmacy is an interpersonal profession and pharmacists play an important role in healthcare treatment by ensuring that patients receive the correct medication and complete their drug regimens. The next time you have a question about your health and medication, you should better appreciate the opportunity to ask your pharmacist.
A spectre is haunting higher education – the spectre of social stratification. Education remains the primary means of social mobility and decreasing economic inequality in our nation. In order to effectively deal with the issue of economic inequality, institutions of higher learning will need to leverage their resources and influence to make real and positive change. Expanding access is one of the most important issues facing higher education today. It is critical that students from traditionally underserved and underrepresented populations are not only able to attend our nation’s colleges and universities, but that they are able to successfully matriculate and graduate with minimal financial debt. It is incumbent upon colleges and universities to create policies and infrastructure that not only welcomes diversity in all forms, but provides support and a nurturing environment. If they choose to not act, the problem will persist and create more and more societal inequality. Some institutions may ask, “What can institutions do to ensure increased access to higher education for all students regardless of their race or socioeconomic status?” There are a number of things they can do, but for the sake of brevity, I propose the following: Increased institutional support for programs such as Posse and Questbridge, which specifically target high-achieving students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds. Expansion of articulation agreements between community colleges and 4-year institutions. Expansion of dual enrollment programs with local area high schools. Financial aid and scholarships for lower-income students to attend pre-college programs. Intentional institutional outreach to schools and areas in less affluent areas. This is certainly not a comprehensive list, nor do I believe it will cure all of the ills that currently plague higher education. It will, however, in my estimation, go a long way towards improving access to college for students from all backgrounds. Anthony P. Carnevale, Director of Georgetown University’s Center on Education and Workforce describes higher education as a “powerful force for reinforcing advantage and passing it on through generations.” For the sake of the current generation and subsequent generations of students, it is imperative that we put an end to this pattern once and for all.
Mercer University, local clergy and local lay leaders are working to diversify America’s most segregated hour. Michael Emerson, co-director of the Institute for Urban Research at Rice University, was the keynote speaker at this year’s “Building the Beloved Community Symposium,” an event aimed at bringing together Christians of different races. Emerson delivered his second keynote address on Feb. 11. The address, entitled "Race and the Church: Christians Joining God for Change," highlighted the state of interracial worship in America. Emerson demonstrated some of the progress made in diversifying churches by comparing statistics from 1998 and 2012. “There has been a movement… towards more integrated congregations,” Emerson said. In 1998, only 7 percent of churches in the United States were classified as interracial, meaning no racial group comprised more than 80 percent of the congregation, and only 10 books had been written on the subject. By 2012, 13 percent of churches across the nation were classified as interracial. A large number of scholarly articles, books and college courses on the topic have cropped up. However, Emerson also noted that the current progress is far from where it needs to be. Congregations in the United States are still 10 times more segregated than the neighborhoods surrounding them and 20 times more segregated than public schools. “Benjamin Mays (mentor to Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.) would be very sad,” Emerson said. This failure to integrate has consequences for all involved, according to Emerson. Segregated churches reproduce inequality, separate friendship networks, strengthen racial divisions and heighten political conflict. “We can’t relate to people we don’t know well,” Emerson said. However, those who attend or have attended interracial churches are more likely to have friends of different races and altered racial attitudes. “Religion has the incredible potential to overcome our national divide,” Emerson said. After Emerson’s speech came questions from the crowd. Audience members expressed concern that the increase in interracial worship has occurred because African-Americans move into white congregations. White worshippers were not as receptive to change, audience members said. Emerson agreed that African-Americans were more likely to join white congregations. However, ‘homogenization’ should not be the goal. “You can’t put a puzzle together unless every piece differs from each other,” Emerson said. “You don’t get that unity of the puzzle unless we are all different.” Justis Ward, a Mercer University sophomore, noted that progress is being made in the community but that more steps need to be taken. “I think it's awesome that the community came together to express their concerns regarding race and religion,” said Ward. “However, it concerns me that of the many visitors in attendance who took the floor to give their input on the topic… only one was white. True progress cannot take place in this city until whites, too, become fully involved in the conversation.”
