Louis Armstrong performing.
Louis Armstrong plays on the St. Thomas campus, March 15, 1960.

Tales from the Archives: Memorable Concerts by Popular Music Artists

Maroon 5 in concert at St. Thomas on May 9, 2003. (Aquin)

St. Thomas has a rich history of hosting concerts featuring popular music artists and groups from jazz icon Louis Armstrong to pop rock band Maroon 5 with lead crooner Adam Levine, who was just 24 years old at the time they came to campus.

From the 1950s through the 1960s, the university welcomed renowned musicians during Tommy Heart Week, an event that not only provided entertainment but also served as a means of fundraising for local charities such as the Sister Kenny Foundation, the Martin Luther King Scholarship Fund, and Catholic Charities. Performances by legendary acts like the folk group Peter, Paul and Mary and pop sensations the 5th Dimension were highlights of this tradition.

As the years went on, St. Thomas continued to attract notable musicians to its campus. The 1970s brought performances in the O’Shaughnessy Hall gym by singer-songwriter John Denver, jazz musician B.B. King and the folk group the New Christy Minstrels. Acts with a distinctly Minnesota flavor were featured in the 1980s with performers like the Johnny Holm Band and Lamont Cranston taking the stage at campus events such as the Senior Send-Off concert in 1981.

In the early 1990s, the responsibility of booking live music acts on campus was taken over by the Student Activities and Recreation Committee (STAR). This led to a diverse range of performances throughout the year, with smaller local acts taking the stage at venues like Scooter’s, and bigger name acts being brought in for homecoming and Tommie/Senior Send-Off.

BBKing playing guitar.B.B. King performing in OEC auditorium, 1990.

The musical genres spanned from rap with Run-DMC in 1997 to pop with acts like Maroon 5 in 2003, and even country with Emerson Drive in 2005.

However, not all concerts went without a hitch. The spring 2000 concert on the lower quad featuring Naughty by Nature caused issues with the neighbors due to the loud sound volume and explicit language used by the group. As a result, outdoor amplified concerts were temporarily banned, and alternative venues such as Schoenecker Arena or other locations in the Twin Cities were used for on-campus performances.

Despite this setback, St. Thomas continued to host diverse and memorable music performances. From iconic artists to local talent, these concerts have enriched the campus experience and created lasting memories for students.