MCCARTHY: Homecoming concert leaves room for improvement


Photo by Wikipedia

Zac Barnett is the lead singer of American Authors.

Like many seniors, I was thrilled to hear the announcement of the Marquette homecoming concert. For years I have watched my friends at places like Syracuse and Florida State (admittedly, much larger universities) attend not one, but two annual, university-sponsored concerts with some of the nation’s best rising talent, while Marquette has yet to sponsor a single one. Still, although bringing some musical talent to campus is a step in the right direction, this year’s homecoming concert is not the ideal for which to strive.

The biggest issue is that the lineup is boring. Don’t get me wrong, I like American Authors and am willing to sit through Rachel Platten’s back catalogue with the rest of the crowd as we wait for “Fight Song,” but this is not the best a mid-sized university can do. American Authors are coming off a pretty lukewarm album — their better work nearly three years ago — while Rachel Platten has but one incredibly successful single. The only emotion these artists rouse in me is indifference.

In past years, MUSG has run a surplus, just two years ago storing $250,000 in its reserve fund. According to former MUSG financial vice president Nick Ciccone, part of that massive reserve fund came when a big band slated to play at Marquette dropped out two years ago. Since then, these are the two biggest artists brought to campus. With yesterday’s news that Pepsi is sponsoring the concert, students are left to wonder where the activity fee from their tuition is actually going (it’s going here, if you were wondering).

This whole thing is kind of emblematic of a greater problem at this school: Marquette doesn’t have a big arts scene. While part of the reason for this is our close proximity to Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design, a large part is the fact that Marquette offers few art and music courses. Yes, the university has various a cappella groups, occasional coffeehouses and even a jazz band. However, there aren’t many academic opportunities to study or learn an instrument or skill.

Milwaukee has beautiful music venues, a world-class art institute, fantastic art museums and a deep tradition of artistic innovation. The Marquette community’s lack of involvement in this tradition is an extension of the “Marquette bubble,” and the lack of artistic outlets and opportunities is a massive underuse of our location in Milwaukee.

I know how ridiculous it sounds to criticize a free concert, but the fact of the matter is clear: These events are never going to get better unless people talk about it. The homecoming concert is a good idea. It shows that the school is committed to bringing national touring acts to campus, and my hope is that they continue this tradition and make it even better next year. For this year, hopefully American Authors and Rachel Platten surprise me and deliver killer performances.