The Grand Opera House provided a perfect, if cheesy, Valentine’s Day date to couples in Macon on Feb. 13 with Neil Berg’s “130 Years of Broadway Romance.” Berg, a composer and lyricist, created the “100 Years of Broadway” concert tour, which he modified this Valentine’s Day season to focus on love songs. Five Broadway stars took turns singing some of the most famous love songs in showtune history, accompanied by a band that included Berg on the piano. The audience was made up of mostly older couples, but “Broadway Romance” made showtunes easy to appreciate for young and old alike. The performers demonstrated the kind of talent and vocal control that only come with years of experience. Natalie Toro, whose resume includes playing Eponine in Les Miserables, Grizabella in Cats and Mary Magdalene in Jesus Christ Superstar, opened the show with “Don’t Cry for me Argentina,” from Evita, a musical adaptation of Evita Peron’s life. Toro played Peron in a national tour of the show, and her reprisal of one of the musical’s most popular songs was stirring. More moving, though, was “On My Own,” Eponine’s love song about Marius from Les Miserables. Toro’s voice was powerful in both songs, and she displayed an ability to belt difficult notes without switching into her upper register. Soprano Rebecca Pitcher, who played the leading role of Christine in The Phantom of the Opera, sang Christine’s aria “Think of Me,” indispensable to any collection of Broadway love songs. More impressive than her soaring vocals on “Think of Me,” however, was her duet with Richard Todd Adams, who played The Phantom in a national tour of Phantom of the Opera. The two flawlessly sang the show’s title song, Adams’ tenor voice not wavering once. Pitcher’s perfect E6, the highest note in Phantom, made clear why she once played Broadway’s most coveted role. “Cell Block Tango” from Chicago was the most interesting song in the show, not to mention the most captivating arrangement. Toro and Pitcher began singing the song, which explains why inmates in a women’s prison have murdered their lovers. While not romantic, the show needed comic relief from all the melodrama of love songs. Usually six women sing the song, but after Toro and Pitcher sang the first half, Adams and Danny Zolli joined in, altering the words to make sense for male singers. Zolli’s credentials include leading roles in Jersey Boys, Jesus Christ Superstar and Sweeney Todd. The best performance of the night came from Jeannette Bayardelle, who has starred in Rent, Hair and The Color Purple. The audience gave her her a standing ovation after she sang “And I am Telling You I’m Not Going” from Dreamgirls, a musical loosely based on the rise to fame of R&B acts like The Supremes. “And I Am Telling You” is a challenging piece, but Bayardelle handled the song with precision. Every time it sounded like the song was getting away from her, she reigned her voice in and showed that she was in control. She belted impossibly high tones and showed incredible breath support by holding out those same notes for longer than anyone expected. Mercer University’s Mercer Singers joined the five Broadway veterans on stage for the finale. Though Rent’s “Seasons of Love” is the finale everyone expects from a Broadway concert, the Singers and the stars ended the night with strong harmonies and feel-good lyrics. Overall, it was a perfect and enjoyable date night for musical enthusiasts.
