Around five years ago, Chris Kachian, professor of music, and Shelly Nordtorp-Madson, professor emerita of art history, decided to combine their areas of expertise. They believed if people could learn about art, history and music in tandem with each other, they would have a better understanding of all three.
"We feel strongly that faculty, staff and students should be involved in the arts," Nordtorp-Madson said. "They should be a regular, everyday thing that anyone can participate in."
That concept bloomed into noonartsound, a program that takes place over the lunch hour and provides fresh perspectives to different eras. Those topics have included the rock 'n' roll of the 1960s, Flamenco music and the Argentinian tango. With support from Dan Gjelten, Libraries director, noonartsound found its home in O'Shaughnessy-Frey Library.
"It has been wonderful being part of noonartsound and helping ... bring these presentations into the library," said Julie Kimlinger, Libraries administrative assistant. "With each of these noon hour talks we have been treated to exceptional mini lectures and concerts of the highest caliber."
Victoria Young, Department of Art History chair, also is assisting with the planning as of this semester.
The sessions typically feature live music, often played by Kachian, and are juxtaposed against the art of the era, so participants can understand how one was influencing the other.
"It helps when people can take a broader social history viewpoint," Kachian said. "Otherwise, music is too abstract."
"People can better contextualize when they see a painting and then hear the music when they have to wrap their mind around a concept," Kachian added. "When they hear music, they go, 'Well, that's interesting, but boy, it's really abstract. What's going on?' And you go, 'Well, here's what was going on at the same time in painting and architecture and philosophy.' 'Oh! So, that's why the music sounds that way!'"
In addition, Kachian tries to bring his students in to perform whenever possible.
Kachian, Young and Nordtorp-Madson all agreed noonartsound is representative of the strength of interdisciplinary work overall at St. Thomas.
"We are interdisciplinary by the way we live in the world," Young said. "That's the way our students think – is through a lot of different lenses – whether it's what they're listening to on their headphones, what they're creating on their Snapchat account or what they're reading. They process information a lot of different ways really easily. I think it's important for us to keep that in focus on all levels of what we do in the university, so that we engage in the multidisciplinary way that sustains the next generation of Tommies."
In addition to student benefits, Young and Nordtorp-Madson said they enjoy getting to learn about the passions of faculty members in other fields. They can then incorporate those different vantage points into their classrooms. Nordtorp-Madson said the lighthearted nature of noonartsound reminded her to infuse "playfulness" into her classroom, while Young said she became more cognizant of bringing music into hers.
"It's just another layer to help students understand something that might not be very understandable to them," Young said. "Music resonates with us all."
The next noonartsound will focus on how music serves as a motivator for athletes and competition in sports. Kachian will interview John Tauer, psychology professor and men's basketball coach, on Tuesday, Nov. 7, from noon-1 p.m. in O'Shaughnessy-Frey Library, O'Shaughnessy Room.