Hollywood awards ceremonies: To love or to hate?This is a question which changes unfailingly depending on one’s mood. The circus pomp of Hollywood is grotesque, but we still revel in seeing the faces of beloved movie characters gathered in one setting. The denotation of awards seems completely unfair and biased, yet we still gleefully await the results to compare them to our own preferences. The vain fanfare of fashion and inevitable tabloid eruption is a serious turn-off to any self-respecting person. Yet, each of us has some personal connection with at least a few movies every year, so we feel obligated in that sense to watch and hope for recognition. If you did happen to watch this year, you will have noticed a striking change in the sentiment of the ceremony. The all too common aloofness that typically accompanies the show was replaced by a mature sense of self-awareness. Hollywood typically tries to cover up the uncomfortable characteristics of its existence, feigning a façade of perfection on all accounts. Yet, there were too many issues with this year’s ceremony for the participants to neglect. First, there was the pre-evaluated “whiteness” of the nominees. Nearly all of the major categories were saturated with Caucasian contenders, making little to no strides in racial or sexual diversity. The Oscars decided to step up in 2015 and address the issues. By far the best advocate for authenticity, host Neil Patrick Harris led a self-satirizing dialogue throughout the night: “Tonight we honor Hollywood’s best and whitest… sorry, brightest.” Neil Patrick Harris was instrumental in a setting a mood of banter and playfulness. When one recipient took the stage in an odd dress with hanging furry round things, Harris improvised a gag mentioning that “it takes a lot of balls to wear that dress.” Then there were the more serious issues. “Selma”, the powerful Martin Luther King Jr. biopic, was entirely overlooked in nominations for Best Director for Ava DuVernay and Best Actor for David Oyelowo. We may never know why the Academy made such decisions, but the ceremony had many redeeming moments. John Legend and Common performed the mainstay Selma song “Glory”. The brilliant performance warranted tears from more than one audience member. It then went on to win an Oscar for Best Original Song. John Legend took this opportunity to make a much needed plug: “We know that right now the struggle for freedom and justice is real. We live in the most incarcerated country in the world.” Other winners followed suit, each driving home a personal effort to raise awareness of social issues. Upon winning for Best Supporting Actress, Patricia Arquette made her own moving appeal: “We have fought for everybody else’s equal rights. It’s our time to have wage equality once and for all and equal rights for women in the Unites States.” Best Actress winner Julianne Moore used her speech to address the dire state of Alzheimer’s disease. Terrence Howard gave a heart-warming tribute to Alan Turing (as depicted by Benedict Cumberbatch in “The Imitation Game”), pushing the travesty of persecution for sexual orientation to the forefront. Graham Moore, screenplay adapter for the “The Imitation Game”, delivered a personal message to all the outcasts in society who struggle with depression and suicidal tendencies. Finally, “Birdman” triumphed by taking home awards for Best Picture and Best Director for Alejandro Gonzalez Innaritu. The Hispanic director humorously commented that the Academy awarded “two Mexicans in a row - that’s suspicious, I guess.” Innaritu demonstrated that success, art and genius aren’t exclusive to white males. The impression of this year’s awards initially appeared to be one of cliché and white-male dominated conservatism. Yet, the culmination became just the opposite. The underdogs made their presence known, each winner a visionary with a significant and personal memorandum. Hollywood may have it’s tendencies, but ultimately, the authenticity of film’s expression is inalienable and absolute.
Music ripples in the background while people flit around from one bin of vinyl to the next. A stand with a handwritten sign reading, “Now Playing,” holds the record currently resonating through the air-wave. Fruits and veggies chill in a refrigerator close by. Fresh Produce Records fills its own niche in the Macon community. Fresh Produce opened in October 2013 to function as a community resource for the things people need at an affordable price, such as music and fresh local produce. “It’s all in the name, Fresh Produce Records,” William Dantzler, the store’s 25-year-old owner-operator, said with a warm, light laugh. A self-described loving, happy and kooky guy, Dantzler believes you can make money but use it for good ends. “People shouldn’t be so worried about how much wealth they can personally amass. It should be about how many people they help, or something like that.” When asked why he wanted to open the store as a statement against major business conglomerates, Dantzler said, “I’m crazy, I guess. It’s kind of an existential thing.” “Weird” is what Dantzler calls the music that he and his friends like. But all sorts of musicians play shows in the store a couple of times a month. Fresh Produce was one of 11 groups in Macon to share a $363,000 art fund from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation in 2014. This has helped pay visiting bands, market events and fund a public address for travelling artists, according to a post on the Knight blog. In addition to the music, the store offers fresh local produce and organic fruit from nearby food distributor, The Dirt Farmers. Dantzler began creating music himself in “DIY basement rock” bands about 10 years ago and fondly remembers getting his first bass guitar at 13. Dantzler is now a part of two bands, Cult of Riggonia and Gurgle Twins. Both experiment with sound, but he says that the latter is more raw while the former is more of a “psychedelic-collective” that “breaks down the wall between the performer and the audience.” Local artists’ records can be found in the store, including the latest from the Cult of Riggonia. “I curate the store to my own tastes, but of course I’m going to default to stuff I think is good,” Dantzler said. But a wider variety of music has been hand-picked, including hip hop, classic oldies and electronica. Dantzler says that he always encourages people to bring in records. Fresh Produce buys, sells and trades, although Dantzler admits that they have to be somewhat selective. The store does not currently cater specifically to art, but Dantzler dreams of ways to expand and says that part of that is “creating a community to support artists and musicians.” He wants to see more people “coming out of the woodwork” with artistic talents and ambitions. His mother was an art teacher, so he hopes to bring in an art component and contemplates kickstarting an artist-in-residency. “You’re coming to stay at a place where you’re going to feed your mind, body and soul,” Dantzler said. The food in the store will go along with it—the tie that binds. He also talks of getting a license to cook food and whip up smoothies for customers, but that will have to wait. He is pretty relaxed—not in any rush. “I’m, more or less, looking to become a pillar in the community,” said Dantzler. Above all, Willie D, as some know him, wants to extend an invitation. “You’re welcome. Come over whenever and see what we have going on. We might not be everything we’re hoping to be, quite yet, but we’re getting there. And there’s bound to be something interesting happening.” Fresh Produce Records is open from Tuesday to Sunday from 11 a.m. - 7 p.m.
Natalie Shiver, a junior catcher on Mercer’s Softball Team, was named the General Shale Southern Conference Student-Athlete of the Week on Wednesday, Feb. 18. In order to be selected for this award, a student-athlete must maintain a minimum GPA of 3.3. Shiver was thrilled to be given an award based on both her athletics and academics. “It was a huge honor to be recognized as the student-athlete of the week for the conference for what I did on the field but, more importantly, in the classroom,” said Shiver. Shiver was also honored as a member of the Mercer Invitational All-Tournament Team, during which she had a .538 batting average with a total of six home runs, leading her team to the tournament championship title. So far this season, the Mercer Softball Team boasts a 6-4 record, and Shiver says that the highlight has been winning the Mercer Invitational. The team went 4-1 on that first weekend of play. “We lost to Jacksonville State on Saturday and ended up playing them again for the championship on Sunday, beating them 13-6,” said Shiver. She has shown true talent and discipline ever since her freshman year as a Bear. In her debut season, Shiver played all 53 games, starting in all but two of them. She was one of just three players to record more walks than strikeouts. As a sophomore in the following season, Shiver started in all 56 games, finishing the season with five home runs and 36 RBIs. Shiver also had the second best fielding percentage on the team, recording a .983 average. Shiver says that there were numerous reasons that contributed to her decision to attend Mercer. “I got to be a part of [Coach DeFeo’s] first recruiting class at Mercer and knew he was looking to turn this program into a championship caliber team every year. I also knew I wanted to play somewhere close to home, and Mercer is the closest Division I softball program (to) Leesburg, Ga.,” said Shiver. “One of the biggest draws to Mercer was the strength of its academic programs, which played a major role in my decision to come here. Academics have always been extremely important to me, and Mercer seemed to have the perfect combination for me to succeed both academically and athletically.” When asked who has had the biggest impact on her collegiate journey, Shiver definitively says her parents. “They are so supportive in everything I do whether academically, athletically or otherwise,” said Shiver. “Since I’m so close to home, they are able to attend all of our home games, which means so much to me.” A finance and sports business double major, Shiver says that she has yet to decide on her post-graduate plans. “My dream job would be working in the front office for the Atlanta Braves. I have to get an internship this summer, and I’m not sure yet whether it’s going to be a sports business or finance internship,” she said. “Hopefully, whatever I do this summer will help me figure out what path I want to take after college. I’ve also considered getting an MBA or masters in finance after I graduate.” As a first-year member of the Southern Conference, the Mercer softball program hopes to make a statement this season by winning both the regular season and the conference tournament.
Former standout from Mercer Men’s Basketball, Langston Hall, has taken his talents to Italy and has been competing with the Giorgio Tesi Pistoia. “I have improved my decision-making skills as a passer on offense, but I definitely have been focusing on my defense the most,” said Hall. While in Italy, Hall plays a pivotal role on his team as the “primary ball handler, playmaker and defender.” Although Hall feels as though he is improving as a player, he believes that there is more that his team can do to improve and that the team has a chance to make the playoffs. “We have had an up and down year, but we are 9-10, which is tied for seventh place out of 16 teams,” said Hall. “The top 8 make the playoffs, and there is a four-way tie for seventh place right now.” While in Italy, Hall has earned a starting point guard spot for the Giorgio Tesi. He averages 6.8 points, 2.9 rebounds and 4.6 assists per game. Hall has played in 18 games (out of 19) and averages about 27.7 minutes per game, which is one of the higher averages on the team. Although Hall was a huge asset for Mercer’s offense, he has been trying to improve the other side of his game. The team has 10 more games left in regular season of play, which is plenty of time to improve before playoffs. While basketball takes up most of his time, Hall has been enjoying Italy and all that the historic city has to offer. “I like living in Italy a lot! It's a very beautiful country with a lot of nice historic buildings,” Hall said. “Because we play all over the Italy, I have be able to see a lot of the country.” Depending upon if his team makes the playoffs, Hall will be finished with his first year of professional basketball around May, and he is unsure as to where basketball will take him next. “As of right now, I'm not sure about where I will play next year,” said Hall. “After the season, I will come back home and talk with my agent about that.” After such a decorated career as Mercer Bear and his current career in European professional basketball, Hall sincerely hopes to continue working on his dream of becoming an NBA player. During his time at Mercer, Hall was a four-year starter and a crucial member of the team. He contributed to a number of historic victories including a CIT title, an Atlantic Sun Championship and the memorable win over the Duke Blue Devils in the NCAA tournament. Alone, Hall has been named to the A-Sun All Conference Freshman Team, he was the CIT Tournament MVP and the A-Sun Crons Achiever, he was named to A-Sun All Conference First Team (in 2012 and 2014) and A-Sun Second Team All Conference, and he was awarded the A-Sun Player of the Year. During his senior season, Hall averaged 14.6 points, 5.6 assists and 3.1 rebounds per game. He also finished his collegiate career as the all-time leader in assists for the Atlantic Sun Conference.
Taylor Dias, a graduating member of the Mercer Women’s Soccer Team, has been a true Bear on and off and the field during her time at Mercer. The 5-2 defender for the team has been a contributing member for the Bears for all four of her seasons with Mercer. Dias saw action mostly in her junior and senior seasons, while being on the Atlantic Sun All-Conference Academic Team in her sophomore season. This past year, she played for the Southern Conference Championship and took home the championship ring with the rest of her team. Not only did Dias want to attend Mercer to be a member of the women’s soccer team, but she also saw that Mercer is a school that values both academics and athletics. “I chose to attend Mercer because (it has) great athletics, and it’s a great academic school, which is not a very common combination,” said Dias. Although her favorite memory as a Bear includes her team’s SoCon win, Dias has other fond memories while at Mercer. “I would say, obviously besides winning the Southern Conference Championship this year with my team, it would have to be when then Men's Basketball Team beat Duke,” said Dias. Throughout her time as a Bear, Dias has seen the Mercer Men’s Basketball Team succeed on many different stages. Coach Bob Hoffman has been an instrumental part in their successes, and Dias recognizes how important he is to the team and to the Mercer family. “I think Bob Hoffman would have to be my favorite coach because he seems to have such a passion for his players,” said Dias. “He really supports them and isn't afraid to be tough on them when he needs to.” Dias, being a member of a women’s team at Mercer, understands what it is like to be a female athlete in a sea of male-dominated athletics. Even though she is a huge supporter for Hoffman, she believes that all sports deserve support from fellow Mercerians. “I like to cheer on all the women's sports because I feel like sometimes the focus is only one men's sports,” said Dias. “I want every athlete to feel like (he or she has) the support of the school.” Because she has been an athlete throughout her time at Mercer, Dias has made many friends throughout the athletic department. She wants all teams to do well, and she enjoys cheering on those that she knows. “I just really enjoy watching any of my friends that play on other teams complete,” said Dias. Dias takes great pride in being a Mercer Bear, and she has learned to fully support all Mercer athletic teams. “To me, being a Mercer Bear means that you support your fellow Bears no matter what and always (are) confident that the team will get a win,” said Dias. Dias will graduate in May with a Bachelor of Arts in Biology. Although she is leaving Mercer, Dias said, “Of course I will continue to support the Bears in any way possible.”
In its second year of competition, the Mercer Women’s Track Team is looking to build on its first year of participating in NCAA division one track and field. Last year, the team had a number of highs throughout its season, which included high finishes from both long distance runners and sprinters. The team’s first meet of 2014 was the Savannah State Eyeopener, and it finished third overall. Linda Wrede, now a sophomore, finished first in both the 800- and 1500-meter runs. In the same event, freshman at the time Katie-Rose Allgood finished third, and Lia Sewell finished fourth. Kami Orrender, junior captain for the team, finished second in the 5000-meter run. In its second meet of 2014, the team competed in the Palmetto Classic in Mount Pleasant, S.C. Once again, Wrede and Orrender finished at the top for the Bears. Wrede took first place in the mile with a time of 5:14.99, which is the fifth fastest time in Mercer history. She also took fourth overall in the 800-meter. Orrender joined Wrede with on the top of the podium with a first place finish in the 5000-meter with a time of 17:51.60, which is sixth best in Mercer history. The Bears continued to compete in a number of invitationals in 2014, which included the Yellow Jacket Invitational, the Catamount Classic, the War Eagle Invitational and the Atlantic Sun Conference Tournament. In the conference tournament, the Bears earned a total of six points, which were solely earned by Wrede with a third place finish in the 3000 Meter Hurdle Chase. This year, the Bears are competing in a number of the same meets in which they competed in 2014, which showed to be difficult, but they are now eligible to compete in the Southern Conference Championship. The SoCon has proven to be a strong conference in previous years, and Orrender believes that the team’s long distance runners as well as other track and field events will greatly contribute to the team’s overall points in the meets. “I think we will succeed the most in distance running this year since a majority of the women's track team is the women's cross country team,” said Orrender. “While we have a lot of strong assets in our distance runners, this year, we have great mid-distance runners and sprinters as well as throwers.” For the 2015 season, the Bears opened their season once again at the Savannah State Eyeopener in Savannah, Ga. The Bears had several members of their team finish on the podium. In the 5000-meter run, Jenna Gipperich finished second with a time of 18:34.92 while Courtney Czerniak, Shannon Millikin and Keightley Dungeon took fourth, fifth and sixth, respectively. In the field events, Krista Kennedy, a fifth-year senior for the Bears, took second place in the javelin throw as well as fifth place in the discus throw. This is Kennedy’s first year competing for Mercer’s track team after being a member of Mercer’s softball team for the past four years. In the 4x100-meter relay, Mercer’s “A” team finished in fifth place with a time of 51.25. For the last event of the day, Mercer’s “B” team took fifth in the 4x400-meter relay while the “A” team took sixth place. The team’s next meet will take place on March 14 in Jacksonville, Ala., in the Gamecock Quad hosted by Jacksonville State.
It was a cold January morning when a group of Bears went where no Bears had been before, making affordable access to the high atmosphere for Mercer research a possibility. James McNichols, Spencer Penley and Natasha Finnegan, a group of juniors in Mercer’s engineering program, built and successfully launched a high-altitude balloon that rose 19 miles in the Earth’s atmosphere. During the Jan. 31 trial, the balloon travelled for around 3 and a-half hours and 120 miles. While projects like this are nothing new, most of them are done with very expensive or very cheap parts, according to the group. “NASA flies one of these like every year. It weighs like three tons,” said McNichols. “Others program a cellphone to text its location, throw a GO-PRO on it and hope they get it back. We were trying to run the middle. We wanted to do serious research, but in an affordable way. ” The group’s balloon, named Calvin 2, was built with off-the-shelf items that cost the group about $300, including the balloon and the hydrogen. Calvin 2 spawned from a high school project that McNichols completed as a senior. McNichols took the foundation with him to Mercer and brought Penley on board for their yearly honors project. Finnegan, who was asked to join the group for the senior design portion, was sought out for her electrical knowledge. Calvin 2 contained sensors which checked temperature and altitude, as well as HAM radios that fed the group information during the flight. The group started by crafting a wooden model to get a feel for the design. The final parts were then 3D printed and assembled. “The modeling [took] 12 hours,” said Penley. “The assembly and testing took about 12 hours as well.” A simple, braided nylon string attached the box and the balloon. The string needed to be strong enough to connect the two, but weak enough to be cut if an airplane clipped the balloon. “We didn’t want the plane carrying [Calvin 2] 5000 miles away [from its intend course],” McNichols said. After communicating with MERPO and the Federal Aviation Administration to get clearance, the group released Calvin 2 and began to follow it by car. The balloon was originally predicted to land near Dublin, Georgia according to the group’s projections. But, a few mistakes, including not putting enough hydrogen in the balloon, changed Calvin 2’s course. The GPS inside the machine stopped working once the balloon approached 32,000 feet. With quick thinking and math skills, the group was able to follow the balloon’s path without the GPS. “It was a small miracle we got this back,” McNichols said. “You let go of this thing and it flies off into God knows where…you have no control.” Calvin 2 travelled for three hours and fell down around Pembroke, Georgia. The balloon expanded until it busted. Calvin 2 plummeted back towards the earth in free fall. Once it reached the lower atmosphere, the parachute opened and slowed Calvin 2’s speed to around 10 to 15 miles per hour. The group plans to build a stronger balloon for future work. The group will receive up to $4,000 to build a balloon with better quality materials for their senior design project. The money will come from a grant secured by Mercer professor Anthony Choi. “We were excited to be able to secure that kind of funding,” McNichols said. The group hopes to use momentum from their success to branch out. Matt Marone, a Mercer Physics professor, has approached the group with a project idea aimed at collecting meteorites. McNichols also mentioned that the Biology department could use the balloon to collect high altitude samples. The group also hopes to do outreach with local schools in Macon-Bibb County. For these bears, the sky is not the limit.
Welcome the the Cluster Atlanta! Sports: Jordan Lee Kirkland Kevin Barasia Creative Writing: Nickesha Scarlett Le H. Williams General/ Campus Events: Sherri Banks Keith Myers Staff Writers: Chad Hixon Michelle Vu Health and Wellness: Lacey Brock
Community members gathered in Tattnall Square Park to present plans to build a fountain that will be completed later this year. “Every great public square, every great public park features moving water,” Andrew Silver, chairmen of Friends of Tattnall Square Park and professor at Mercer University, said during a press conference on Thursday. “All we have to do is listen to moving water, and we’re in a place of peace,” he said. Friends of Tattnall decided to build the fountain this year to honor the 100-year anniversary of the restoration in 1915. Once the $350,000 project is finished, it will be the first working fountain in the park since 1934, Silver said. “There’s nothing that we can’t do together,” said Silver said to a crowd of fountain-enthusiasts. The funders of this project are the Knight Neighborhood Challenge, Sierra Development Corporation, Piedmont Construction Group, Mercer University and Friends of Tattnall Square Park, according to a news release. “I think that it’s realistic for us to expect that five years from now when we Google ‘‘What are the best municipal parks in the state of Georgia?’ We’ll pull up a list that will include Piedmont Park in Atlanta, Forsyth Park in Savannah and, right there with those two, Tattnall Square Park in Macon, Georgia,” Mercer President William Underwood said at the press conference. The new fountain is modeled after the original fountain and will be over 17-feet tall and over 12-feet in diameter. The four-tiered fountain will have cast iron frogs at the base to mirror the original fountain, according to the news release. Silver said the original fountain was called “the crown of the park,” and he said, “The crown is coming back to Tattnall Square Park.” “My hat is off, literally as well as figuratively, to Mercer University for stepping up to the plate and kind of shepherding this,” Macon-Bibb County Mayor Robert Reichert said, as he began to take off his hat. Silver ended the press conference with a “passing of the frog” in which he gave a frog from the original fountain to Eliza Grace Wood, a first grade advocate for the park, who gave it to Luke Robinson with Robinson Iron in Alabama.